On the Ultimate End of Human Beings    

The decision of Grisez very early Christmas morning 1949 to do graduate work in philosophy was occasioned by skimming St. Thomas Aquinas’s commentary on distinction 49 of book four of the Sentences of Peter Lombard, a treatise that concerns heavenly beatitude. Around that time, Grisez was taking a poor but required undergraduate course in ethics, and to supplement it was struggling with the Ethics of Aristotle and the commentary of Thomas on it. During the summer of 1950, seeking Thomas’s mature synthesis, Grisez read the treatise on beatitude in Summa theologiae, 1–2, questions 1–5. One thing puzzled him: Since the ultimate end is the vision of the essence of God, how can the actions one does in this life bear on it, so that they can really be intended for it as their ultimate end?

That question, more than any other, was the one with which Grisez continued to wrestle, though not the main topic of his research and writing, during the next thirty years. In the 1970s, while visiting Joseph Boyle, the two men often spent long evenings conversing about aspects of it. Most of the elements of Grisez’s ultimate position began to emerge in those conversations. They were first formulated in chapters 19, 24, 27, and 34 of The Way of the Lord Jesus, volume one, Christian Moral Principles (available here). Grisez’s later works consolidate and clarify the position that the true natural ultimate end of human persons is integral communal fulfillment, which fallen human beings can pursue effectively only by seeking the kingdom of God for his glory.


“Man, Natural End of”    

While doing his graduate work, Grisez focused on metaphysics; apart from his interest in the ultimate end, he was not interested in ethics. However, to fill a gap in the philosophy department at Georgetown, he began working on ethics in 1959. The first major work he studied was the first part of the second part of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae, which contains the foundation of moral theology, and thus also the foundations of ethics. By 1963–64, when he had a Lilly Fellowship and a sabbatical from Georgetown, Grisez had begun to develop a theory of ethics, derived from Thomas but capable of standing on its own.

At that time, The New Catholic Encyclopedia was being prepared, and William Wallace, O.P., its editor of philosophy articles, invited Grisez to write one on the natural, ultimate end of human persons. Grisez therefore spent September–December 1963 researching and writing this brief article. It is copyright © The Catholic University of America 1967, all rights reserved.

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“The Doctrine of God and the Ultimate Meaning of Human Life”    

In September 1995, at a meeting of the (United Kingdom) Society of Christian Ethics in Oxford, Grisez met Michael Banner, a brilliant evangelical Anglican theologian, and the two discovered that they had a good deal in common. Banner and his friend, Alan J. Torrance, a Protestant theologian, organized an international conference under the auspices of the Research Institute in Systematic Theology in King’s College London, in April 1997, on “The Doctrine of God and Theological Ethics,” and they invited Grisez to participate. He took the occasion to present a systematic summary of his theological view on the true ultimate end.

Banner and Torrance included the papers presented at the conference in a volume published in 2006, in which Grisez’s is chapter nine. That chapter is copyright © 2006 T&T Clark International; all rights reserved.

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“Some Notes on Human Will and Divine Goodness”    

On 5 January 1987, while preparing the preceding paper, Grisez made for his own use six pages of notes bearing upon the true ultimate end. They articulate briefly and clearly some of the central positions he had reached by this time.

Grisez publishes these notes here, copyright © 1987, and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. But he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of the work provided the source is identified and this copyright information included.

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“Natural Law, God, Religion, and Human Fulfillment”    

In April 2001, Grisez delivered the first draft of this article as the annual lecture for the Natural Law Institute at University of Notre Dame Law School. In it, he dealt with the primary principles of practical reason, explained how those principles give rise to religion, and treated the relationships between religion and moral life. He also criticized a thesis of St. Thomas Aquinas, namely, that the true ultimate end of human beings is God alone, attained by the beatific vision. Grisez argued that the true ultimate end is the Kingdom of God, which includes but cannot be reduced to the beatific vision.

That lecture was part of a symposium: Natural Law and Human Fulfillment, and several other participants in the symposium criticized some of Grisez's arguments for his position. The article is copyright © University of Notre Dame 2001, all rights reserved.

