Thursday, September 6, 2012

This Essay is ‘Not My Own’ by Jordan Todd

This Essay is ‘Not My Own’
A Summary Essay Regarding
George Grant: Metaphysics and Modernity
Jordan A. Todd


He has been called one of the most important Canadian public philosophers[1], a Christian renaissance humanist who drew from many Western and Eastern theological, philosophical and political traditions.[2] George Grant was a holistic and contemplative thinker who would critically consider certain traditions and their proponents. Though much has been written about his life and work, Grant’s Christian faith and how it influenced his thought has been given the least attention. Perhaps this fact is a testament to Grant’s critique of the modern university – that, “if a Christian spoke frankly in a modern multiversity, he would have to leave”.[3] His biographer, William Christian even went as far as to call Grant’s ‘born again’ (conversion) experience the most fundamental experience of Grant’s life[4], making it even more unbelievable that Grant’s faith has been so overlooked.

In this brief essay, the connection between Grant’s work and his faith – his understanding of God and the universe – (what is referred to here as his ‘metaphysics’) will be commented on. It is important to note, however, that in no way will the true depth of his mind, heart, and soul be adequately explored in this short attempt. There is a vast amount of Grant’s thought not even referenced here, and what is discussed is but a shadow. This being said, the goal here is to make some connections, to highlight some themes that are carried through Grants most famous work, themes which take root in his faith. 

Grant’s weighing in on the characteristics of modernity, his recognition of what influences provided such characteristics, and his adopted philosophical and theological alternatives to modern thought, cannot be discussed appropriately without recognizing Grant’s metaphysical foundation. The following is an attempt to touch on some of the connections between this foundation and the rest of his work. In doing so, two grand appeals of Grant’s will be highlighted. These two appeals – Grant’s concern regarding the ‘primacy of the will’ and of humanity’s striving towards mastery over both nature and humanity – are essential points in Grant’s work done on the West and on modernity. It will then be argued that these appeals are made in reference to the ‘cornerstone’ of Grant’s thought, which was then founded on his metaphysical infrastructure.

Part I: Grant’s Critique of Modernity

“Ours is a world of mass production and its techniques, of standardized consumption and standardized education, of wholesale entertainment and almost wholesale medicine...more than simply an expression of relationship of man to nature; it also exemplifies a particular relationship of man to man, namely, some men’s dominance over other men.” – George Grant [5]

At beginning of his work Philosophy in the Mass Age Grant claims that North America is the only society which, because it has no history before ‘the age of progress,’ best embodies its values and principles.[6] What is Grant referring to when he claims that there are specific values and principles of the ‘age of progress’? [7] The philosophy of modern self and society which incarnates these values and principles can be practically seen in our striving towards mastery over both nature and humanity through science and technology.[8] In order for the modern person to be in a position of mastery over nature and others, Grant argues that there was a foundational shift in how we understood our role in the universe. He utilizes a comparison between the ancients and the moderns to explain this shift.

To be clear, Grant’s critique of modernity cannot be limited to a simple dichotomy of ancients versus moderns. Further, Grant is not implying a complete rejection of modernity. In fact, Grant was well aware of the complexities of modernity as well as its pre-modern influences. [9] What Grant indeed does, and in great detail, is provide us with a thoughtful characterisation of modernity, a map of pre-modern influences which led to this modern character, and finally he gives us a ‘Jeremiad for our times’[10] Keeping this in mind, what does Grant have to say?

The Character of Modernity

As was previously mentioned, mastery over both man and nature[11] is a resounding characteristic of the modern society. Culture is defined scientifically[12], and our society endorses the dominance of the capitalist elite over everyone else, a relationship between people that Grant believes is controlling for both parties.[13] For Grant, this shift in how people orient themselves to nature and each other involves a change in how we understand our role in history, the created order, and in how we understand human freedom. This marks one of Grant’s most important appeals. In the second chapter of Philosophy of the Mass Age, Grant describes modern people’s conception of their existence in comparison to those of ‘traditional religious cultures’ (the ancients). The most prevalent difference then is how modern man perceives history as a conscious voluntary product of human will.[14] This is a result of modern man’s conception of time as history: a series of specific unchangeable events that must be initially shaped appropriately since they could never be revisited. In Grant’s own words, “We have taken fate into our own hands and are determined to make the world how we want it”.[15]

Modern people have adhered to a faith which places the mastery of the natural world as the only appropriate resolution to hunger, labour, war, and disease.[16] The use of technology as our savour in the modern world has led to an all-encompassing dependence on technology as an over-arching representation of reality. This implies that the only means of combating the emergencies that arise out of technique are found within its very womb.[17] Technology then has become the ontology of our time, a novelty which yields to our own control, but which demands us to accept its own self-justification. [18] In his review of Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society, Grant sees the most important aspect of Ellul’s argument as being his recognition of how technique has become autonomous - not held accountable to anything external to itself.[19]

Though technique enjoys its freedom from judgement and restraint, it doesn’t; however, return the favour. Grant argues that technology is not simply an instrument used by us, but that it in fact forcefully determines the very destiny that we seek to control. He uses as examples, the computer and the automobile to show that they will not allow us to assume that they are neutral instruments.[20] They both shape the way we live our lives: how we communicate and travel, how we create and destroy, and especially how we structure our worlds economy. In this way technology imposes itself on us, limiting our freedom. It is this unquestioned supremacy of technology as progress and how it affects our lives that is at the center of Grant’s critique of modernity.

Technology and Liberalism

Technology within the universal and homogeneous state has become a tenable political order largely due to modern philosophy. It, as argued by Kojève and Grant, has come to preponderate any other ideal in either modern ethics or political thought and has become our society’s sole resource of the justification of our willing.[21] According to Grant, Western technological achievement is not, “an orchard where we can always pick variegated fruit. [Instead] it moulds us in what we our actions and thoughts and imaginings”.[22]

If Grant’s argument is that the technological drive that exists within the universal and homogeneous state is completely persuasive and all encompassing, then how is it that it enjoys so much power? Part of this answer has to do with the role that liberalism plays to morally legitimize the age of progress. Grant recognizes a close relationship between technological development and political liberalism.[23] That relationship insists that if any political system or any progress is to be labelled as good, it must include an agreeable form of political liberty and consent.[24] This is the earmark of liberalism within the age of progress: that it is the only moral language that is given any significant weight in our public realm.[25] We take for granted that we find it to be ‘the best expression of moral truth’.[26] Grant seems to assume that this relationship between technology and liberalism is one dominated by the former and its inherent combination of ‘techne’ and ‘logos’ which act to pay ‘lip service’ to the latter.[27] Technology has come to embody ‘the word of God’ and has rooted itself in modern society as the most authoritative principle of reason and judgment complete with liberalism acting to manage its moral public relations.

