Monday, August 08, 2016

C. S. Lewis's Argument from Desire for the Existence of God

Tipp City, Ohio

I'm reading The Apologetics of Joy: A Case for the Existence of God from C.S. Lewis's Argument from Desire, by Joe Puckett.

This argument is stated like this:

  • Premise 1: Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
  • Premise 2: But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.
  • Conclusion: Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.

Regarding P1 Lewis wrote:

"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (Mere Christianity, ch. 10)

Lewis distinguished between innate, natural desires (like the desire for food) and artificial desires (like the desire to levitate, or desiring the Lions to win the Super Bowl). Innate desires have corresponding objects; artificial desires may or may not have actually existing corresponding objects.

Regarding P2 there are atheists such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Albert Camus who affirm it. Of course they reject P1. Camus "held that all human beings longed for meaning in a world that offered none. He posed the question,

"What, then, is that incalculable feeling that deprives the mind of the sleep necessary to life? A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity."" (Puckett, K145)

If P1 is true, as Lewis believed (and philosophers such as Peter Kreeft believe), and if P2 is true (as even some atheists affirm), the the conclusion follows:

"Therefore there exists something outside of time and the universe that can satisfy that desire (and the best candidate for that which exists outside of time and the universe is God)." (Puckett, p. 122)

My new book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.