George Grant

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The George Grant Reader.
George Parkin Grant was born in Toronto (November 13, 1918) and died in Halifax, Nova Scotia (September 27, 1988). He was a philosopher, teacher and political commentator, whose widest popular appeal peaked in the late 1960s and 1970s in Canada. He is best known for his nationalism, comments on technology, Christian faith, and his conservative views regarding abortion; although, academically, his writings express a rich and surprisingly deep mediation on the great books, and confrontation with the great thinkers of Western Civilization. His influences include Leo Strauss, Nietzsche and Simone Weil.

Family Legacy

Grant comes from a distinguished Canadian family of scholars and educators. His father was the principal of Upper Canada College, and his maternal grandfather was the first principle of Queen's University.

Education & Teaching

Grant was educated at Queen's and later attended Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. His D. Phil was in theology but he later taught in departments of philosophy (Dalhousie), religion (McMaster), and political science (Dalhousie).

Politics & Philosophy

In 1965, he published Lament for a Nation which regretted what he claimed was Canada's inevitable absorption by the United States. Grant articulated a political philosophy which became known as Red Toryism which promoted the collectivist and communitarian aspects of the conservative tradition as exemplified by Sir John A. Macdonald as opposed to the libertarian and individualist traditions of 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.'

An extraordinary public communicator, 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 could reconcile moral freedom with acceptance of the view that an order existed in the universe beyond space and time. In 1965, furious that the Liberal government had accepted 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 deep though unconventional religious thought.

His last collection of essays was Technology and Justice (1986), which he prepared together with his wife Sheila Grant. Drawing on his 30-year meditation on the French philosopher Simone Weil, he came to the conclusion that western civilization was fundamentally flawed, both morally and spiritually. It was fated to disappear and was collapsing from within. As a Christian, however, Grant expressed faith that something nobler would replace it.

In spite of these views, Grant received many honorary degrees, as well as The Order of Canada and many other honours.

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).
  • 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

  • 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).

External Links

  • The Canadian EncyclopediaGrant, George Parkin (

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