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George Grant and the Subversion of Modernity

George Grant and the Subversion of Modernity: Art, Philosophy, Religion, Politics and Education

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 346
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  • Book Info
    George Grant and the Subversion of Modernity
    Book Description:

    The focus of this book is the unknown George Grant, namely, the philosophic, religious, and artistic inspiration behind his well-known public postions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7526-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Note on George Grantʹs Unpublished Writings
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Chronology
    (pp. xiii-2)
  7. 1 Introduction: Why Read George Grant?
    (pp. 3-8)

    By 1970 George Grant was well known to Canadians as a nationalist and a staunch opponent of the war in Vietnam. His writings of the sixties had been about politics, the economy, education, and technology more than religion and philosophy. He had come to be lionized by various groups on the political left, especially members of the anti-war and civil rights movements, many of whom he converted to Canadian nationalism. He had shown his leftward leanings in ʹAn Ethic of Communityʹ (1961),¹ where he had argued for social democratic policies to temper the abuses of capitalism.

    As Abraham Rotstein remarked,²...

  8. Art

    • 2 Célineʹs Trilogy
      (pp. 11-53)

      When I began this preface, its title was going to be ʹWhy did George Grant write about Céline?ʹ However, I found myself repeating the answer he himself had given. It seemed more useful, therefore, just to say why I thought it worth while to piece together Grantʹs notes for his unpublished and unfinished book on Céline, and present them here as an imperfect whole.

      The condition of Grantʹs notes on Céline was extraordinary. There were often groups of consecutive typed passages, most of them quite long, one passage having six different versions. Numerous handwritten pages were included, some being the...

    • 3 Why Did George Grant Love Céline?
      (pp. 54-76)

      Why did this Christian Platonist love that slummer on the lam? On the lam, whatʹs more, from the good side at the end of the Second World War.

      Most of the one article he published on Céline, which appeared inQueenʹs Quarterly, is spent clearing the ground for what he wanted to say about him. If not handled with care, it can be misleading. Having read his notes and drafts for a book on Céline, and now the coherent version put together by Sheila Grant, I find that he was not very interested in the Céline who said that Europe...

    • 4 George Grantʹs Céline: Thoughts on the Relationship of Philosophy and Art
      (pp. 77-106)

      I have been perplexed for more than a decade by George Grantʹs attraction to Célineʹs writings. One might say this perplexity is misplaced because attraction to, or repulsion from, a writer is a matter of taste. But such a statement would be entirely alien to Grant, who put forward extravagant claims about the truth as well as the beauty of Célineʹs work and would have thought that the ʹtruthʹ of Célineʹs trilogy was not subject to the vagaries of personal taste. Perhaps one might even say that Grant shared my perplexity. Of course, there is no doubt that he loved...

  9. Philosophy

    • 5 George Grant, Nietzsche, and the Problem of a Post-Christian Theism
      (pp. 109-138)

      Why would a quasi-Christian quasi-Platonist like George Grant want to have any truck with militant anti-Platonists like Nietzsche and Heidegger? Grant himself gave a full response to this question, and his remarks are worth quoting at length:

      Nietzsche and Heidegger are those who have thought through most clearly what is happening in modernity, and thought it within the acceptance of the basic assumptions of that modernity. The negative side of that thinking-through is their assessment of what is wrong about Christianity and Platonism – why human beings thought they were true in the past, but why no sane person should...

    • 6 Justice and Freedom: George Grantʹs Encounter with Martin Heidegger
      (pp. 139-168)

      George Grant struggled with Martin Heidegger throughout the seventies and eighties.¹ In the course of that struggle he continued to engage with a question that had occupied him since the fifties, a question that, he believed, had not yet been addressed adequately by any contemporary political thinker. This question can be phrased as follows: How can we accept the modern discovery – that we are free to shape nature and ourselves – without forsaking the insight of the older moral and political tradition – that we are shaped or fitted for a justice which does not depend on our wills?...

    • 7 George Grant and Leo Strauss
      (pp. 169-198)
      H.D. FORBES

      George Grantʹs writings from the 1960s contain some remarkable tributes to Leo Strauss. No one familiar with both writers can help noticing the real similarities between them, despite their obvious differences. But how should these similarities and differences be understood?

