Friday, October 24, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition

The Seven

Aquinas- Liberal Arts are tools by which knowledge is fashioned.  The Greeks separated the sciences and the arts.  The sciences were a means by which any subject could be examined.  Art began with imitation.  Art is between imitation and science.  Aquinas- the liberal arts are used to produce the works of reason.  This is a epistemological study of what is true knowledge and an acceptance that Aquinas got it right when understanding true science or “knowledge” to be using the liberal arts and resting in reason.  The authors do no defend their acceptance of a rationalist approach with Holy Scripture so this is a “wait and see.”  They believe the seven liberal arts learned by way of imitation are the starting point for education and must come before philosophy and the final end or purpose which is theology.


“Grammar speaks, dialect teaches words and rhetoric colors words.”   The classical liberal arts are a product of a Christian synthesis in the early middle ages.  A brief history of what Christians understood to be grammar shows that knowing the classical languages were the end goal. 

In the dialect of the trivium there was an emphasis on not just the rules of logic but on the dialogues in first Plato and then Aquinas.  These teach what questions are worth asking and answering which is a necessary lead into philosophy and theology.

Under rhetoric the authors rightly sum up the attempt to bring persuasion and truth together.  However, I don’t agree that Aristotle’s book on rhetoric is not sufficient. 

Implications: “practice these arts in a form that respects their true nature.”  The second one I will shorten to “teachers need to learn Greek and then teach it to their students if you want them to be truly classically educated.” 

I am not convinced.  The trivium can be defended biblically as it follows what the Bible describes as developmental stages in a child.  The goal for me has never been to be “classically” educated or trained but to use a classical approach to be educated. 

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