Liberal Arts

Sarah McDonald

The Place Where Three Roads Meet

A classical education is built upon the foundations of grammar, logic, and rhetoric; known as the Trivium. Of the Seven Liberal Arts these are the core for understanding. The other four called the Quadrivium make up the rest of the seven liberal arts, these being Geometry, Arithmetic, Music, and Astronomy. The learning of the Trivium gives the tools to understand the mechanics of language, formulate thoughts, understand argument and deliver writing and speech which is free of the use of emotion, and full of the clear, cool, rational truths seen in the writings of Aristotle, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas and other great minds from our Western Heritage.

The picture shown above is titled Hortus deliciarum (Garden of Delights) by Herrad von Landsberg. It is part of a 12th century illustrated manuscript showing the Seven Liberal Arts of the Trivium and Quadrivium circled around Socrates, Plato and Philosophy. This shows that the Seven Liberal Arts were bound together by a philosophical approach to discovering the first principles of the universe and mankind.

  • The Liberal Arts started to take shape in Ancient Greece about 500BC

  • Greek rhetoric appeared in Republican Rome in the middle of the second century BC

  • The Trivium became the standard for education in the Middle Ages

  • It is seeing a resurgence in education today




Logic teaches the mechanics of thought and analysis. Utilizing grammar skills, a student of logic learns to compose sound arguments, identify fallacious arguments and contradictions. In doing so, the student can come to producing factual knowledge and truth which can be trusted.



Grammar teaches the mechanics of language. Students of grammar come to terms with defining language and information perceived by the five senses. Students of grammar learn how to write cohesive, elegant sentences which contain order, progression, and efficiency in the communication of ideas.



The student utilizes the language in order to instruct and persuade the reader or listener. Rhetoric is knowledge (grammar) now understood (logic) and being transmitted outwards as wisdom (rhetoric). Aristotle defined rhetoric as, "the power of perceiving in every thing that which is capable of producing persuasion." Students study parts of Aristotle's Rhetoric and excerpts from other famous rhetoricians throughout history. They have several opportunities to give speeches employing the different rhetorical techniques learned in class.