Argument from aesthetic experience

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Pretty nebula and stars
Van Gogh's Sunflowers (F.454)
Is this proof?

Quoting the entire argument from aesthetic experience, also known as the argument from sublimity, verbatim:[1]

There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Therefore there must be a God.

You either see this one or you don't.

The argument can be varied with different works of art or natural wonders: "Look at the stars! therefore God."

"I personally am convinced that there is another inspiration that convinces me there is a God; Art. Beautiful art.[2]"

"On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains … the majesty and beauty of God’s creation overwhelmed my resistance. As I rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over. The next morning, I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ."

Francis Collins in The Language of God
"[...] when I read the Bible, I am filled with joy.[3]"
"How do you explain a sunset if there is no God?[4]"

Muslim apologists argue that the Qur'an is the most eloquent book ever written, which is itself a miracle. The argument from aesthetic experience is a type of appeal to emotion.

Counter arguments[edit]

This is a non sequitur, i.e., the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Aesthetic experiences do not automatically imply the existence of other entities such as God.

Aesthetic experiences are mental phenomena and do not require divine intervention to occur. There are many ways of achieving profound spiritual experiences, even though these experiences are relatively rare. They occur in many different religions, so the argument does not support any particular god.

"aesthetic experiences are still, more than likely, internal excitations of the brain, as we see from the fact that ingesting recreational drugs can bring on even more intense experiences of transcendence. And the particular triggers for natural aesthetic experiences are readily explicable from the evolutionary pressures that have shaped the perceptual systems of human beings.[5]"

"If the beauty of nature can mean that Jesus really is the son of God, then anything can mean anything."

Sam Harris[6]

Believing the world actually contains beauty existing separately from the perspective of an observer commits the projection fallacy.[5]

The most logically valid interpretation of the argument might be that Bach is God.

Exactly the same argument can be used to argue against the existence of God due to aesthetic experience:

"[God] was counter to the taste of mine ears and eyes; worse than that I should not like to say against him."

Friedrich Nietzsche
"There is a wonder that you can access without needing religion. I can go to see a beautiful landscape and be transcended by the experience without needing 'booga-booga' for me to actually experience that. So it actually cheapens life to always have to contextualize it within the context of a big daddy in the sky.[7]"


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. Matt Stopera, 22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution, Buzzfeed, February 5, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, 2011
  6. Sam Harris, The Language of Ignorance, August 15, 2006
  7. [4]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Personal experience · Argument from consciousness · Emotional pleas · Efficacy of prayer
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes