Who Invented Pleasure?

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 7.30.57 PM

For centuries philosophers have debated “the problem of evil,” but an equally valid but rarely discussed question is “the problem of pleasure.” Where did that originate? Why is sex fun? Why do we find beauty, food, music, and humor enjoyable? How do we account for these delights?

Chesterton felt Christianity gives the only plausible explanation. He saw pleasure as scattered remnants washed ashore from a shipwreck. We are the survivors of the sinking of a golden ship that went down at the beginnings of human history. Here and there, relics of a glorious past are to be found—tokens of a time when pleasure flourished in lavish abundance. They are leftovers from Paradise.

These vestiges of beauty, joy, and sheer goodness on our scarred planet resonate deeply with our hearts. They are reminders that we were meant to live in a better world that once was, in the “enormous bliss” (as John Milton put it) of a garden named Eden.

These delights stir longings to find more. Like a trail of breadcrumbs, they direct us to the Lavisher of these good gifts. They point us to the Author and Finisher of joy, who conferred upon us these pledges of His goodness and love.

-J. O. Schulz

Artist: Christian Riese Lassen

 

Beauty, Goodness and Science

icon-1372664I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.

–Erwin Schrödinger, 
Austrian physicist,
One of the founders of quantum theory,
Nobel Prize winner for Physics

Why is sex fun?

P. Yancey 2Why is sex fun? Reproduction surely does not require pleasure: some animals simply split in half to reproduce, and even humans use methods of artificial insemination that involve no pleasure. Why is eating enjoyable? Plants and lower animals manage to obtain their quota of nutrients without the luxury of taste buds. Why are there colors? Some people get along fine without the ability to detect color. Why complicate vision for the rest of us?

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? . . .

Where does pleasure come from? After searching alternatives, Chesterton settled on Christianity as the only reasonable explanation for its existence in the world. Moments of pleasure are the remnants washed ashore from a shipwreck, bits of Paradise extended through time. We must hold these relics lightly, and use them with gratitude and restraint, never seizing them as entitlements.

–Philip Yancey
Soul Survivor