What makes liberalism so well suited to fulfil this role is rooted in its philosophy. Grant identifies John Rawls and his contractarianism as the center of English speaking liberalism and justice. In his liberal framework, drawing from Locke, Rousseau and Kant, Rawls argues that the good society is one made up of free individuals agreeing to work in cooperation with each other so that they can each properly look after their own interests.[28] By relying on contractarian teaching, Rawls attempts to free political philosophy from any metaphysical underpinnings.[29] What Rawls is essentially saying is that people do not place their dependency on progress in God or nature, but instead on their own freedom which is structured according to their own ability to give themselves rational moral laws.[30] According to Grant, Rawlsian liberalism assumes that liberty and equality above all other virtues reign supreme, endorsing autonomous willing as the highest purpose of humanity with the ever-widening of external freedom as its goal.[31] Human nature within this liberal tradition implies few moral boundaries and limitations which are most certainly only justified within a liberal notion of historicism (the assumption that human nature and morality are only products particular to a specific time and history).[32] 

Under the banner of liberalism, the arbitrary deficiencies in nature and society are to be conquered in the name of equality[33] and the modern understanding of freedom assumes one’s ability to make an unambiguous choice between open possibilities.[34] This is where liberalism and the relentless pursuit of technological progress are consummated. Liberalism holds high the almost limitless external freedom of personal autonomy along with equality, and technology functions to provide the tools for people to realise both. In return, liberalism grants technology the moral justification it needs to march on unquestioned, guaranteeing it the courtesy of autonomy. However, the marriage between the two still implies more. Since liberalism defines both human nature and morality to modern man, the very identity of modern individuals is intricately entwined. Better put by Grant:

“We can hold in our minds the enormous benefits of a technological society, but we cannot so easily hold the ways it may have deprived us, because technique is ourselves.[35]

Technology and the Modern Will

In Grant’s deconstruction of modernity he recognizes another theme which coincides with that of technology and liberalism. This theme is ‘the will as ultimate truth’ or ‘the primacy of the will’ (voluntarism).[36] The concept of the will, along with man’s position in the created order of things, is another important appeal for Grant. For the most part, Grant’s language regarding the will is drawn from Simone Weil’s own philosophy of will.[37] For Grant and Weil, they both used the terms ‘will’, ‘willing’, or freedom negatively.[38] Grant saw that moderns have a completely backward understanding of the language of will when compared with that of the ancients. The ancients understood will in terms of desire, and further, that desire was always part of the language of dependence.[39] For moderns, however, the understanding of will is more consistently understood in terms of ‘making happen what happens’, i.e. the act of having power over something external to oneself. While referencing Kant, Grant said, “To will is to legislate... the expression of the responsible and independent self, distinguished from the dependent self who desires”.[40]

Again, Grant is not supporting a simple dichotomy. In the case of the will he is saying more than just that moderns are willful (to legislate) and ancients are willing (language of dependence). By will, Grant is referencing ‘the primacy of the will’, which assumes priority over other ‘faculties’ and other ‘agents’, such as contemplative intellect, love (desiring), the higher Good, and God.[41] To quote Jersak’s understanding of Grant’s take on being willful or willing:

“To act willingly implies surrender. To act willfully implies stubbornness. The ‘willful will’ degrades the mind into calculation. The ‘willing will’ raises the mind to contemplation...when the will is formed and informed by contemplation and love, its [sic] acts effectively and creatively to serve justice”.[42]

There is a significant connection between Grant’s understanding of the modern will as implying power and control over one’s external environment (making happen what happens) and his commentary on the universal and homogeneous state. The modern conception of willing is understood as a pursuit of mastery over nature and others. Willing in this way is essential within the modern understanding of history as irreversible and manmade. Technology has helped shape will[43] and provides the means to increase the effectiveness of modern mans willful mastery, and liberalism provides the ideological framework to morally justify the modern conception of will and the primacy of technology.

Grant and Epistemology

Grant had much to say about the modern way of ‘knowing’. What is important to communicate within the context of this paper is that Grant recognized the modern foundation of knowing to be quite different than that of the ancients. The summary provided here regarding Grant’s critique of the modern way of knowing will be broken up into four parts: (1) the reversal of contemplation and action, (2) ignorance to its limits and the exclusion of knowledge, (3) knowing as willing, and (4) technological mastery (knowing as making).[44]

The reversal of contemplation and action places calculative will before deep thought and mediation on what is good. The language of the ‘primacy of the will’ reigns true here and it is not limited to the common man, but is also the dominant practice of the modern philosopher.[45] The primacy of will (action) over contemplation which characterises modern epistemology inevitably leads us all down the narrow path of philosophical pragmatism in pursuit of power and control.[46]

The term ‘exclusion of knowledge’ has been used by some to point out how knowledge is reduced to only what can be legitimized through empirical observation or rational thought.[47] As far as modernity is concerned, the movement to limit legitimate knowledge is arguably rooted in the ‘Enlightenment’ which favoured above all other forms, empiricism, rationalism, and agnosticism.[48] The early modern thinkers including Bacon, Descartes, and Kant recognized some of the limits of science and philosophy as well as the subsequent impact that they had on their students which lacked a defence of other forms of knowledge.[49] For many of the modern philosophers who came after, the combination of ignorance and exclusion made for a self-sufficient ideology, one whose fruits would be judged under the guise of technological success.

The exclusion of knowledge allows for the flourishing of the individual ego. Each person can become the king of their own narrow specialty. Modern science and morality end up repositioning man as subject, their environment as object, and the responsibility of fate into their own hands. This orientation of man to the world implies knowing as willing as making, with technology allowing us to make and then will and then know, until technology as the modern ontology finally becomes just who we are.[50] Better put, “a new relationship is forged between knowing and making, one that imposes technology upon us as the modern epistemology, ontology, and ethic – because technology is how we must know, who we must be, and what we must do”.[51] The success of technology’s role as the servant of modern man’s will, equipping us with the tools necessary to dominate both man and nature, has kissed us on the cheek. It not only imposes itself on our external reality, but also on our minds, pragmatically placing action before contemplation, ensuring its own transcendence, regardless of consequence.

Churches, University Curriculum, and Ethics

“Debates take place about the government of the university, about humane existence within it, etc., etc., but not about what it concerns a human being to know. So monolithic is the agreement of society about ends, so pervasive the ideology of liberalism which expresses that agreement, that the question about knowing cannot be raised seriously"[52]

The argument regarding technology thus far has been that it has become our modern ontology. Technology, though partners with liberalism, has taken the dominant position of control. This means that when it comes to questions of knowing, morality, or ‘the good’, technology takes priority over liberalism. Grant recognizes that especially in the early stages of liberalism, ‘in all its inimitable innocence’, that it did provide scholars and government officials with moral standards and tradition.[53] However, in its more advanced stages, Grant recognizes that the moral framework which liberalism initially provided us has been supplanted by the cosmology of technological progress. The transcendent values of liberalism, which had initially depended on a cosmology that was replaced by that of progress, have gradually died.[54] Grant’s argument is that morality is inherently dependent on cosmology if it is to be sustained. As soon as the supporting cosmology is taken away, then morality, though it may linger for a while, will be replaced.[55] This is essentially why liberalism has come to morally justify the age of progress, because it can no longer oppose it. The very morals which early liberalism embodied no longer have a dominant cosmology to support them. In short, as far as liberalism is concerned, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. The values of technology as progress and that of liberalism are now almost completely indistinguishable from each other.

