George Grant (philosopher)

George Grant (philosopher)

region = Western Philosophy
era = 20th-century philosophy
color = #B0C4DE

image_caption = George Parkin Grant

name = George Parkin Grant
birth = 1 November, 1918 Toronto, Ontario, Canada
death = 27 September, 1988 Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
school_tradition = Continental Philosophy, Platonism, Humanism
main_interests = Greek philosophy, History of philosophy, Political philosophy, Theology, Nihilism, Continental philosophy, Contractarianism, Philosophy of technology, Politics, English Civic Tradition
influences = Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Leo Strauss, Simone Weil, Jacques Ellul
influenced = William Christian, Matt Cohen, Barry Cooper, Dennis Lee, James Laxer, Ron Dart
notable_ideas = Red Tory, Canadian Nationalism

George Parkin Grant OC, D.Phil., FRSC (Toronto, November 13, 1918 - Halifax, Nova Scotia, September 27, 1988) was a Canadian philosopher, teacher and political commentator, whose popular appeal peaked in the late 1960s and 1970s. He is best known for his nationalism, political conservatism, comments on technology, Christian faith, and his conservative views regarding abortion.

Academically, his writings express a complex meditation on the great books, and confrontation with the great thinkers, of Western Civilization. His influences include the "ancients" such as Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine of Hippo, as well as "moderns" like Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Leo Strauss, Simone Weil, and Jacques Ellul.

Although he is considered the main theoretician of Red Toryism, he expressed dislike of the term when applied to his deeper philosophical interests, which he saw as his primary work as a thinker. ["Was George Grant a Red Tory?" "Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics." Angus, Ian, Ronald Dart and Randy Peg Peters (editors). University of Toronto Press, (2006).]

Family legacy

Grant came from a distinguished Canadian family of scholars and educators. His father was the principal of Upper Canada College, and his paternal grandfather George Monro Grant was the dynamic principal of Queen's University. His maternal grandfather was Sir George Parkin, also a principal at Upper Canada College, whose daughter Alice married Vincent Massey, the Canadian diplomat and first Canadian-born Governor General of Canada. His nephew is public scholar and Canadian Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff.

Education and teaching

Grant was educated at Upper Canada College and Queen's University where he graduated with a History degree. He attended Balliol College at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, a trust his grandfather, George Parkin had headed at one time. Upon winning the Rhodes Scholarship, he enrolled towards a degree in Law at Oxford, but after World War II ended, and Grant had experienced a deeper personal bond with Christianity, he decided to change studies. His D. Phil was interrupted by the war, and he was already teaching in Dalhousie University's Philosophy department when he completed his thesis "The Concept of Nature and Supernature in the Theology of John Oman" during a year long sabbatical in 1950. Grant was a faculty member at Dalhousie twice (1947-1960, 1980-1988), York University (1960-1 resigned before teaching) and McMaster University's Religion department (1961–1980), which he founded and led in the 1960s and early 70s. ["George Grant: A Biography" . Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993] .

Grant was not readily accepted into the traditional academic community of scholars in Canada. This resistance was provoked by some of Grant's less 'progressive' stances, most notably the definition of philosophy he published in 1949: "The study of philosophy is the analysis of the traditions of our society and the judgment of those traditions against our varying intuitions of the Perfections of God". Especially angered and upset was Fulton Anderson of the University of Toronto’s Philosophy department. Grant’s definition is telling, in that it marks his unique take on the philosophy's human perspective, which did not necessarily include assumptions regarding the ‘objectivity’ of science, or the blind acceptance of the Enlightenment’s Fact-value distinction.

Throughout his career Grant was seen as a unique voice within academic institutions, and thus had strong appeal beyond the strict ‘community of scholars'. In fact, Grant criticized the trend in universities to move away from the ‘unity’ of the traditional academy to a ‘multi-versity’ comprising separate hives of undergraduate students, graduate students, professional faculties and professors (years before American Allan Bloom would become famous for similar themes).

Politics and philosophy

In 1965, Grant published "Lament for a Nation", where he regretted what he claimed was Canada's inevitable cultural absorption by the United States. Grant articulated a political philosophy which was becoming known as Red Toryism. It promoted the collectivist and communitarian aspects of an older English conservative tradition, which stood in direct opposition to the individualist traditions of liberalism, and subsequently neo-liberalism.

The subjects of his books, essays, public lectures and radio addresses (frequently on CBC Radio in Canada) quite frequently combined philosophy, religion, and political thought. Grant strongly critiqued what he believed were the worst facets of modernity, namely unbridled technological advancement and a loss of moral foundations to guide humanity. What he proposed in place of the modern spirit was a synthesis of Christian and Platonic thought which embodied contemplation of the 'good.'

His first book, "Philosophy in the Mass Age" (1959), began as a series of CBC lectures. In it he posed the question of how human beings can reconcile moral freedom with acceptance of the view that an order exists in the universe beyond space and time. In 1965, furious that the Liberal government had agreed to accept nuclear weapons, he published "Lament for a Nation". This short work created a sensation with its argument that Canada was destined to disappear into a universal and homogeneous state whose centre was the United States. "Technology and Empire" (1969), a collection of essays edited by poet and friend Dennis Lee, deepened his critique of technological modernity; and "Time as History", his 1969 Massey Lectures, explained the worsening predicament of the West through an examination of the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche. Grant's works of the 1960s had a strong influence on the nationalist movement of the 1970s, though many of the New Left were uncomfortable with Grant's conservatism, his conventional Anglican Tory beliefs, Christian-Platonist perspective, and his uncompromising position against abortion.

