Metaphysics and Philosophy of the Human Person    



Review of Insight, by Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S.J.    

From the time Grisez began studying philosophy in 1948, he was most interested in the praeambula fidei—that is, in philosophical reasoning to establish or defend truths that facilitate the reception of divine revelation by nonbelievers who are appropriately evangelized and the retention of faith by believers troubled by arguments challenging it. That interest strongly motivated him to seek a philosophical synthesis that did not beg questions and proceeded without appealing to authorities, such as the scholastic tradition or Thomas. Grisez therefore welcomed Lonergan’s great work and studied it eagerly.

This review is a report on that eager study. What Lonergan had accomplished was impressive, and many of his arguments seemed sound. His use of what Grisez calls reflexivity rang true, for as a graduate student at Chicago he had himself used it against the reductionism of Rudolf Carnap’s logical positivism. Still, the sophisticated attempt of Lonergan to begin from intellectual knowing itself to work out a philosophy of reality as a whole raised many questions, which Grisez lists toward the end of his review, that Lonergan had failed to ask and, Grisez suggests, would be unable to answer.

The review is copyright © 1958 Dominican Fathers Province of St. Joseph; all rights reserved.

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Review of Elements of Christian Philosophy, by Étienne Gilson    

Gilson’s Spirit of Medieval Philosophy was the first study of the history of philosphy that Grisez read. It was difficult reading in the summer of 1949, but he realized the difficulty was due to his lack of preparation and that what he was gaining made hard work worthwhile. His admiration for Gilson, the historian, was firmly established and never faded; indeed, Grisez remained convinced that Gilson was more worth studying than any other contemporary Thomist. Thus, Grisez was receptive to Elements of Christian Philosophy when it was published in 1960. Also, teaching metaphysics to undergraduates, Grisez hoped this new work would serve as a more adequate textbook than what he was using.

Less than an hour reading the book eliminated all hope that it would serve as a textbook; plainly, it was too difficult even for the brighter of Georgetown’s undergraduates. Again, since first reading Gilson eleven years earlier, Grisez had completed his own formal education in philosophy, during which he had constantly reflected on the relationship between his philosophizing and his Catholic believing, and in doing so had developed a conception of Christian philosophy very different from the one Gilson proposed in this book. It seemed to Grisez that, though Gilson remained a great historian, he also wanted to be a Christian philosopher but, unlike Lonergan, radically misunderstood that role.

The review article is copyright © 1960 Dominican Fathers Province of St. Joseph; all rights reserved.

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“Toward a Metaphilosophy”    

For the 1963 convention of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, the President that year, Professor Donald Gallagher, chose the topic Philosophy in a Pluralistic Society, and invited Grisez, then only in his sixth year of teaching at Georgetown, to present one of the plenary session papers. For the occasion, he prepared his first—and as it has turned out, his only—published treatment of the philosophical topic of widespread and seemingly intractable philosophical disagreement, and the possibility of overcoming it. The address was published in the Association’s Proceedings and is copyright © American Catholic Philosophical Association 1963, all rights reserved.

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“Sketch of a Future Metaphysics”    

The work Grisez did in 1957 on his doctoral dissertation and that he began to do around 1960 on ethical theory convinced him that any philosophy of reality as a whole—that is, any metaphysics— needed to deal not only with God and the philosopher himself but with four irreducible orders of entities that could not be identified either with God or with the philosopher himself. On one large sheet of paper, Grisez began making and revising diagrams representing the whole of reality, and eventually began drafting brief accounts of what he had in mind.

This article resulted from presentations, between 1959 and 1962, to various informal circles of philosophers in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and to philosophy clubs at George Washington University in Washington and at the Unversity of Virginia in Charlottesville. The article, published in New Scholasticism, is copyright © American Catholic Philosophical Association 1964, all rights reserved.

Unlike the essay on metaphilosophy, this sketch was later developed at book length in God? A Philosophical Preface to Faith, below in this column.

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“Determinism, Freedom, and Self-Referential Arguments”    

In December 1970, not long after Joseph Boyle had completed his excellent doctoral dissertation on self-referential argumentation, he, Olaf Tollefsen, and Grisez discussed how this powerful tool might be put to work, not only to exemplify its sound use but to establish some important philosophical truth. Having considered various possibilities, they decided to work out a self-referential argument to prove that human beings can make free choices. Others, they knew, had tried to show that the alternative, determinism, is self-refuting or self-defeating. But since no one before Boyle had clearly explained how self-referential arguments work, earlier attempts to use them lacked precision. So, the three decided to criticize the earlier attempts and set out a sound argument, with its self-referential logic completely explicit.

