Saturday, February 25, 2012
Early Grant Influence - by Braeden Wiens
Braeden Wiens Early Grant Influence
George Grant is one of the greatest Canadian philosophers to have lived. His intricate work on what Canada was and where Canada is going has lead to incredible advancements in philosophy and politics. However, this great thinker was no different than any other man at a young age. Throughout his publications it is apparent that there was a shift in thought that lead him to become the author and thinker that we see today. Several of his works from the 30’s on culminating in the achievement of Lament for a Nation will be looked at and the progression of development that caused this change will be looked at.
In 1943 George Grant wrote Canada-An Introduction to a Nation. In this article you see Grant for the first time truly rolling up his sleeves and taking a look at the nation as a whole and what it represents. When discussing the similarities between Canada and the US or Canada and Britain Grant writes, “ He will be told that Canada is neither dominated from the south by the United States nor from the east by England, but is a united and independent country managing its own affairs” (Grant, 2000, p. 74). Through a descriptive overtone and a unique perspective Grant at an early age goes over the geographic, historical, skills and loyalties intrinsic of Canada. Through this article you see great admiration for the country in which he lives and yet you start to see the critical thinking that Grant is so well known. Also the beginning of understanding the nation so that later on a lament for what he knew would occur. One can see an even larger degree of this train of thought two years later when Grant wrote Have We a Canadian Nation? In this article the establishment of nationhood in Grants’ work as well as a critical understanding of the degree to which Canadians view their country was established. “We in Canada, however, have from our very background of conservatism put the emphasis on the necessity of social order. Our nation was founded after the American Revolution by those people who believed in order” (Grant, 2000, p. 130). This directly describes the importance of Grant to view Canada as needing a social order above all else. When Lament for a Nation was written, this social order becomes key to the aspect Grant strives to bring across. As well, Grant in this article describes the “mature wisdom of the older civilization” when describing the benefits Canadians have to their country (Grant, 2000). His love of the ancient and tradition is evident and the overarching development of social order and conservatism begin to be seen at this point in his life.
By 1953 there is a distinct shift from descriptive, searching Grant, to skilled philosopher Grant. This can be seen in two articles written, Philosophy and Adult Education and Philosophy in the Mass Age. Within his article regarding adult education Grant begins to show a lament for what is taught and what ought to be taught. He writes, “ If democracy has no right to demand anything of philosophy, neither can it demand anything of education” (Grant, 2002, p. 68). In this article it comes forth that Grant, at this point, is quite adamant that the use of education in Canada is not pointed towards higher learning for the achievement of knowledge, but rather for the use of education to a “limited end” by “greedy” corporate individuals (Grant 2000). Capitalism and the way the globe is run have begun to cause Grant to view education as becoming a commodity. One begins to see the intricacies of Grants’ mind opening up to the possible outcome of industrialization and globalization coming into effect. This can be specifically seen in his later article regarding the Mass Age. Within this article there is seen the overtone of globalization. Grant cannot stand by while pragmatism seeps into the way philosophy and society are viewed. He states in defence of his views,
” I suggest that the pragmatists are wrong in denying moral law because in so doing they are denying not only the interpretations of moral questions, but they are also denying the very idea of morality itself (Grant, 2002, p. 397). “ Moral philosophy is by definition concerned with the practical. But in solving practical problems it points beyond itself to the act of knowing, which is its own reward. It is better to arrive than to journey” (Grant, 2002, p. 398).
The call to moral action by Grant gives one the sense of foreboding that comes across by his two articles regarding philosophy. One can see the need for moral philosophy to take hold otherwise there is a continued downward spiral of practical solutions without knowledge and the other, Grant views as a journey that may never end compared to arriving at a destination. By this point the critical Grant has arrived and Lament has truly taken form.
By the time Lament for a Nation arrived George Grant had published countless articles and taught in various universities only to discover that the Canada he knew so well in Canada- An Introduction to a Nation was disappearing fast. The lead up to Lament in which the Diefenbaker government was defeated by the Pearson/ Douglas merger caused Grant to question the very nature of the countries direction (Dart, Jersak, 2011). Within this merger it was well known that Grant was vehemently opposed to the marriage as in his mind it lead to a clear path for the American style of imperialism to destroy Canadian nationalism (Dart, Jersak, 2011). As a result Lament was born and in it an opposition to the new liberal values that were entwined within all Western culture developed. Grant throughout Lament focused on the way liberalism has coupled with the American way of life and that the future and fate of Canada was believed by Canadian liberals to be tied with the US (Dart, Jersak, 2011). The global homogenous state was beginning to take shape and Grant lamented this thought. “ The whole argument for the Liberals as realistic nationalists breaks down with their actual achievements. Their policies have not been such as could sustain a continuing nation” (Grant, 2005, p. 304). As in his opposition to the Liberal party upholding the progression of Canada, the Grant that was critical of liberalism as an ideology takes hold as well.
“ The conquest of human and non-human nature becomes the only public value” (Grant, 2005, p. 317). “This means that we must experiment in shaping society unhindered by any preconceived notions of good. ‘The end of ideology’ is the perfect slogan for men who want to do what they want. Liberalism is, then, the faith that can understand progress as an extension into the unlimited possibility of the future (Grant, 2005, p. 317).
The liberalism ideology or lack thereof is one that Grant sees as the downfall of not only the nation but of man. In this Grant arrives at this way of thinking regarding the loss of Canada and the values it used to hold. Gone are the ways of conservative tradition and in are these “men who do what they want”(2005). As a result, there now is a progressive liberal Canada, which as earlier in his life, Grant foresaw in his critique of education, and the Mass Age.
If one is to take a critical look at the way George Grant developed his unique outlook on Canada it is clear that it adapted over time. The life experience that Grant had lead him through some very difficult times and it took a unique toll on the way he viewed liberal society. Though he has his critiques of it, liberalism as a whole has not failed for Grant. Rather, Grant took a look at the way a complete lack of identity leads man to lose his way and therefore warps and alters the dimensions of liberalism to suit his needs. From an early age a love and passion for Canada has been ever present in the way George Grant wrote. Culminating in Lament, this love is exploded in a moral outcry for Canada to recognize this change and hold onto values. Whether seen or heard this outcry is studied across the country and is held with nothing but the highest regard.
Dart, Ron and Jersak, Brad (2011) George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf; ed. by Brad Jersak; Fresh Wind Press
Grant, George (2000) The Collected Works of George Grant; ed. By Arthur Davis and Henry Roper; University of Toronto Press Vol. 1
Grant, George (2002) The Collected Works of George Grant; ed. By Arthur Davis and Henry Roper; University of Toronto Press Vol. 2
Grant, George (2005) The Collected Works of George Grant; ed. By Arthur Davis and Henry Roper; University of Toronto Press Vol. 3