Arts of Liberty: An Introduction

Posted Posted in Liberal Arts

The mission of Arts of Liberty ( is to educate students, teachers, and lifelong learners in the purpose and power of the liberal arts and liberal education. To accomplish this mission, we offer a variety of online, interdisciplinary resources intended to form and to foster a knowledge and a love of the liberal arts and liberal education.

Portia’s Powerful Tongue: The Ethics of Lady Rhetoric in The Merchant of Venice

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Liberal Arts, Rhetoric

by Scott F. Crider When early modern Europeans searched for a myth of human nature, familial bond, and civil association, they found one in an early Ciceronian treatise on oratory, de Inventione, in which he offers an etiological myth of rhetoric, “the origin of this thing we call eloquence”: For there was a time when […]

The Cave & the Quadrivium: Mathematics in Classical Education

Posted Posted in Liberal Arts

What place should the study of mathematics have in classical education? Most classical schools rightly emphasize the linguistic arts of the trivium—grammar, logic, and rhetoric—but few have thought through (much less implemented) the mathematical arts of the quadrivium—arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy—in a meaningful way. This is not to say, of course, that classical schools do not study mathematics; rather, it is simply to point out that the classical liberal arts of mathematics have little, if any, influence on the way mathematics is considered and taught in most classical schools. Are these quadrivial arts, in contrast to those of the trivium, simply outmoded today? If so, why? If not, how might they inspire and be incorporated into the curricula of classical schools? In order to answer these questions, we must first begin by getting a clear sense of what the quadrivial arts are, as well as what they are not. To do so, we will turn to Plato’s Republic, one of the fountainheads of education in the Western tradition.

Six Essential Dialogical Virtues

Posted Posted in Liberal Education

Why engage in Socratic conversation? Certainly, one seeks through Socratic conversation to encounter truth, goodness, and beauty. Beyond this encounter, however, effective Socratic conversation also brings about changes in the souls of those who practice it. Among its other advantages, engaging in Socratic conversation is an excellent way to encourage the cultivation of what may be called “dialogical virtues.”[1] These virtues arise when one applies oneself consciously and deliberately to the demanding practice of Socratic conversation. Another way of putting it is to say that through engaging in Socratic conversation, we place ourselves in an good position to develop not only desirable character traits but also habits of thought and speech that will serve us well in all of our pursuits as human beings seeking to know ourselves, the cosmos, and its Creator. As with other acquired virtues and habits, these things develop neither spontaneously nor without considerable effort. If we do not have them in mind beforehand and actively attempt to foster them while engaged in Socratic conversation, we should have little confidence that these character traits and habits of thought and speech will come to be in us with the depth and richness they could have, had we intentionally pursued them. What follows is a brief description of six essential dialogical virtues.

Liberal Education: A Working Definition

Posted Posted in Liberal Education

Put in simplest terms, classical education is an education for freedom. That is why for most of the Western tradition from its origins to the present day, the majority of authors have used the term liberal education to denote what is often called classical education in our time. In this brief article, when I use the term liberal education I do not intend to make a distinction between it and classical education. Instead, I employ the term in order to bring to light the essential nature of what commonly goes by the name classical education among K-12 educators in the United States today.

Today’s Trivium: The Comeback of Classical Education

Posted Posted in Liberal Arts, Liberal Education

It is a little known secret—though it should be no secret at all—that classical education has been making a comeback of late.  In some circles, classical education needed no revival, for its life was never really in danger; for instance, at the undergraduate level, schools like St. John’s College, Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Dallas have quietly continued, to greater or lesser degrees, to carry the torch of classical learning.  The revival I speak of began in the 1980s, and it has been taking place chiefly at the primary and secondary levels.  True to its name, today’s classical movement has brought the liberal arts, particularly the “trivium” (the arts of grammar, logic and rhetoric), front and center.  And while classical education has been growing within a variety of sub-groups—parochial schools, charter schools, and homeschools—in American education, it remained more or less on the fringes of the mainstream until fairly recently. 

Annotated Bibliography on Liberal Education

Posted Posted in Liberal Education

Louise Cowan. “The Necessity of the Classics.” Main Point: Cowan argues that the classics are necessary, because “To remake oneself in the image of something that calls to greatness demands a heroic tradition displaying heroic models.”  Structure: After tracing the history of the words ‘classics’ and ‘poetry’, Cowan discovers the Greek and Hebrew roots […]

About our Journal: Editorial Statement

Posted Posted in Liberal Education

Arts of Liberty is an interdisciplinary, academic journal dedicated to the comprehensive study of liberal education in its speculative, historical, and practical dimensions.  Speculatively, the journal aspires to recover, deepen, and cultivate an authentic understanding of the kind of education that liberates and perfects human nature.  As such, it seeks contributions that not only deepen […]

On the Liberal Art of Grammar

Posted Posted in Liberal Arts

by John F. Nieto, Thomas Aquinas College, 1.The following comments propose to clarify the nature of grammar as an art, a speculative and liberal art. First I distinguish grammar from other arts concerned with speech [2-9] with particular attention to the difference between grammar and logic [6-9]. Then I show that while grammar is an […]

Athena as Founder and Statesman in the “Eumenides” of Aeschylus

Posted Posted in Liberal Arts, Rhetoric

by John Alvis University of Dallas The Oresteia develops upon three levels: the theological, the political, and the ethical. The theological development moves from divisiveness among the gods to the consolidation of the rule of Zeus; the political development moves from Troy to Argos to Athens; and the ethical development moves from will without restraint, […]

Augustine on the Use of Liberal Education for the Theater of Life

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by Michael P. Foley, Among the attributes that conspire to make the plays of William Shakespeare the best of their kind in the English language, we should surely count Shakespeare’s sensitive appreciation of the interplay between theatrical performance and human living.  When Shakespeare’s characters proclaim that “All the world’s a stage and all the men […]