So why is it such a notable concern that liberalism has lost its ability to provide us with a moral framework? The simple answer is because there aren’t really any other authoritative sources of morality that provide us with such a framework. Grant has recognized that the role of philosophy and religion have become a matter of private pursuit, unsuitable to be applied on a societal level.[56] Western Christianity, or perhaps more to the point Protestantism, had been almost inseparable from early liberalism and capitalism, encouraging both and vice-versa.[57] The morality which liberalism endorsed was supported by Christian cosmology, and thus had the legitimacy needed to sustain itself in the public realm. Grant accounts for a few sympathies between Protestantism (more specifically Calvinism) and Rawlsian liberalism that helped Christian cosmology ‘dig its own grave’[58], robbing liberalism of its metaphysical backbone. First, Grant insists that Calvinist individualism and capitalism complemented each other and that Rawls’ contractarianism was a ‘useful expression for both’. Second, he recognized the same sympathy between modern positive science and the positivist account of revelation in Calvinism.[59]

Grant recognized that after the First World War, theological liberalism was starting to be replaced by non-religious liberalism.[60] Especially since religious institutions had lost their authority in politics and are now far less influential publically, Grant was concerned about this trend when it came to the university, which he saw as the last authoritative institution that could lead men to truth and proper morality. However, he recognized that the primary purpose of modern western society is to keep nurturing the progress of technology[61], and further, that the first and foremost concern of the university is the development of the sciences which cater to technological progress.[62]  Even within the study of ethics at universities he saw that students were taught only to be concerned about cataloguing differences in how people act at different times in different places. He insisted that not only is there nothing objective about ethics[63], but that ethics could not ultimately lead to morality without a basic metaphysical foundation.[64]

Grant asked whether or not, “the severance between the university and the Christian Church [should] be considered ‘a step forward’”?[65] His own answer would have most likely been ‘no’. This becomes more obvious when one considers Grant’s understanding of the study of philosophy:

“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 Perfection of God. It is the contemplation of our own and others’ activity, in the hope that by understanding it better we may make it less imperfect”.[66]

Not only did he believe that the language of ethics are dependent on the language of religion[67] [68], he also understood that if philosophy, religion, and metaphysics were not an important aspect of university curriculum, that there was little hope for young men and women being brought up in a tradition of contemplation which could facilitate critical faculty.[69] The kind of young mind that Grant is referring to here is the same that Lewis was when referencing Plato’s Republic, “the well-nurtured youth... ‘who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in the ill-made works of man or the ill-grown works of nature’”.[70] So then, what is Grant’s weigh in regarding the contemporary university? At the end of English Speaking Justice he had this to say:

“In what is left of those secular institutions which should serve the purpose of sustaining such thought [about the whole] – that is, our current institutions of higher learning – there is little encouragement to what might transcend the technically competent, and what is called ‘philosophy’ is generally little more than analytical competence”.

This has thus far been a brief and simple summary of some essential points made in Grant’s caricature of modernity. The important points regarding modernity have been that:

·      The values and principles inherent in the age of progress can be seen in our striving towards the mastery over both nature and man
·      Our modern perception of history has been as the product of human will - the intentional shaping of unchangeable events – the taking of fate into our own hands.
·      There has been a relentless pursuit of technological progress as the dominant ontology and cosmology of our time – changing our very epistemology to ‘knowing as willing as making’
·      There is a close relationship between Rawlsian or contractual liberalism and technology:
o   The secularisation of liberalism – taking away its cosmological foundation and making it unable to hold a critical position towards the tenets of modernity
·      Technology as epistemology has penetrated the university – focusing curriculum on providing training to service the industry of technology rather than on contemplative thought.

The following section seeks to touch on what Grant identified as being influences which cultivated the universal and homogeneous state.

PART II: The Influences of Modernity – The Temptation of the West

In 1976, Grant gave a series of lectures on “Platonic Christianity”, the last of which touched on “Dostoevsky’s Christianity”.[71] Grant spent some time reflecting on Dostoevsky’s character, the Grand Inquisitor, found in The Brothers Karamazov. It was through the Grand Inquisitor that Dostoevsky encased his critique of the West and of Western Christianity; a critique that Grant sympathised with, believing that it was an outright challenge to the theology of the Roman Catholic (western) church.[72] This is significant because Grant saw that the influences of modernity took root in the West, specifically in western religion as far back as Judaism and drew support from Dostoevsky’s work. In many ways, Dostoevsky’s critique of the western church is also a critique then of the west and its liberal modernity.[73]

It is through the narrative of the Grand Inquisitor that the subsequent discussion surrounding Grant’s thoughts on the influences of modernity will proceed.

Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor

The Grand Inquisitor is a character in a parable told by Ivan to his brother Alyosha in Dostoevsky’s classic, The Karamazov Brothers. In this parable, Jesus (referred to as Him or He) returns to earth after fifteen centuries revealing himself in the Spanish city of Seville. He performs miracles and draws a crowd until the Cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor himself shows up. Immediately the Grand Inquisitor recognizes Jesus and imprisons him for questioning, though for the entire time Christ says nothing. Instead of a dialogue, the Inquisitor, while referencing the three temptations of Christ, argues that Jesus was wrong when he refused to perform any of the three miracles. He taxes him with not descending from the cross to use his power [74] - to give what people really need, comfort and happiness.[75] According to Grant, the Inquisitor assumed that Jesus had endorsed a great evil because he led humanity away from worldly happiness, a problem which had subsequently been solved by the Western Church. The Inquisitor assures Jesus that after he had departed, that himself and his own took care of the people that Christ left behind.  As Ivan explains the to his brother, “He’s [Inquisitor] claiming credit for himself and those like him for having done away with freedom and for having done so in order to make mankind happy”.[76] The Inquisitor is simply questioning whether Jesus or the one who tempted him was right in assuming what they did about provision and freedom. It is clear that the Inquisitor has made up his mind:

“For those three temptations combine and predict, as it were, the whole future history of mankind... now that fifteen centuries have passed we see that everything in those three temptations has been foreseen and predicted, and proven true to such an extent that nothing more can be added to or subtracted from them”.[77]

The Inquisitor claims that he had improved upon Christ’s creation and boasts that what he had said shall be, and that his kingdom will be created.[78] Here he suggests his humanistic response to the issues of achieving material ends, taking up moral responsibility and living with difference. The direct critique of the Western Church that Dostoevsky is making is reflected in the Inquisitors recognition of Christ’s power, but not his beneficence. The temptation of Christ is paralleled with the temptation of man, and simply what Dostoevsky is being critical of is the West’s decision to side with he who tempted Jesus rather than with God.

There are many parallels that can be made between the implications of this passage and Grant’s work on the West and modernity. The Inquisitor, Western Christianity, and modernity all attempt to address human needs by taking over the power of the state – implying that they want us, “to live in a harmonious ant-hill [which was] what Christ threatened by offering [us] freedom”.[79] Grant recognizes that the difficulty that we may have in being critical of the Inquisitors case against Christ is because, “we live in the society the Inquisitor offers and therefore it is hard to see what is absent in that society”.[80] His critiques of modernity are rooted in his philosophy, metaphysics, and theology, which similar to Dostoevsky, over time become more and more influenced by eastern traditions. Grant’s understanding of the age of progress as embodying the dominant pursuit of technology can be compared to the temptation of man, that is, humanity’s turn away from the divine in order to control their own fate. More to the point, Grant sees that the strength of the Inquisitor’s case is in his recognition of the power of technology on man and believes that technology as a way of knowing and being arose due to Western Christianity’s ambition of easing humanity’s burden.[81]

The parable of the Grand Inquisitor is a suitable place to start because Grant in his own work, inspired by his reflections on Sherrard and Dostoevsky, had tied together the theological Greek-Russian Orthodox traditions with the literary Russian Orthodox tradition.[82] Along with the development of Grant’s critique of modernity came for him a greater understanding of the alternatives, which he discovered in the ancients and in the east. Just like Dostoevsky, Grant lived in the West, but turned back to assert Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy) and to glean from the Greek Classical tradition. Both had similar understandings regarding the clash between the ancients and the moderns and both sought out Orthodoxy as a counter to the progressive liberalism of the modern world.[83] However, before entering the discussion of what Grant found to be the alternatives to the Western narrative, it would be helpful to touch on what Grant saw as influencing this narrative.

