Monday, November 22, 2010

the problem of pleasure

I'm currently reading and loving Phillip Yancey's book Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church.

I highly recommend it. As someone that has wrestled with cynicism and whether I am obligated to the church or not, I resonate with most of what he says and with what he's learned from such great people/authors.

Quote from my reading today, which is from his chapter on the impact that G.K. Chesterton's writings had on him:

It struck me, after reading my umpteenth book on the problem of pain, that I have never even seen a book on "the problem of pleasure." Nor have I met a philosopher who goes around shaking his or her head in perplexity over the question of why we experience pleasure. Yet it looms as a huge question: the philosophical equivalent, for atheists, to the problem of pain for Christians. On the issue of pleasure, Christians can breathe easier. A good and loving God would naturally want his creatures to experience delight, joy, and personal fulfillment. Christians start from that assumption and then look for ways to explain the origin of suffering. But should not atheists have an equal obligation to explain the origin of pleasure in a world of randomness and meaninglessness?
And he follows this with a great quote from Chesterton himself:

I felt in my bones, first that this world does not explain itself... Second, I came to feel as if magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it. There was something personal in the world, as in a work of art... Third, I thought this purpose beautiful in its old design, despite its defects... Fourth, that the proper form of thanks to it is some form of humility and restrain: we should thank God for beer and  Burgundy by not drinking too much of them... and last, and strangest, there had come into my mind a vague and vast impression that in some way all good was remnant to be stored and held sacred out of some primordial ruin. Man has saved his good as [Robinson] Crusoe saved his goods: he had saved them from a wreck.


Melissa said...

i really like that book!!

Jaimie said...

Eh, they just say pleasure is nature's way of keeping us alive -- or the reason we have survived instead of dying off. A love of food is actually an encouragement to eat. A love of sex is an encouragement to reproduce. The species that didn't love to eat or have sex died off for obvious reasons.

Kacie said...

I'd disagree with that - many if not most species copulate without pleasure, and sometimes only with pain. Primitive, simple species just divide to reproduce. I think there's a difference between drive/instinct and the pleasure we take in sex and food, etc.

Corbin said...

"But should not atheists have an equal obligation to explain the origin of pleasure in a world of randomness and meaninglessness?"

Hi there, good on ya for blogging away.. came upon your site very randomly.. anyways,.. answer to this question..


Pain, in the physical sense, is the body's nerve impulses saying 'oh-no'.. what is so hard to accept about one's body (brain, specifically) also being able to go 'oh-yeah'.. especially when it pertains to sex/food/relationships, because these are so fundamental to our survival.. you dont need to form a god of pleasure to paint this picture adequately...

Additionally, this sentence is way too loaded with foolish stereotypes of how atheists see the world.. blah..


Kacie said...

I think perhaps in context this is less pain as in a physical sensation... it is rather suffering, as in the weight of sadness and suffering on mankind.