On beauty, desire, and the existence of God
Bernstein and Danto are testifying to the fact that even though we as secular people believe that beauty and love are just bio-chemical responses, in the presence of great art and beauty we inescapably feel that there is real meaning in life, there is truth and justice that will never let us down, and love means everything... We may, therefore, be secular materialists who believe truth and justice, good and evil, are complete illusions. But in the presence of art or even great natural beauty, our hearts tell us another story... Updike seems to be saying that regardless of the beliefs of our mind about the random meaninglessness of life, before the face of beauty we know better. 'So what?' someone might object. 'Just because we feel something is true doesn't make it so!' Are we, however, only talking about feelings here? What is evoked in these experiences is, more accurately, appetite or desire. Goethe refers to this as selige sehnsucht – blessed longing. We not only feel the reality but also the absence of what we long for... Doesn't that unfulfillable longing evoked by beauty qualify as innate desire? We have a longing for joy, love and beauty that no amount or quality of food, sex, friendship, or success can satisfy. We want something that nothing in this world can fulfill. Isn't that at least a clue that this 'something' that we want exists? This unfulfillable longing, then qualifies as a deep, innate human desire, and that makes it a major clue that God is there.
– Timothy Keller, The Reason for God