Great Western Schisms: The Apple Sometimes Does Not Fall Far

For the sake of understanding what Grant recognized were the influences of modernity, it is helpful to frame it in terms of the Hegelian dialectic – in light of what Grant recognized as changing at each split, as well as what carried through. Though this may be a helpful way to conceptualize Grant’s thoughts here, it must be made clear that after Grant wrote Philosophy of the Mass Age, he turned away from the Hegelian account of history as progress along with Hegel’s claim to a truthful synthesis of antique and modern thought.[84] After Grant gleaned what he could from Hegel, mainly his articulation of “why liberalism is and should be the reigning ideology of our age”[85], he parted from Hegel for many reasons, not the least of which was Hegel’s assumption of progress: that liberty and freedom were being increasingly realized, bringing us closer to a fuller awakening.

Still, the dialectic as far as it helps us conceptualize how things change – the thesis, antithesis, and finally the synthesis – is a helpful model for understanding Grant’s account of the West to the extent that it involves a recognition of what ideas and influences have changed over time and what has persisted (synthesised). More specifically, Grant articulated the result of a few splits in the West and showed how modernity has been a product of such syntheses.

Grant understood the modern world as one that has been secularized. However, he didn’t mean this in a strict sense, that is, without religious or spiritual basis. Rather, he saw a transition from a Western Christian cosmology to one which embodied the relentless pursuit of technology. This marks the most recent ‘great western schism’ – essentially the split between liberalism and Christianity. Grant defined religion as any, “system of belief (whether true or false) which binds together the life of individuals and gives to those lives whatever consistency of purpose they may have”.[86] Based on this definition, he described liberal humanism and Marxism as religion. This transition away from Christianity was not limited to the West. Recognizing that Marx had established what would become the most powerful modern humanisms[87], Grant saw Marxism as bringing the western spirit of progress to the East.[88] Marx was an important subsequent thinker of Kant in a process that had secularized the teachings of Western Religion (Judaism and Christianity) repackaging them more appropriately for the modern world, in the form of ideology.[89] This places liberal humanism (more specifically American Liberalism) and Marxism in the same bed – as the religions of progress. As mentioned previously, liberalism was initially founded on Christian cosmology, but then unbeknownst to those who adhered to liberalism, cosmology shifted to that of technology and progress.

This shift was in part encouraged by certain tenets of Protestantism, and more specifically, Calvinism. The Protestant Reformation marks the second most recent Western schism. Weber’s work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is an important place to begin to understand the connection between Protestantism and modernity. Grant understood Weber’s account to reveal the, “most practical orientation of Calvinists in the world”.[90] For Weber, he had made two observations: (1) he recognized that the spread of capitalism was notably paralleling the Protestant movement across Western Europe, and (2) he saw that Western Capitalism seemed to be motivated by two seemingly contradictory pursuits: the quest of acquiring a mass amount of wealth which surpassed a person’s personal needs, and a conviction of frugality.[91] Weber used the works of Benjamin Franklin[92] as an example of what he thought was the ‘spirit’ of capitalism which he identified in terms of three superseding requirements: (1) the commitment by an individual to acquiring mass amounts of wealth and profit, (2) a fervor for unrelenting toil and work paired with self denial, and (3) the disapproval of using ones wealth for the sake of personal enjoyment. What Weber was saying is that the forces which had shaped the ascetic capitalism (the ‘spirit’) of the West were unique.[93] Out of the language that Franklin used, Weber drew what he saw as ‘a particular ethic’ sourced in the Protestant religion. This ethic was understood by Weber as a ‘surplus of virtue’, virtues that were divine in origin.[94]

Weber then turned to study the Calvinist doctrine. Out of his study he insisted that Calvin imposed two ultimate restrictions which forbid any exemption from the doctrine of predestination: (1) that God chose the fate of an individual, regardless of any prayer, supplication or sacraments that they offered up, and (2) that God was transcendent and impossible to communicate with (a stark contrast to Catholic theology).[95] The effects of this doctrine were notable. First, Weber thought that the Protestant believer, since they had no clear hope of salvation, ended up in a constant state of anxiety, placing them on their own in their journey. Second, since the Protestant believer couldn’t communicate with God via prayer or sacrament, they became self-reflective in a new way.[96] The combination of individualism and insecurity arising out of the Calvinist doctrine led many Protestants to faith in solitude, lacking religious solidarity.[97]

An important difference between Catholic and Protestant theology, as noted by Weber, was the concept of the ‘calling’. In Catholic theology, the calling referred to religious service to God above and beyond the secular world. As it appears in Protestant theology; however, it’s contrasted to Catholic theology. Though Luther used the term to reference church life, Calvinism sparked a new meaning, placing the concept at the center of ‘the activity of the world’, which then permitted the church to comment on the secular.[98] The theological fork in the road came when the doctrine of sola fide (practicing faith in solitude) was introduced into Protestantism. This doctrine is at odds with the Catholic concept of consilia evangelica (church council).[99] Weber understood this difference to be quite significant because as a result of sola fide, for the first time in Christianity, there was a ‘moral justification for worldly activity’.[100] Morrison summed up Weber’s view quite well:

“The function of being ‘called’ to the commercial life must have been the psychological equivalent of being operated on by ethical and religious precepts in the form of an inner ‘calling’ which would serve as a substitute for righteousness and grace...The fulfillment of one’s worldly duty became...the only way Protestants could understand their actions as acceptable to God. The ‘calling’ of the individual was to fulfill his or her duty to God through the moral conduct of toil...toil became equivalent to a virtue... Good Protestants who wanted to supervise their own state of grace in the world through self-control and self-regulation, were ‘called’ to commercial activity since work was seen as a secular method of attaining virtue and salvation”.[101]

Grant agreed with Weber’s placing of Franklin in center or ‘spirit’ of Protestantism and Western capitalism:

“the public virtues he [Franklin] advocates are unthinkable outside a Protestant ethos... the fact that such men have so often been the shock troops of the English-speaking world’s mastery of human and non-human nature lay not simply in the absence of a doctrine of nature... but also in the positive content of their extraordinary Christianity”.[102]

However, Grant moves beyond Weber’s sociological insights to further probe the theology behind Protestantism. The Puritan tradition which was brought on by Luther and Calvin, with their focus on election and grace[103], drew from Augustine’s ideas of election, predestination, the sovereignty of God, just war, and God’s willing, which had much in common with Biblical Judaism.[104] These theological roots suggest a common theme which runs from Biblical Judaism all the way to the Puritan tradition. The common theme is this: that “God is a God whose ways are above ours. Such a God can use His liberty to do as He wills, and we (as humans) are in no position to question such making, willing, doing and choosing. Such a God seems to be above the ‘Good’, ‘Justice’, and ‘Order’... [implying that] ‘Goodness’ becomes subordinate to an ‘I Am’ that seems highly arbitrary ”.[105] Grant argues that the issue at the very root of modernity is sourced in the Jewish Biblical tradition which was eventually worked out by thinkers such as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and the Puritans.[106] Once the theology was taken away from the idea of a God that was above the ‘Good’, ‘Justice’, and ‘Order’, Grant argued, that what was left was a secular liberalism.[107] The two important implications of such theology rooted in Biblical Judaism has been the development of the modern conception of ‘time as history’ – as a human situation, where we are made and make – and the ‘the primacy of the will’. These have affected our very epistemology linking knowing with willing and making.