      Grant and Strauss found much to question about ʹmodernity.ʹ Both stood apart from the professional philosophers of their own time, sharing an antipathy to the assumptions governing the modern republic of letters. Yet both were quite realistic about practical conservatism. They avoided the bromide that ʹhuman values should control technology,ʹ and devoted themselves instead simply to understanding what ʹvaluesʹ have...

  10. Politics

    • 8 The Unravelling of Liberalism
      (pp. 201-219)

      George Grant was, if anything, a man who sought to be understood. Almost all of his most important articles were written for magazines such asCanadian Dimensionrather than for learned journals, and most of his books were produced by Anansi and other publishers that catered to the general public rather than by university presses. As far as possible he used plain language and was on many subjects blunt and outspoken. Yet much that he wrote remains puzzling, subject to rival interpretations, and has given rise to a secondary literature in which scholars argue vigorously over Grantʹs place in the...

    • 9 Love and Will in the Miracle of Birth: An Arendtian Critique of George Grant on Abortion
      (pp. 220-240)

      George Grant, as we know, was a powerful and enigmatic thinker. Much has been written about the various strands of his thought, and about the way he appeals to every shade of the political spectrum. The reason for Grantʹs broad appeal lies in his straddling of the ancient and modern worlds, in his efforts to combine a thinking through of the intellectual ground of modernity with a commitment to a classical and Christian understanding of things. On abortion, however, Grant eschews classical categories and frames his comments exclusively within the modern context of rights discourse. On abortion Grant is an...

  11. Religion

    • 10 George Grant and the Theology of the Cross
      (pp. 243-262)

      From his student days at Oxford till the end of his life, George Grant frequently quoted the twenty-first of Lutherʹs twenty-eight theses from the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518. What did it mean to him? Why did he always use an inaccurate translation of Lutherʹs original Latin? And why did he think the theology of the cross helped us, as Luther put it, ʹto cope with the problems of Providence without either hurt to ourselves or secret anger with God?ʹ¹

      Grantʹs use of Lutherʹs thesis is a perfect example of his unscholarly but sometimes fruitful habit of employing the names of...

    • 11 George Grant on Simone Weil as Saint and Thinker
      (pp. 263-282)

      George Grant first encountered Simone Weil in the early fifties when he was asked to review one of her books; he continued struggling with her thought till his death in 1988. His unpublished writings on Weil bear witness to a lifetime spent trying to come to terms with a most difficult thinker. They comprise three typescripts and a course notebook. These writings are hard to understand, sometimes because they are elliptical and incomplete, and sometimes because the handwritten corrections are difficult to decipher.

      The first typescript, entitled ʹSome Comments on Simone Weil and the Neurotic and the Alienated,ʹ¹ is undated...

  12. Education

    • 12 Teaching against the Spirit of the Age: George Grant and the Museum Culture
      (pp. 285-303)

      From the time George Grantʹs writings first received public attention, his life and thought have provided material for teaching and research, or as some would prefer to put it, scholarship. During his life he responded vigorously to questions about and criticisms of what he had written, said, and done. Without his enlivening presence, however, there is now the danger that his work will be relegated to the ʹmuseum cultureʹ or the mausoleum. Museum culture was Grantʹs term for studies that no longer have any vital meaning for us in our daily lives¹ and, in his words, are increasingly ʹconcerned with...

    • 13 Selected Letters on Universities and Education by George Grant
      (pp. 304-328)

      George Grant (whose full name was George Parkin Grant) was born into a renowned family. Both of his grandfathers devoted their lives to the reform of education. Sir George Parkin started up the Rhodes scholarships at Lord Milnerʹs request; George Monro Grant turned the struggling Presbyterian school of Queenʹs in Kingston into an important university. George Grantʹs father, William Grant, rescued Upper Canada College (a private boysʹ school in Toronto) from mediocrity and made it an important educational institution.

      George Grant, as the following letters show, inherited the family business. He spent almost his whole life teaching or being taught....

  13. Index
    (pp. 329-346)