Argument from desire

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For more information, see the Wikipedia article:
Arguments For the Existence of God
Anthropic Arguments:
Arguments For Belief:
Christological Arguments:
Cosmological Arguments:
Majority Arguments:
Moral Arguments:
Ontological Arguments:
Reformed Epistemology:
Teleological Arguments:
Testimonial Arguments:
Transcendental arguments:

The Argument from Desire is an argument for the existence of God, or rather some desired object. The argument is criticised by both thesis and atheists alike. The christian philosopher and apologist Thomas Aquinas, although using the argument, thought that on its own it was an insufficient argument for the existence of god.



CS Lewis Version

The argument was promoted by C. S. Lewis and reportedly playing a part in his conversion to Christianity.

The Weight of Glory:

"A man’s physical hunger does not prove that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist."
"In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will. A man may love a woman and not win her; but it would be very odd if the phenomenon called “falling in love” occurred in a sexless world."

Wikipedia version

p1. Humans have innate desires.
a. By "innate" we mean those desires that are universal.
b.The desire for food, the desire for companionship, the desire to enjoy beauty are innate desires in this sense
c. The desires to have a grand house or a PhD are not.
P2. All innate human desires have objects that exist.
a. We feel hunger; there is such a thing as eating. We feel sexual desire; there is such a thing as sex.
b. It would be unlikely for a race of individuals to exist who reported feeling hungry yet but did not possess food, mouths nor stomachs.
c. For every such innate desire in human experience (save one) we can identify the object.
p3. There is a desire for "we know not what" whose object cannot be identified.
a. We are never truly satisfied. For even while we satisfy our hunger, our need for companionship, love, beauty, achievement, etc.
b. We are never truly satisfied. For even while we satisfy our hunger, our need for companionship, love, beauty, achievement, etc.
c3. If the object of this desire does not exist in this world, it must exist in another.

Simplified Version

p1. Humans have innate desires.
p2. All innate human desires have objects that exist.
p3. There is an innate human desire for God.
C1. Therefore, God exists.

Counter Arguments

False Premise 1

The first problem with the argument is in the second premise (simplified version). In itself, this premise is a fallacy of reification. Having a desire to fly, doesn't mean you can actually flap your arms and take off. Obviously flying isn't an innate desire in humans but it demonstrates the fallacy.

Perhaps the better example of this would be survival. Both the theist and the atheist would agree that survival is an innate desire. But there is no evidence, or any reason at all, to believe that because you don't want to die, there must be somebody out there that cannot die and will live forever. Put like this, it does seem silly, because it is.

Innate or not, desires don't prove the existence of the object of that desire.

False Premise 2

The second problem with the argument is in the third premise (simplified version). There is no innate desire for God. The existence of atheists more or less proves this point. There are atheists who have no need, want or desire for God. One can live quite comfortably and be completely content without the a belief or desire for a god. The idea that god is an innate human desire is an unfounded assertion.


In the wikipedia or CS Lewis version, a problem of logical validity also arises. Jumping from “what we do not know” and “an object that cannot be identified” to “god exists” is a non-sequitur. It does not logically follow.

The only way this makes sense is if you are only renaming what we do not know 'god', in a similar manner to calling an unknown variable in algebra 'x'. However simply equating god to unknown variable 'x' is not the intelligent, self aware, all knowing, all seeing, all loving creator that theists mean when they say god exists.

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