Grant’s understanding of modern freedom as being rooted in the Western conception of history and the primacy of the will was like that of Hegel in that he related its spiritual definition in the Reformation to its political definition in the Enlightenment.[108] Revisiting the suggestion given earlier in this section – that the dialectic is a helpful conceptual framework in understanding Grant’s account of the West – one can see how Grant provided insightful commentary regarding the great schisms of the West and how people, ideas, and events influenced the character of modernity.

Grant’s Influences – In Brief

As a Christian Platonist, Grant found in Plato a place to root himself within the Greek Classical tradition.[109]  It has been suggested by some that Grant’s life and work can be likened to Plato’s cave analogy.[110] Within this view of Grant’s contemplative journey, it has been suggested that within Plato’s cave allegory that Grant understood God to be equated with the Sun, and Jesus as the ‘light of the world’ as well as the ‘just man’ who re-enters the cave to free the others.[111] In his PhD dissertation on Grant, Jersak quite appropriately discusses Grant’s influences within the context of Plato’s cave analogy, noting that Grant often referred to his own journey as one in which he was freed from the cave and “dragged from the dark malaise of modernity”.[112] In light of this, Jersak explores Grant’s own guides to his freedom, noting that there are many varying opinions regarding who Grant’s influences were, how they affected his thought, and to what extent.

According to Jersak, Grant drew from Nietzsche and Heidegger articulate judgements of the ideas which were birthed out of the enlightenment, specifically that of liberal progressivism, scientific rationalism, technological science, etc. This is to say that they provided Grant with a complete deconstruction of modernity, and further, they both encouraged him to pursue the Greek contemplative tradition.[113] Grant sides with Heidegger in his conclusion regarding the ascendancy of the will in modernity. And both are critical of modernity’s self-confidence along with the domination of technology over the human will and history.[114] As far as Nietzsche was concerned, Grant thought that in his day, he had the most comprehensive conception of ‘time as history’, and saw Nietzsche’s account of progressive liberalism in Europe to be most trenchant.[115]

Leo Strauss was another thinker which helped Grant conceptualize the makeup of modernity.[116] As well, Strauss helped to guide Grant through the philosophy of Plato[117], informing his thought in respect to the Platonic Good, ‘the Beautiful’, and the Eternal (as well as away from Hegelian doctrine).[118] At this point it is important to note that though Grant drew from Strauss’ work on Plato; it was ultimately Simone Weil who was the most influential in Grant’s own understanding of Plato.[119] Jersak also points out that both Grant and Weil came independently to aligned versions of contemplative Christian Platonism, to an explanative doctrine addressing the ‘problem of evil’, a call to social justice, and the fleshing out of peacemaking.[120]

These are only a few thinkers whose intellectual well Grant drew from. There are many others, such as Sherrard, Doull[121], Luther[122], Hooker, Swift, More, Coleridge, Southey, Disraeli, Simcoe, Macdonald, Leacock, Bennett, Diefenbaker, Creighton, Lewis, Adler, and Hutchins.[123] Though Grant’s guides through the cave include Hegel, Sartre, Dostoyevsky, Ellul, Strauss, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and most importantly Plato and Weil, Jersak argues that Grant’s ultimate guide is the ‘beauty of the Gospel’ in Jesus Christ.[124]

Some Problems Associated with Modernity

“Take what you want said God – take for it and pay for it”.[125]

The monolithic drive towards technological progress, our perception of time as history, and the primacy of will, come together in the being of modern man to place him apart from nature and outside the order of the universe. For Grant, this has caused some legitimate concerns because it has affected and limited our ontology, epistemology, and our ability to develop and use our critical faculty. It has acted to push religion and faith to our private lives and discouraging the contemplation of our traditions, “against our varying intuitions of the Perfection of God”.[126] Arguably, the only institution and public space left that has traditionally served to cultivate contemplative thought and true philosophy as the “love of wisdom”[127], has become servile to the industry of technology and progress. Universities funnel resources into curriculum that provides workers for the economy and thinkers who endorse the status quo. Our morality, wrapped up in liberalism, has been gutted of its supporting cosmology, having the affect of robbing us of our ability to have any serious debate surrounding morality in the public realm. Grant knew that it was unlikely that there would be any significant public morality if the members of our society could not agree on at least a few principles guided by the religious and philosophical ideas.[128] In Grant’s mind, this made it extremely difficult for modern man to figure out and agree upon certain standards of human good within their own context of thought and belief.[129] In light of this modern predicament Grant asks, “how can the foundations of justice be laid when rational human beings are not given the conception of the highest good?”[130]

Grant understood that our state capitalism, endorsing the progress of technology, supports a paradigm that influences the form of political leadership, having the effect of undermining democracy.[131] He emphasized that though it is important to recognize that the dominant structure of power in modernity can be changed by the free acts of men, it is also of equal importance to realize how such a system limits our freedom.[132] For the system, “by making progress an inevitable process rather than one dependant on the free acts of free men... [has dulled] thought about the principles on which such free acts should be based”.[133]

PART III: Grant’s Metaphysics

“Personally it is a great emotional discovery of God, the first glimpse of that reality – not amateurish or kind, not sentimental or moral – but so beyond our comprehension that the mere glimpse is more than we can bear. God not as the optimist, nor as the non-mover, but God who sees truth but waits... for me it must always be Credo, ut intelligam. The opposite of that is incomprehensible.”[134]

George Grant was a man of faith and he took his faith quite seriously both in a contemplative and practical sense. Unfortunately, Grant did not write much explicitly about his faith, though many have written about how his Christian roots shaped his thought in important ways.[135] The overarching statement in this essay is that the foundation of Grant’s thought is a metaphysical one. Assuming that this is the case, before moving on to discuss the foundation, it would be important to pick out the cornerstone – the reference point to the rest of Grant’s thought. In a convincing way, it was his understanding of the universe: first, that there exists a moral order, and second, that “the Good”[136] embodies the degree to which we align ourselves with that order.[137] The ‘Beautiful’ for both Grant and Plato is synonymous with ‘the order’ and nature of the universe. The ‘Good’ includes the deep longing of one’s soul which compels them to pursue an authentic and meaningful life.[138] One could easily take these two assertions as a determining position upon which most of the rest of Grant’s thought was built.