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“The Restless-Heart Blunder”    

Each year, the Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas, celebrates the liturgical memorial of St. Thomas (28 January) with a public lecture, followed by a seminar on the topic of the lecture with the Institute's faculty and students. Grisez was invited to give that lecture and seminar in 2005. He proposed to deal critically with Thomas’s treatise on beatitude and to present his alternative to it, and was pleasantly surprised when his proposal was welcomed by Dr. Mary Catherine Sommers, Director of the Institute. Since an attention-grabbing title was desired, his suggestion of “The Restless-Heart Blunder” was accepted.

The lecture was delivered on the evening of Thursday, 27 January, was well attended, and provoked a lively discussion. The members of the Institute who participated in the two-hour seminar the following morning were much less defensive of Thomas than interested in thoughtfully probing the alternative view Grisez had proposed.

Grisez publishes here the text of the lecture he delivered, copyright © 2005, and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. But he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of the work provided the source is identified and this copyright information included.

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The lecture and discussion immediately following it were video-recorded, and the discussion is available only by watching the final one-third of that video. Since the file is large, it downloads or opens slowly. A zipper across the screen under the picture allows one to move quickly to the two-thirds point, and a button near the lower right-hand corner expands the picture to full screen. Although Grisez’s responses are audible, the recording unfortunately does not render audible some of the questions. The video-recording is copyright © The University of St. Thomas, Houston 2005, all rights reserved.

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“The True Ultimate End of Human Beings:    
The Kingdom, Not God Alone”

This article is a considerably revised version of the preceding lecture. In it, Grisez answers some of the critics of “Natural Law, God, Religion, and Human Fulfillment,” provides additional arguments for his view, and explains it more fully. An important element of that explanation is a brief account (pages 53–57) of the true ultimate end. The article is copyright © Theological Studies, Inc. 2008, all rights reserved.

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“Human Persons’ True Ultimate End:    
The Continuity between the Natural End and the Supernatural End”

Grisez was invited to give a paper at the Second International Conference on Thomistic Philosophy, Universidad Santo Tomás (Santiago, Chile; 31 July 2014), on the topic: the continuity between the ultimate end of human life as natural reason can know it and the ultimate end as faith teaches it to be. He was also invited to give a paper on the ultimate end at the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars’ 37th Annual Convention (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 26 September 2014), whose general theme was eschatology. For the two occasions, he prepared one paper.

Although Grisez here presupposes and even adds a bit to his earlier criticisms of St. Thomas’s theology of the ultimate end, this later paper greatly differs from all those earlier works. Focused on Christ, based on the the New Testament, and strongly supported by teachings of Vatican II and Pope St. John Paul II, this paper sketches a more mature and systematic theology of the ultimate end.

On both occasions, some other participants strongly criticized Grisez’s view, but none of their criticisms came to grips with his arguments; all of the criticisms were question-begging assertions of views more or less based on St. Thomas’s treatments of the relevant matters.

The two versions differ only in formatting and in the numbering of the footnotes. Casanova starred the note attached to the title and began numbering the first note attached to text, while Shaw began numbering with the note attached to the title.

The Congreso Internacional version is copyright © 2016 Carlos A.Casanova, Ignacio Serrano del Pozo, and RIL; all rights reserved.

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The Fellowship version is copyright © 2015 by the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars; all rights reserved.

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“Sketch of a Projected Book about the Kingdom of God”    

In the spring of 2012, Peter J. Weigel, who was editing previous publications for the book Moral Good, the Beatific Vision, and God’s Kingdom: Writings by Germain Grisez and Peter Ryan, S.J., asked them to provide a sketch of the eschatology book on which they had already been working for three years. Doing so led them to reconsider the outline they had previously developed and draw up another so compelling that they adopted it for their ongoing work on the book. This sketch therefore provides an excellent preview of the book itself.

The “Sketch” is copyright © 2015 by Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York, all rights reserved.

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