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|
|Notable ideas:||Red Tory, Canadian Nationalism|
|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|
George Parkin Grant OC, Ph.D, 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. Politically, he is considered the main theoretician of Red Toryism.
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 Michael Ignatieff.
Grant was educated at Upper Canada College and Queen's University, and later attended the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. 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 in theology though he later taught in departments of Philosophy (Dalhousie), Religion (McMaster), and Political Science (Dalhousie).
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).
In 1965, Grant published Lament for a Nation, where he regretted what he claimed was Canada's inevitable 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.'
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 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 it.
At the time of his death in 1988, Grant was seen as the exemplar Red Tory in Canada; and while he eventually came to transcend the temporal world of politics, his Toryism has continued to define the framework for a gentle and thoughtful Nationalism in Canada.
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.