While being interviewed by David Cayley, Grant had described his conversion experience as, “a kind of affirmation that beyond time and space there is order”.[139] Grant’s own understanding of his conversion experience, his biographer insisting that his conversion was a ‘primal’ moment in Grants life, and finally, that Jersak’s argument regarding Grant’s conversion places it as the very ‘generative kernel’ or at ‘the heart if the matter’ of Grants thought.[140] This provides us with good reason to assume such a cornerstone. The concept of order or ‘natural law’ can be found explicitly in the third chapter of Grant’s Philosophy of the Mass Age and implicitly throughout his book Technology and Justice.[141] At the beginning of that third chapter, Grant defines the theory of natural law in a way that embodies his cornerstone, as “the assertion that there is an order in the universe, and that right action for us human beings consists in attuning ourselves to that order.”[142]

So then, what is the connection between Grant’s cornerstone and the rest of his thought? The relationship can be seen even in this short essay, that is, in Grant’s understanding of modernity and its influences. As previously mentioned, the ‘primacy of the will’ over ‘the Good’ and humanity’s modern perception of their relationship to the universe or ‘the created order’ are two central appeals that Grant offers us. These two themes run through Grant’s work on technology, modernity, justice, education, and religion, and are explicitly discussed by Grant in terms of his understanding of both ‘order’ and ‘the Good’. The relationship between the cornerstone and the foundation is an intimate one and is in no way arbitrary. Grant spent a lifetime appropriating this relationship, developing his thought over time, as he steeped in the work of various thinkers and saints. As he built on his understanding, his foundation too had to be developed. A summary of this development will be the last aim of this essay.

The Beast from the West

As was mentioned previously, Grant had traced the ‘spirit’ of modernity in the West all the way back to biblical Judaism. For him religion played a pivotal role in shaping our modern reality, and as Grant continued to think and reflect over the years, his account of modernity became more sophisticated along with his faith. As Grant was having so much difficulty with the West and Western Christianity, he turned to the East for alternative, more contemplative ways of knowing, being, and understanding God. He understood the philosophical split between the East and West as being between Plato and Aristotle, and even more significant, he noted that the West had generally come to accept Aristotle and the East Plato.[143] It was Grant’s read of Sherrard that led him to think that Aristotle had helped push Western Christianity into a theology that made God too immanent in the world, identifying God too closely to necessity.[144] Aristotle’s version of Christianity had supported the Jewish Biblical tradition’s emphasis on a personified version of God, whose triumphant will was arbitrary and primal. Eastern Christianity’s emphasis on God’s transcendence provided Grant with an alternative to Western Christianity’s tendency to focus on God’s immanence.[145] Grant drew heavily from Eastern Orthodoxy and more specifically, Alexandrian Christianity, which was heavily indebted to the Greek Classical tradition,[146] emphasizing both “the Beautiful” and “the Good". Finally, by placing himself, “...on the side of Christianity that is farthest away from Judaism... the account of Christianity that is close to Hinduism in its philosophic expression”, Grant was vocal regarding his disapproval of the contemporary resistance against recognizing the universality of Christ.[147] Grant was quite willing to search elsewhere, outside of the West and of Christianity, in his pursuit of the universal truth of God. These alternative sources, coupled with his wise selection of certain pieces of resistance in the West, provided Grant with the understanding that he needed to both characterize and critique the West, both its religion and its modernity.

The Meaning or Purpose of the Whole

“...there are moments in human life...of very great intensity...where one asks more than a finite question. One asks, what is it all about?...His [Mozart] account of what it is to compose is an account of being given wholes...about a composition being given to him all at one moment. Then one can put this in Platonic language and speak about the idea of the good. The word good for me is just a synonym for the word God. As Plato said, the idea of the good is just the idea of final purpose”. – Grant on ‘the whole’.[148]

Grant’s language regarding ‘the whole’ speaks of his tendency to think holistically and provides us with another testament to the amount of interconnection there existed in his thought between his faith and his other work. In Grant’s mind, what he referred to as ‘the whole’ included all of reality, the universe, all being, and God. He understood the essence of the whole to be love, embodying the entire network of relationships within the universe and between all reality.[149] Grant understood that every doctrine, if followed through to its most fundamental source, is dependent on some type of metaphysical claim, something that is beyond physical, empirical, calculative, rational proof. Further still, in his critique of modernity he recognized the danger in ignoring this fact, which he so eloquently understood as the inability for any moral language to effectively question the relentless pursuit of technological progress. As was mentioned previously, Grant lamented over the university’s inability to provide a public forum for young people to consider such a language, to engage with the whole. Grant noted that the modern world had one great disadvantage, and it was “that we have been so long disinterested or even contemptuous of that very thought about the whole which is now required. No other great western tradition has shown such lack of interest in thought, and in the institutions necessary to its possibility”.[150] In order to understand Kant’s categorical imperative in terms of holistically considering Being, Goodness, and Love, Grant gleaned much from Gandhi and Simone Weil, as well as Plato, Alexandrian Christianity, Hooker, Swift, Johnson, and Coleridge.[151] Ultimately for Grant, his faith, as defined by the illumination of love, drew him to understand the meaning of the whole in terms of the Passion of the Christ[152] and passionately wanted the university to facilitate and then to bring discussion of the whole to the rest of society.

Grant’s understanding of freedom is another defining feature of his thought which is rooted in his metaphysics. According to him, freedom is the most important concept for humanity to understand.[153] This was most likely because Grant recognized the connection between freedom, order, the will, and the Good. He saw that in the West, freedom was understood as being something external – a calculation of self interest – and that this type of freedom ended up being central to modern liberalism.[154] The modern liberal conception of freedom when paired with the primacy of technological progress, ends up being understood as an individual’s freedom from anything to do anything – or ultimate autonomy. Grant saw that the concept of freedom implying that one is in harmony with the Good had been lost. Freedom for the Good was a sort of moral or ethical freedom which had its foundation built upon justice and a responsibility to the community. In light of Christ, Grant argues that what He provides is freedom for love and for the other.[155] This is of course in opposition to the Western idea of freedom. This is made clear by Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, who could offer human beings just about everything, except the freedom to love and be in harmony with the Good.[156]


The aim of this paper was to try and illuminate some of the connections between Grant’s metaphysics and the rest of his work. In order to do this, what was assumed to be two of Grant’s most notable appeals were discussed. These appeals – Grant’s concern regarding the ‘primacy of the will’ and of humanity’s striving towards mastery over both nature and humanity – were said to be at the core of his understanding of modernity and the West. These appeals were made by Grant in reference to what has been said to be the cornerstone of his thought, his understanding of ‘the Beautiful’ (order) and ‘the Good’.  Grant’s cornerstone was founded on his metaphysical beliefs, which were established by his conversion experience, rooted in Plato and Weil, and epitomized in Christ.

This account of Grant’s thought is drastically incomplete and has only scratched the surface of what would have been for Grant, ‘the whole’. There is much more that could be reflected on in Grant’s thought. Perhaps one day, someone equipped with the knowledge and wisdom of the whole will espouse Grant’s thought and reintroduce his brilliance to another generation.