The article is copyright © 1972 by The Review of Metaphysics; all rights reserved.

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God? A Philosophical Preface to Faith    

Both Grisez’s primary interest in philosophy and almost all his graduate work at Chicago were in metaphysics. But after receiving his Ph.D. in 1959 while already teaching at Georgetown, he began working in ethical theory because that was the field in which he could offer graduate-level courses. His work in ethical theory led to his being drawn gradually into theology. During the summer of 1971, Grisez researched the opinions of dissenting theologians and considered responding to them with a book that might have begun with a chapter on God.

At Campion College in Regina, Canada—to which Grisez moved in 1972—there were no graduate students in philosophy. Providing undergraduates with an introduction to philosophy, he focused on metaphysics and philosophy of the human person. Also, in preparing to work during the summer of 1973 with Joseph Boyle and Olaf Tollefsen on the first draft of their book on free choice, Grisez drafted a very lengthy chapter on divine causality and human freedom. While working on it, he realized that self-referential argumentation and various insights that had emerged could be put to work in the broader treatment of God he had been wanting to write.

Therefore, in the fall of 1973, Grisez began drafting a chapter on God. But it soon became clear that what he had in mind would require not a chapter but a book. Rather than continue drafting, he did more research and planning, and then produced a complete draft as a text for the Introduction to Philosophy he taught in the semester that began in January 1974. When he finished the draft in April 1974, he sent copies to many scholars, and asked them to read at least part of it and send him criticisms and suggestions for improving it. With the helpful replies he received, he greatly revised the draft that fall and prepared the manuscript for publication.

University of Notre Dame Press agreed to publish the book. Because Beyond the New Morality had done so well, a similar title was adopted: Beyond the New Theism: A Philosophy of Religion. Choosing that title was unfortunate because its allusion to process theology hardly conveyed the breadth of the volume’s subject matter. Still, although the book received only a few substantial reviews and was seldom adopted as a textbook— in part, no doubt, due to its difficulty—a respectable portion of the copies printed was sold, and the book eventually went out of print.

There were no significant later developments in the metaphysics laid out in this book, and it was presupposed in Grisez’s later philosophical and theological work. In about 2000, Grisez met the owner of St. Augustine’s Press, Bruce Fingerhut, who became interested in reprinting the book. There were many delays, but eventually Grisez obtained the rights from the University of Notre Dame Press and provided a new, eleven-page preface; while Fingerhut provided the far more suitable new title, the handsome new cover design, and a good reprinting.

The book is copyright © Germain Grisez 2005, Emmitsburg, MD. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, withour prior permission of St. Augustine’s Press, South Bend, Indiana.

Still in print, the book may be purchased at this link:

St. Augustine’s Press

Users of this website may read the entire book by opening the following series of links successively.

Front Matter (PDF)

Part I: Faith and Reason (PDF)

Part II: There Is an Uncaused Entity (PDF)

Part III: Criticism of Alternatives (PDF)

Part IV: The Meaningfulness of God Talk (PDF)

Part V: Existential Objections to God (PDF)

Part VI: The Meaningfulness of Christian Beliefs (PDF)

Notes and Index (PDF)


Free Choice: A Self-Referential Argument    

Boyle, Grisez, and Tollefsen worked entirely together in preparing and writing “Determinism, Freedom, and Self-Referential Arguments,” and when they published it, all three thought every proposition asserted in it was true. After it was published, however, they received many reactions that made clear both defects, in substance as well as in presentation, and ways in which it could be improved. Even before publishing the article, they had entertained the possibility of coauthoring a book on free choice. Between Christmas 1972 and New Year’s 1973, they met for a few days at the Tollefsens’ home—on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. There the three decided to proceed with the book, and agreed to do so by working there together through the coming July and August.

Carrying out that plan, the three confronted and solved several problems and managed to produce a draft of a complete book by the end of August 1973. That draft was circulated to other philosophers for comments, and when the three met again from 21 May to 7 June 1974, they realized that the entire draft needed to be reworked. Only Boyle and Grisez were able to agree on a mutually acceptable plan for doing so, and they produced the final draft working together at Campion College in Regina, Canada, 15 July to 15 August 1975. The Grisezs saw the final version through the press.