Grant's last work was "Technology and Justice" (1986), which he prepared together with his wife, Sheila Grant. His three decades-long meditation on French philosopher Simone Weil's works lead to the conclusion that there were fundamental moral and spiritual flaws in Western civilization, consigning it to a fate of inevitable collapse. Nevertheless, Grant affirmed his belief that a better civilization could eventually replace


In 1981, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for having "become a major force in Canadian intellectual life" [] and was also awarded the Royal Society of Canada's Pierre Chauveau Medal. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

List of works

*"The Empire, Yes or No?" Ryerson Press, (1945).
* "Philosophy in the Mass Age". CBC, (1959)
*"Lament for a Nation : the Defeat of Canadian Nationalism". McClelland & Stewart, (1965).
*"Time as History". CBC, (1969).
* "Technology and Empire : Perspectives on North America". Anansi, (1969)
*"English-speaking Justice". Mount Allison University, (1974).
* "Grant, G.P. (1976). The computer does not impose on us the ways it should be used. In W. Christian & S. Grant (Eds.), The George Grant reader. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.
*"Technology and Justice". Anansi, (1986).
*"George Grant : selected letters edited, with an introduction by William Christian". University of Toronto Press, (1996).
*"The George Grant Reader". William Christian and Sheila Grant (editors). University of Toronto Press, (1998)
*"Collected works of George Grant". Arthur Davis (editor). University of Toronto Press, (2000)

Works as subject

*"Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics." Angus, Ian, Ronald Dart and Randy Peg Peters (editors). University of Toronto Press, (2006)
*"George Grant: A Guide to His Thought". Hugh Donald Forbes. University of Toronto Press, 2007.
*"George Grant in Process: Essays and Coversations". Larry Schmidt (editor). House of Anansi Press, (1978).
*"Modernity and Responsibility : essays for George Grant". Eugene Combs, (editor). University of Toronto Press, (1983).
*"George Grant: A Biography". William Christian, University of Toronto Press, 1994.
*"George Grant in Conversation". David Cayley. Anansi, (1995).
*"Two theological languages by George Grant and Other essays in honour of his work". Wayne Whillier, (editor) E. Mellen Press (1990).

Articles on subject

* Adria, M. (2003). Arms to communications: Idealist and pragmatist strains of Canadian thought on technology and nationalism. "Canadian Journal of Communication, 28"(2), 167-84.
* Andrew, E. (1988). George Grant on technological imperatives. In R. Beiner, R. Day, & J. Masciulli (Eds.), Democratic theory and technological society. Armonk, NY: Sharpe.
* Angus, I. (1987). George Grant’s Platonic rejoinder to Heidegger. Lewiston, NY: Edward Mellon.
* Athanasiadis, H. (2001). George Grant and the theology of the Cross. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.
* Badertscher, J. (1978). George P. Grant and Jacques Ellul on freedom in technological society. In L. Schmidt (Ed.), George Grant in process: Essays and conversations. Toronto, Canada: Anansi.
* Barros, J. (1986). No sense of evil: Espionage, the case of Herbert Norman. Toronto, Canada: Deneau.
* Cayley, D. (1995). George Grant in conversation. Toronto, Canada: Anansi.
* Christian, W. (1993). George Grant: A biography. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.
* Davis, A. (Ed.). (1996). George Grant and the subversion of modernity. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.
* Ellul, J. (1965). The technological society (John Wilkerson, Trans.). New York: Vintage.
* Flinn, F. (1981). George Grant’s critique of technological liberalism. Doctoral thesis, St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto.
* Horowitz, G. (1990). Commentary. In P. C. Emberley (Ed.), By loving our own: George Grant and the legacy of Lament for a nation. Ottawa, Canada: Carleton University Press.
* Kinzel, T. (1999). George Grant - ein kanadischer Philosoph als antimoderner Kulturkritiker. In Zeitschrift für Kanada-Studien 36/2 (1999), 185-200.
* Kroker, A. (1984). Technology and the Canadian mind. Montreal, Canada: New World Perspectives.
* Lee, D. (1990). Grant’s impasse. In P. C. Emberley (Ed.), By loving our own: George Grant and the legacy of "Lament for a Nation." Ottawa, Canada: Carleton University Press.
* Mathie, W. (1978). The technological regime: George Grant’s analysis of modernity. In L. Schmidt (Ed.), George Grant in process: Essays and conversations. Toronto, Canada: Anansi.
* McHughen, A. (2000). Pandora’s picnic basket: The potential and hazard of genetically modified foods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Rigelhof, T. L. (2001). George Grant: Redefining Canada. Montreal, Canada: XYZ Publishers.
* Siebert, J. W. H. (1988). George Grant’s troubled appropriation of Martin Heidegger on the question concerning technology. Master’s thesis, St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto.
* Umar, Y. K. (Ed.). (1991). George Grant and the future of Canada. Calgary, Canada: University of Calgary Press.


* Christian, William (2005). [ "Grant, George Parkin"] . Retrieved October 31, 2005.

External links

* [ A 40th anniversary retrospective of the Lament]
*Review of [ Collected Works of George Grant] by Alan Mendelson in "University of Toronto Quarterly".

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