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[1]  Nicholson, Freedom and the good, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p.323.
[2] Dart, The Orthodox Tradition and Canada’s Most Significant Public Philosophers: George Grant., in The Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity, p.64.
[3] Grant, Conversations from George Grant in Process, in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 4, p.353.
[4] Christian, George Grant, A Biography, p.xx.
[5] Grant, Philosophy in the Mass Age pp. 4-5.
[6] Ibid., p. 4.
[7] ‘age of progress’ referred to later as ‘modern’ by Grant in Lament for a Nation p. 52.
[8] Grant, Philosophy in the Mass Age p.4,39.
[9] Jersak in George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf, p.74
[10] Reference to Dart’s review of Lament for a Nation: A Jeremiad for Our Times in George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf, p.15. Dart follows Darrol Bryant in his understanding of Grant’s work in Lament as being ‘a tract for the times that stands within the Old Testament prophetic tradition of Lamentations’ (Clarion Journal, June 27 2010).
[11] Lewis also recognized this as Grant did, “human nature will be the last part of nature to surrender to man...our domination of nature becomes our domination of man”. – from The Abolition of Man, p.72. Grant gleaned much from Lewis in his understanding of the robbery of any serious academic talk regarding objective value or natural law and the eventual end to the subjective view of morality rooted in historicism.
[12] Grant, Philosophy in the Mass Age p.5.
[13] Ibid., p.6.
[14] Ibid., p.15.
[15] Ibid., p.21.
[16] Grant, Technology and Justice p. 15.
[17] Ibid., p. 16.
[18] Ibid., p.32.
[19] Grant, Review of ‘The Technological Society’ in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 3, p.414.
[20] Grant, Technology and Justice p. 25.
[21]Grant,  Technology and Empire in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 3, p.539.
[22] Grant, Technology and Empire: Perspectives on North America, p.15
[23] Grant, English Speaking Justice p.2
[24] Ibid., p.5
[25] Ibid., p.5.
[26] Ibid., p.7.
[27] Ibid., p.1, 7.
[28] Ibid., p.15.
[29] Ibid., p.33.
[30] Ibid., p.24.
[31] Ibid., p.28.
[32] Dart, The Matrix of Liberalism: A Seven Act Drama in George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf, p.49.
[33] Grant, English Speaking Justice, p. 40
[34] Grant, Philosophy in the Mass Age, p.36 – Grant compares this modern understanding of freedom to that of the ancients, “we become free only insofar as we base our relevant actions on the law...”
[35] George Grant. ‘A Platitude’ in Technology and Empire: Perspectives on North America.
[36]Jersak, in Grant, Weil and Nietzsche: The Darkness of Modernity in George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf, p.79, 81.
[37] Weil’s influence on Grant was exceptional. He “regarded her as a genuine modern saint, divinely inspired, possessed by Christ! After thirty years of meditating on her journals he testified, “her thought is next to the Gospels the highest authority for me”. – drawn from The Christian Platonism of Simone Weil and Exiles from Nowhere: Reviews by Brad Jersak, March 26, 2010 [quote reference: William Christian and Sheila Grant (eds.), The George Grant Reader (Toronto, London, Buffalo: The University of Toronto Press, 1998), 237.]
[38] Grant, Weil and Nietzsche: The Darkness of Modernity in George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf, p.81.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Grant, Time as History, p.23.
[41] Jersak breaks up Grant’s conception of the will into three important parts: (1) their definition of the modern ‘will’, (2) the relative primacy of will, and (3) Grant’s use of ‘will to power’. The relative primacy of the will is understood by him as compared to other ‘faculties’ and ‘agents’. - Grant, Weil and Nietzsche: The Darkness of Modernity in George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf, pp. 81-82.
[42] Ibid., p.84
[43] Grant, Time as History, p.14.
[44] The framework used here for presenting Grant’s critique of modern epistemology in four parts is borrowed from Jersak in his PhD dissertation, The Platonic Christianity of George P. Grant: From the Cave to the Cross and Back with Simone Weil,p.116-128.
[45] “Philosophers in Western society have joined the aspirations of the scientific age. The lie that knowledge only exists to provide power has been as much in the soul of philosophers as in the rest of society... Canadian philosophers indeed have joined as fully as any part of the western world in making philosophy the servant rather than the judge of men’s scientific abilities”. Grant on Philosophy in, “Massey Commission Report,” - Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 2, p.7.
[46] Jersak, The Platonic Christianity of George P. Grant: From the Cave to the Cross and Back with Simone Weil., p.117.
[47] Ibid., pp.120-121.
[48] Ibid., p.119.
[49] Ibid., p. 120.
[50] Ibid., pp. 122-123.
[51] Ibid., p. 126.
[52] Grant, Technology and Empire, p.214.
[53] Grant, Canadian Universities and the Protestant Churches in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume One 1933-1950, p.25.
[54] Ibid., p.27.
[55] Ibid., p.26.
[56] Grant, English Speaking Justice, p.37.
[57] For a detailed argument here, refer to Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Grant recognized many theoretical failings, but nonetheless understood that it provided a fair account of this connection and of the Protestant drive, ‘to get things done and to control the world’. [quote from George Grant in Conversation p.138]
[58] Grant, Time as History, p.29.
[59] Grant, English Speaking Justice, p.59.
[60] Grant, Canadian Universities and the Protestant Churches in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume One 1933-1950, p.24.
[61] Grant, The University Curriculum in Technology and Empire: Perspectives on North America, p. 112.
[62] Ibid., p.115
[63] Grant, Ethics in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume Two 1951-1959, p.456.
[64] Ibid., P.450.
[65] Grant, Universities and the Protestant Churches in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume One 1933-1950, p.23.
[66] Grant, Philosophy – Massey Commission Report, in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume Two 1951-1959, p.4.
[67] Grant, Lecture on Ethics, in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume Two 1951-1959, p.453.
[68] “the rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao [doctrine of objective value – metaphysical claims] is a rebellion of the branches against the tree”. – The Abolition of Man, p.56. Grant parallels Lewis here by pointing out that ethics also depends on a system of objective value if it is to be more than a ‘catalogue’ of subjective value. Lewis wrote that, “this thing that I have for convenience called the Tao, and which others may call natural law, or traditional morality or the first platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained”., p. 56. 
[69] Universities and the Protestant Churches in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume One 1933-1950, p.22.
[70] Lewis, The Abolition of Man, p. 27 Lewis references Plato’s well rounded contemplative youth in the Republic describing him as one who hates, “the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man of gentle heart”.
[71] Dart, The Orthodox Tradition and Canada’s Most Significant Public Philosopher: George Grant, p.70.
[72] Ibid., p.71.
[73] Ibid., p.70.
[74] Belknap, The Genesis of the Brothers Karamazov, p.115.
[75] Grant, Five Lectures on Christianity, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p. 234.
[76] The Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s The Karamazov Brothers, p.315.
[77] Ibid., p.316.
[78] Ibid., p.326.
[79] Grant, Five Lectures on Christianity, p. 236.
[80] Ibid., p.237. Grant notes that the Inquisitor needs to hide the reality that freedom is being taken away in his system. This is noted in, ‘Three Wise Men from the East: Eastern Orthodox Influences on George Grant, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p.250
[81] Peters, Three Wise Men from the East: Eastern Orthodox Influences on George Grant, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p.250
