Wednesday, March 2, 2005

I've often wondered about the seven liberal arts. The trivium, obviously enough, has to do with language. But it wasn't obvious to me for years, because I was convinced "logic" had to do exclusively with the kind of logic used in mathematical proofs. Then I remembered that in third grade I learned "analisi grammaticale," ie, parts of speech, and in fourth grade, "analisi logica," ie, parts of sentences. So rhetoric must be the next level, composition (though I realize there are important differences between rhetoric & composition). So far so good. But what about the quadrivium? Arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy (or astrology). What an odd assortment — why not, say, history, philosophy, geography, and something else? Then I studied the music of the spheres, and it began to make sense: the four higher liberal arts concern complicated harmonies, patterned, abstract systems. The goal being to study them for their own sake, but also, by a kind of magnetic attraction, to inspire harmony in the soul of the microcosm, the student.


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