Edited by Arthur Davis (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002).
George Grant (1918–1988) was probably the most important Christian High Tory philosopher, theologian, educator, political theorist and activist in Canada in the twentieth century. The Collected Works of George Grant highlights how and why this is the case.
Volume Two in the Collected Works, like Volume One, is broken down into a variety of areas and sections. Arthur Davis, true to detailed and meticulous form, has walked the extra mile, to unpack and unfurl, the unfolding intellectual journey of George Grant. Volume Two deals with Grant’s years at Dalhousie University (1951–1958), and opens up for the curious and scholarly, the issues Grant was grappling with in these important years. Grant was, even at this period of Canadian history, front and centre on the stage and in the drama. He could not be missed as the large and substantive issues were brought before the Canadian people.
The ‘Chronology’ and ‘Introduction to Volume 2: 1951–1958’, by Arthur Davis, is a superb aerial overview of the times and Grant’s engagement with the issues of the day. Grant never flinched from facing the hard and demanding questions of the 1950s, and Davis demonstrates the subtle and nuanced way Grant did this in his ‘Introduction’.
The essays by Grant that follow the well-crafted ‘Introduction’ by Davis are well worth the read. Grant’s controversial essay for the Massey Commission, ‘Philosophy’, opens up this section, and there is much on religion, theology, education, philosophy, history and politics that follow. Grant’s mind and imagination were ever active and integrated, ever probing and questioning, ever the honest critic of the age. Essays such as ‘Two Theological Languages’, ‘Plato and Popper’, ‘Training for the Ministry’, ‘What is Philosophy?’, ‘Canada: A History’, ‘Acceptance and Rebellion’, ‘The Uses of Freedom-A Word and Our World’, ‘The Humanities in Soviet Higher Education’, ‘Fyodor Dostoevsky (with Sheila Grant’, and ‘Christ, What a Planet’ tell their own convincing and evocative tales. Grant was persistent with his questions and relentless with his deeper longings, and, as such, he did his education with both head and heart fully committed and engaged.
The essays by Grant make up the largest part of Collected Works (almost 400 pages). There is much to ponder in these challenging essays, but there is yet more to the book.
Davis offers the reader yet two more sections: ‘Three Talks and a Review’ and ‘Lectures at Dalhousie’. These two sections open up to the interested the fullness and breadth of Grant’s interests and concerns. Mozart, Plato, Augustine, Kant and the meaning of education are touched on and examined.
Davis winds down the book, as he did in Volume One, with many an appendix. Appendix 1 deals with ‘Comments on Hegel and on Religion and Philosophy’, Appendix 2 with ‘Poems’, Appendix 3 with ‘List of Radio and Television Broadcasts for CBC’ and Appendix 4 with ‘Editorial and Textual Principles and Methods Applied in Volume 2’.
There is no doubt that University of Toronto Press has taken on a Herculean task in publishing the Collected Works of George Grant, and there is little doubt that Arthur Davis is the man for the hour to shepherd this project through to the end. When this task is finally and fully completed, serious and substantive work will, finally, be able to be done on one of the most important Canadian intellectuals of the twentieth century. There is no doubt that Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 2 (1951-1959) has brought us to a larger clearing. We await, with eager hearts, Volume Three in this labour of love and much effort.