[82] Dart, The Orthodox Tradition and Canada’s Most Significant Public Philosopher: George Grant, p.71
[83]Ibid., p.70.
[84] Peddle & Robertson, Lamentation And Speculation: George Grant, James Doull And The Possibility Of Canada, pp. 95-96.
[85] Dart, Charles Taylor and the Hegelian Eden Tree: Canadian Compradorism, p.3.
[86] Grant, Technology and Empire: Perspectives on North America, p. 46.
[87] Grant, Philosophy in the Mass Age, p. 58.
[88] Ibid., p.49.
[89] Ibid., p. Xv.
[90] Grant, Philosophy in the Mass Age, p.xviii.
[91] Morrison, Marx, Durkheim, Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought, pp.244-245.
[92] For a specific account of Franklin’s work that Weber was referencing, refer to The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, pp. 49-50
[93] Morrison, Marx, Durkheim, Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought, p.244-245, p.245.
[94] Ibid., p.247.
[95] Ibid., p.249.
[96] Ibid.
[97] Ibid., p.250.
[98] Ibid., 254.
[99] Weber explains sola fide and consilia evangelica in greater detail, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, pp.80-81.
[100] Morrison, Marx, Durkheim, Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought, p.254.
[101] Ibid., p.255.
[102] Grant, Technology and Empire in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 3, pp.487-488. (Grant reveals more of the sympathies that he shares with Weber’s account here)
[103] Dart, George Grant: Biblical Judaism, Western Christianity & Liberalism, in George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf, p.42
[104] Dart, Biblical Judaism, Western Christianity & Liberalism, in George Grant: Spiders and Bees, p.151.
[105] Dart,  George Grant: Biblical Judaism, Western Christianity & Liberalism, in George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf, p.42.
[106] Ibid., p.43.
[107] Dart, Biblical Judaism, Western Christianity & Liberalism, in George Grant: Spiders and Bees, p.152.
[108] Athanasiadis, George Grant and the Theology of the Cross: The Christian Foundations of His Thought, p.81.
[109] Dart, C.S. Lewis and George Grant: Abba and Student, in George Grant: Spiders and Bees, p.23.; George Grant and the Theology of the Cross: The Christian Foundations of His Thought, p.25.
[110] Grant utilized Plato in his understanding of the gospels (see The George Grant Reader, p.459); Plato’s cave analogy was also Grants model for education (see George Grant and the Theology of the Cross, p.86)
[111] In his PhD thesis, Jersak understood the influence of Plato in Grants life and suggested that, “Grant’s contemplative journey and prophetic call can be likened to a tour of the Plato’s cave...”., in The Platonic Christianity of George P. Grant: From the Cave to the Cross and Back with Simone Weil, p.55.
[112] Ibid.
[113] Ibid., p.58.
[114] Ibid., p.59.
[115] Ibid., pp.59-60.
[116] Grant, Conversations from George Grant in Process, in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 4, p.364.
[117] Ibid., p.361. Grant comments that he was in debt to Strauss daily for his helping Grant understand the relationship between philosophy and revelation in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. He also states that though Strauss knew more about Plato then he, that they differed in opinion regarding the Symposium, regarding love and reason.
[118] Jersak, The Platonic Christianity of George P. Grant: From the Cave to the Cross and Back with Simone Weil., p.60
[119] Ibid., p.61
[120] Ibid., p.62.
[121] Grant, Conversations from George Grant in Process, in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 4, p.359.
[122] See George Grant and the Theology of the Cross: The Christian Foundations of His Thought. In it Athanasiadis argues that when Grant used the phrase ‘theology of the cross’, that he was specifically referring to Luther, p.4.
[123] Dart, C.S. Lewis and George Grant: Abba and Student, in George Grant: Spiders and Bees., p.25, 34.
[124] Jersak, The Platonic Christianity of George P. Grant: From the Cave to the Cross and Back with Simone Weil, p.56.
[125] A Spanish Proverb, originally quoted in Technology and Justice, p.9. William Christian included a reflection that Grant had made regarding this proverb, calling it, “a tremendous truth for men and societies”. In George Grant, A Biography, p.93.
[126] Grant defined ‘philosophy’ in this essay as, “...the analysis of the traditions of our society and the judgment of those traditions against our varying intuitions of the Perfection of God”. – Philosophy, in “Massey Commission Report,” - Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 2, p.4.
[127] “Grant...always thought of philosophy in terms of its Greek root words that mean “love of wisdom”. William Christian in “George Grant”, The Canadian Encyclopedia.
[128] Grant, An Ethic of Community, in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 3, p.41.
[129] Grant, Technology and Empire, p.32.
[130] Grant, English Speaking Justice, p.17. This question is oriented towards Rawls’ social contract, which Grant takes issue with for a variety of reasons.
[131]Grant, An Ethic of Community, in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 3., p.35. Grant thought that since religion or faith-based cosmologies/metaphysics had been pushed to the private realm, that the citizen is forced to keep his or her morality to themselves, morality that is intimately connected with their opinions regarding social policy, laws, elections, etc. He realized that, “individuals find their most real satisfaction in private life because here their freedom is operative, while in the public sphere they know their actions to have less and less significance...mass society [thus] calls into question the possibility of democratic government”.p.26.
[132] Ibid., p.23.
[133] Ibid., p.36.
[134] From Grant’s ‘Journal,’ 5 Nov. 1942, quoted in, George Grant: A Biography, p.93.
[135] McCarroll, The Whole as Love, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p.270.
[136] For Plato, ‘the good’ meant what we are fitted for and ‘the Good’ meant ‘what fits us for what we are fitted for, namely God.’ Grant, in Five Lectures on Christianity, Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p.233.
[137] Dart, C.S. Lewis and George Grant: Abba and Student, in George Grant: Spiders and Bees., p.27. Dart comments on how obvious it was that both Lewis and Grant understood the universe in this way.
[138] Grant, The Beautiful and the Good, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p.291.
[139] McCarroll, The Whole as Love, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics., p.214.
[140] Jersak, The Platonic Christianity of George P. Grant: From the Cave to the Cross and Back with Simone Weil, p.iv.
[141] McCarroll, The Whole as Love, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics., p.212.
[142]Grant,  Philosophy in the Mass Age, p.26.
[143] Peters, Three Wise Men from the East: Eastern Orthodox Influences on George Grant, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p.238.
[144] Ibid., p.241.
[145] Ibid., 242.
[146] Dart, Biblical Judaism, Western Christianity & Liberalism, in George Grant: Spiders and Bees., p.150.
[147] Grant, Conversations from George Grant in Process, in Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 4, p.366.
[148]Grant, in Cayley’s  George Grant in Conversation, p. 58-59.
[149] McCarroll, The Whole as Love, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p.270.
[150] Grant, English Speaking Justice, p.89.
[151] Dart, George Grant: Biblical Judaism, Western Christianity & Liberalism, in George P. Grant: Canada’s Lone Wolf, p.42.
[152] Jersak, The Platonic Christianity of George P. Grant: From the Cave to the Cross and Back with Simone Weil, p.176.
[153] Peters, Three Wise Men from the East: Eastern Orthodox Influences on George Grant, in Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics, p.250.
[154] Ibid.
[155] Ibid., p.251.
[156] Peters uses the phrase ‘openness to eternity’ to reference love, the Good and God. Ibid.

1 comment:

  1. The title hearkens to Derrida's “I speak only one language, and it is not my own” .

    Is that intentional? What did Grant think of the postmodernist upstarts who'd tried to make short work of 'modernism'?