Desiring the Hidden God: Knowledge Without Belief

European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 8 (4):51--64 (2016)
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Abstract

For many people, the phenomenon of divine hiddenness is so total that it is far from clear to them that God exists at all. Reasonably enough, they therefore do not believe that God exists. Yet it is possible, whilst lacking belief in God’s reality, nonetheless to see it as a possibility that is both realistic and attractive; and in this situation, one will likely want to be open to the considerable benefits that would be available if God were real. In this paper I argue that certain kinds of desire for God can aid this non-believing openness. It is possible to desire God even in a state of non-belief, since desire does not require belief that its object exists. I argue that if we desire God in some particular capacity, and with some sense of what would constitute satisfaction, then through the desire we have knowledge -- incomplete yet vivid in its personal significance -- about the attributes God would need in order to satisfy us; thus, if God is real and does have those attributes, one knows something about God through desiring him. Because desire does not require belief, neither does the knowledge in question. Expanding on recent work by Vadas and Wynn, I sketch the epistemology of desire needed to support this argument. I then apply this epistemology to desire for God. An important question is how one might cultivate the requisite kinds desire for God; and one way, I argue, is through engaging with certain kinds of sacred music. I illustrate desire’s religiously epistemic power in this context, before replying to two objections.

Author's Profile

Julian Perlmutter
Highgate School, London

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