Writings by Germain Grisez and Peter Ryan, S.J.
Edited By Peter J. Weigel
Must the Acting Person Have a Single Ultimate End?
PETER F. RYAN, S.J.
In the first question of Summa theologiae 1-2, St. Thomas Aquinas takes a certain view of how we must organize our voluntary acts.1 Although he does not explicitly articulate this view, propositions that he does assert entail the following thesis: At any given time, one necessarily directs all one’s choices and, therefore, all one’s human acts to some single ultimate end. To refer to this thesis, I shall use the phrase Aquinas’s Position.
Is Aquinas’s Position tenable? I am convinced that it is not; I will try to show that one can act simultaneously for diverse ultimate ends. This paper has four parts. Part one considers the relevant articles of STh 1-2, q. 1, to establish that Aquinas holds the Position and to explain precisely what that Position means. Part two argues that it is implausible that all those who are in the state of grace—who, according to Aquinas, have God as their single ultimate end—order all their diverse good acts to God. Part three argues that it is even more implausible that mortal sinners do everything, including disparate bad deeds and apparently good deeds, for the same ultimate end. Part four shows that the deliberate venial sins of those in the state of grace must be done for some ultimate end other than God, and thus makes it clear that Aquinas’s Position is not merely implausible but altogether untenable. The conclusion sums up the results of the...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.