Friday, May 21, 2010

Andrew Kaethler's "The Synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem" - Review by Ron Dart

Andrew Kaethler
VDM Verlag: Germany, 2009

The ongoing research on George Grant continues to emerge from a variety of creative directions. The MA thesis turned missive, The Synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem, by Andrew Kaethler, is yet another primer to read on the topic of Grant’s engagement with the modern liberal matrix. The burden of Grant’s philosophical and political journey was to probe how the modern ethos is enfolded within liberal prejudices, then unfold what such an enfolding means at a variety of religious, ethical, economic and political levels.

Grant turned to the Classical tradition (Greek, Jewish, Christian) as a way of engaging the modern worldview, but the Classical way was not a homogenous way of knowing and being. Whose read and version of the Classical way should be heeded contra modernity and why? The Synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem deals with these subtle and trying issues.

The Synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem is divided into five chapters: 1) Ripening of Thought: The Development of Grant’s Thought, 2) Grant, Heidegger and Nietzsche: An Alternate Way of Knowing, 3) Grant’s Synthesis Contra Heidegger and Nietzsche: An Expose on the Modern Technological Paradigm, 4) The Good in Contradistinction to Values, and 5) Justice, Love and Grace: The Salient Aspects of Grant’s Synthesis.

Kaethler makes it abundantly clear that Grant thought that in Nietzsche and Heidegger he had found incisive poetic and philosophic critics of the modern liberal and bourgeois agenda, and Grant was drawn to them for their piercing analysis of the thinness of the modern mood and sentiment. Both Nietzsche and Heidegger turned to the Ancients as a way of highlighting the inadequacies of the Moderns, but Grant was also aware that Nietzsche and Heidegger were seriously tainted with the Modern. This is why in Chapter 3 of the book, Kaethler deals with Grant contra Nietzsche and Heidegger.

Chapter 4 turns to Grant’s read of Simone Weil/Irish Murdoch as a way of demonstrating a way of approaching the ‘Good’ via Plato that has not been contaminated by the language of values that so dominates modern discussions of justice and ethics. It is in the Classical language of the ‘Good’ that Grant finally rests his head when it comes to questions of God, the soul, society, human nature and politics. The implications of Grant’s conclusions are spelled out in insightful detail in chapter 5 where Kaethler touches down on such themes as justice, forgiveness, grace and questions yet to ponder in Grant’s seeming synthesis.

The Synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Defense Against Modernity adds another feather to the cap of the emerging research on Grant and amply illustrates why Grant deserves to be called ‘Canada’s greatest political philosopher’

Ron Dart

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