The Trivium & Quadrivium in a Nutshell

What is the Trivium?

The Trivium is the liberal arts of language, composed of three parts: grammar, dialectic/logic, and rhetoric.  The purpose of these language arts is to enable students to understand the nature of language, reasoned dialogue, and the artful composition of written and spoken language.  Language, after all, is an essential component of education, and therefore good education requires lots of exposure to good language.  In fact, one of the things that sets us apart from the animals is language (or logos), which is why Aristotle referred to man as the “rational animal”.

What is the Quadrivium?

The Quadrivium is the liberal arts of mathematics, composed of four parts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.  Mathematics is essentially a study of the harmony (symbiotic relations) and rhythm (patterns) of nature, which is why music is included in the Quadrivium.  Whereas the ancients, such as Plato, focused on the conceptual or formative aspects of mathematics for philosophical purposes, the moderns shifted to a focus on the material uses of mathematics.  A truly liberal arts education, however, should incorporate both perspectives.

Together, the Trivium and Quadrivium make up the seven liberal arts that fortify our souls for wise living in God’s world.  They open to us the knowledge and understanding of man, the cosmos, and the Creator, so that we might have a proper understanding and appreciation of our place and purpose in the world. This is the heart and soul of classical education.

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