Therefore, only the book, Free Choice: A Self-Referential Argument, not the preceding article, expresses the considered view of the three coauthors. And forty years after completing the final draft, Boyle and Grisez agreed in 2015 that the self-referential argument in the book is sound and the presentation could be improved only by answering objetions and clarifying some points.

The book is copyright © 1976 by University of Notre Dame Press; Notre Dame, Indiana 46556; all rights reserved.

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“Metaphysical Method, Principles, and Consequences”    

Grisez found this two-page outline in a folder in his files without anything to indicate when or why it was written. Its twenty-one briefly stated points constitute what he confidently believed to be an outline for a discussion he had planned to lead. He was also confident that he did not have the insights expressed by some of those points before 1973 and that he did not have any group of students capable of discussing those points after 1972. He therefore concluded that the document was an outline for a discussion with fellow professional philosophers, very likely after the completion of the two books, Free Choice: A Self-Referential Argument and Beyond the New Theism: A Philosophy of Religion, in 1975 and before preparation began in the spring of 1978 to write Christian Moral Principles.

Grisez publishes this outline here for the first time copyright © 2012, and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. However, he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of this outline provided the source is identified and this copyright information included.

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“Free Choice and Divine Causality”    

In 1997, as he began work on volume four of The Way of the Lord Jesus, Grisez decided to write a first chapter dealing with theological issues that seemed to him to be impeding either the understanding, the living out, or both the understanding and the living out of clerical and/or consecrated life and/or service. One such problem is the relationship between divine causality and free choice. Solving it, Grisez was convinced, is impossible unless the incomprehensability of God is well understood and borne in mind.

Invited in the spring of 2000 to lecture at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Grisez decided to test his treatment of the problem. Nothing in the discussion that followed the lecture led him to make substantive changes. He publishes the lecture copyright © 2000 and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. However, he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of this outline provided the source is identified and this copyright information included.

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“Thoughts on the Make-up of a Human Person”    

On Thursday, 25 March 2004, John Finnis asked Grisez to comment on a draft of the paper, “‘The Thing I Am’: Personal Identity in Aquinas and Shakespeare.” The request was unusual, since Finnis more often commented on Grisez’s drafts than sought his comments. Responding to the request also was unusually thought-provoking for Grisez. It led him to initiate an unusual exchange of e-mail messages with Finnis.

Readers should bear in mind that these quickly written and never revised messages do not constitute a work prepared for publication. In particular, it would be gravely unreasonable to suppose that Finnis implicitly agreed with everything that he did not explicitly disagree with in Grisez’s voluminous comments.

This exchange is copyright © Germain Grisez and John Finnis, 2004 who reserve the right to make and distribute copies for sale. However, they hereby grant everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of this exchange provided the source is identified and this copyright information included.

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“The Problem of Evil and Divine Incomprehensibility”    

On several occasions between 1980 and 2005, Grisez offered a course on suffering and evil as an elective for both seminarians and collegians at Mount St. Mary's University. The main text used in this course was a 1984 apostolic letter written by John Paul II, Salvifici doloris [The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering]. On early occasions, Grisez gave an opening lecture on the philosophical problem of evil; eventually, he put that introduction into writing, assigned it as a reading, and discussed it in class for two and one-half hours.

Published here is the final revision of that introduction. Readers of both “Free Choice and Divine Causality,” above, and this introduction will note a good deal of duplication. However, this introduction deals with some important matters not touched on in the lecture. Grisez publishes the introduction copyright © 2004 and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. However, he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of this introduction provided the source is identified and this copyright information included.

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“Evil Is a Privation; Suffering Is Not Evil”    

Among the many important truths affirmed by John Paul II in Salvifici doloris are that evil and suffering are not the same, and that suffering as such is in fact good (although many instances of suffering, not being all that suffering should be, are bad). But the points are made very briefly and not explained, and Grisez regarded clear understanding of them and wholehearted assent to them as essential for correct understandings of evil and suffering, and sound attitudes toward them. So, for the course described in the preceding item, Grisez eventually developed a one-page outline for a class discussion of three and one-half hours.

Here Grisez publishes the final version of that outline copyright © 2004 and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. However, he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of this outline provided the source is identified and this copyright information included.

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