More from the Religious Experience and Desire Project

The ‘Religious Experience and Desire’ series is a philosophical and theological project examining the connection between religious experience and desire. Seminars explore in various ways the idea that there is an essentially desiderative dimension to any human apprehension of the divine, and hence that religious experience is informed and infused by the desire for God.
The next seminar will involve two speakers:
Dr Iain McGilchrist, ‘Longing and Wanting’
Dr David McPherson, ‘Deep Desires’
Time: Tuesday 7th March, 2.30–6.30 pm
Place: Heythrop College London, Bellarmine Room
McGilchrist, ‘Longing and Wanting’
Drawing in part on the hemisphere hypothesis expounded in my The Master and his Emissary, I will explore the distinction between want and longing, suggesting that they are not just different kinds of the same sort of psychical relationship to the world, but structurally quite different states of the psyche. Although longing has been associated with particular aspects of life, such as the poetic, and with certain cultural movements, such as Romanticism, I will suggest that it is a human universal that drives creativity in every human endeavour. Finally I will link it to some reflections on teleology.
McPherson, ‘Deep Desires’
This talk seeks to get clear on an important feature of a theistic worldview: namely, the appeal to ‘deep desires’ (or a ‘deepest desire’) as a way of providing an ethical and spiritual life-orientation. My main thesis is that the appeal to ‘deep desires’ should primarily be understood as having to do with our acquired second nature and the space of meaning it makes possible, rather than first nature or innateness. To appeal to the ‘depth’ of a desire, on this account, is to say something about its normative importance: it is something of profound or great significance about which we ought to be concerned, and in the case of our deepest desire there is a correlation with what is seen as the highest or most-worthy object of our desire (or love), which the theist claims is God.
This view is contrasted with subjectivist accounts where desires are seen as ‘deep’ in that they structure our identity. My account affirms that deep desires do indeed structure our identity, but they do so because of their perceived objective normative importance. On the basis of this account, I also show how we might affirm Alasdair MacIntyre’s claim that ‘the deepest desire of every [human] being, whether they acknowledge it or not, is to be at one with God’. I discuss here Talbot Brewer’s account of deep desires as a desire the object of which ‘exceeds the desirer’s explicit articulation of it’, and argue that it neglects the evaluative picture that is important for understanding how there might be an unacknowledged desire for God in our desire for happiness, which requires showing how God, if God exists, should be seen as the highest or most-worthy object of love.
Subsequent seminars:
Tuesday 28th March (Heythrop College, Bellarmine Room, 4.00–6.30 pm): Michael Barnes, title TBC

Tuesday 9th May (Heythrop College, Bellarmine Room, 4.00–6.30 pm): Talbot Brewer, ‘Desire and Creative Activity’
Save the date: Saturday 17th June (Location and time TBC): Day conference
The Religious Experience and Desire project is part of the Experience Project based at the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.