Friday, October 09, 2009

Argument from Objective, Nonutilitarian Value

This concludes the series of weekly posts dealing with some basic theistic arguments. The purpose here is to introduce the reader to the idea behind each argument. Strengths and weaknesses will be presented after each summary. These are only summaries and springboards for further study in the theistic arguments. See Reason for the Hope Within for more.

An Argument from Objective, Nonutilitarian Value

While many human activities are pursued because of their usefulness (utility), and some are valuable only in the eyes of a few people (nonobjective), there are kinds of human activity which possess objective, nonutilitarian value. Two obvious examples of this are self-sacrificial love and artistic beauty (which may be useful, but don’t need to be). If everything (including humanity) is the result of random, impersonal forces which encouraged only survival, then it seems highly unlikely that the process would yield organisms (humans) which recognized values like these which aren’t survival-conducive. But values like these are what we would expect if humans (and the human environment) were created by a personal, loving, and beauty-valuing God. God’s existence is a much better explanation for the existence of nonutilitarian value than any explanation without God.

Greatest Strength: Most people can be persuaded through specific examples to concede that survival is not the only objective value, and that self-sacrificial love and beauty are valuable in a way that transcends mere subjective taste.

Greatest Weakness: The late twentieth century is replete with efforts to show that the very idea of objective value of any kind is mistaken, and that all attempts to identify objective value (and especially nonutilitarian objective value) are attempts to impose subjective values on others.1

1 William C. Davis, Reason for the Hope Within (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1999), p. 39.