Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Blueprint for Blogging: Trivium + One

In an attempt to regularize my blogging and find my blogs purpose and groove; I am going to attempt to make weekly posts relating to four major categories of classical education. Three out of the four of these categories fall under the historical title know as the "Trivium." The word trivium is a Latin word meaning "three ways" or "three roads." This term was used to describe the foundational curriculum used in medieval universities and consisted of grammar, rhetoric and logic.

Having grown up in the public school system I found parts of this historical foundation of education to be either taught poorly or not at all. For example, I was never taught even a semblance of logic. Most of what is taught in public schools today is teaching kids what to think and not how to think or communicate what they are thinking in a reasonable and logical manner.

The trivium is like a three legged stool. Removing anyone of these legs, I think, seriously limits a persons ability to operate in this complex world where we are being fed billions of bits of information and hundreds of arguments everyday.

The trivium was preparatory work for a curriculum that would follow known as the "quadrivium" which, as you may have guessed, means "four ways" or "four roads." The four roads of the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy) were in turn considered preparatory work for the study of philosophy and theology.

Because so much of philosophy is grounded in logic, I will prefer to see the two together (the exception to this is studying the history of philosophical thought and theory over time). I mentioned a fourth area of classical education which, in my perspective, should be included alongside the trivium from the very beginning of a persons education--theology. Theology is both the ground that the legs of the trivium stand on and the seat that the trivium supports. The purpose of the legs of the stool (of the trivium) is to aid our understanding of God, and without God as the ground below; rhetoric, logic and grammar would fall to the ground in splinters.

Since the term quadrivium already describes specific areas of study, one cannot lump theology in with the trivium and call it that. Perhaps I will do some brainstorming and come up with a new term to describe the study of the trivium alongside of theology.

All that said, I still plan on completing the series on sin that I started as a part of the study of theology. Alongside that series I will post other theologically related things as well as things pertaining to logic, grammar and rhetoric. Don't be scared off if you think topics like grammar and rhetoric are irrelevant to your life. We all speak and read even if some of us do not spend a lot of time writing. There are applications to be found for understanding more about grammar and rhetoric in everyone's life. I intentionally left the subject of logic out of those last two sentences because EVERYONE can benefit from the study of arguments and thinking since we hear and use arguments, and think, all the time. Logic, also called "reason" by some, could well be argued to be employed in the study of grammar and rhetoric since we use thought processes to understand grammatical concepts and words that ultimately are employed in speech. Isaac Watts, in his book entitled Logic, says this about logic:

Now the design of Logic is to teach us the right use of our reason, or intellectual powers, and the improvement of them in ourselves and others. This is not only necessary in order to attain any competent knowledge in the sciences, or the affairs of learning, but to govern both the greater and the meaner actions of life. It is the cultivation of our reason by which we are better enabled to distinguish good from evil, as well as truth from falsehood; and both these are matter of the highest importance, whether we regard this life, or the life to come.

The pursuit and acquisition of truth is of infinite concernment to mankind. Hereby we become acquainted with the name of things both in heaven and earth, and their various relations to each other. It is by this means we discover our duty to God and our fellow-creatures; by this we arrive at the knowledge of faith in divine revelation, as well as to understand what is revealed. Our wisdom, prudence, and piety, our present conduct and our future hope, are all influenced by the use of our rational powers in the search after truth.
I do not claim to be a master of any of these four areas of study and fully expect to learn a great deal as I post and (hopefully) read your comments. Don't be afraid; I will try my hardest to communicate some of the seemingly more complex things in terms anyone can understand.