Metaphysical desire is different from traditional desire. Traditional desire incorporates three main factors. Firstly, desire arises out of an absence – out of something being missing. Secondly, desire aims towards the satisfaction that can be gained through desiring an object. Thirdly, in a traditional account of desire, attainment of satisfaction is the proposed end. Examples of traditional sorts of desire include food and drink on the basest level (e.g. Absence of fullness (hunger) -> food -> satisfaction found in food). However, metaphysical desire, on the other hand, arises out of fullness and superabundance, it strives towards an otherness, something that is further afield and there is no end or promise of ever achieving satisfaction – the desire is situated beyond satisfaction.
According to Drew Dalton in his book Longing for the Other, this way of looking at metaphysical desire is unique to Emanual Levinas and matched with that of existential longing. This notion of something being missing is summed up in the lyrics of one of Bono’s famous songs: ‘But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’. The deep truth embedded within this song resonates with people as there are desires which cannot be truly satisfied in this world. ‘This burning desire’ writes Bono. Indeed, a deep sense of longing. But does that mean we give up on longing for the other?