The seven liberal arts come to us out of the antiquities through Plato’s writings. The seven liberal arts are broken into two groups, called the Trivium and the Quadrivium. Plato believed that by following these paths one could develop real-world skills as well as contribute to the growth of one’s own self. Plato strongly advocated learning all seven of the skills and emphasized that all seven aim towards making a person more complete. The two pieces can be thought of as internal and external aspects of our universe.
The Trivium is composed of three pieces: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The Trivium is always the beginning of classical education because it deals with the core components of learning. On a side note, I find it interesting that in any education system, the first task is a meta-task: learning how to learn.
This refers to more than just sentence structure and punctuation, it refers to the process of how you approach studying, reading comprehension, the expansion of vocabulary, and the structure of language. It is the means by which you systematically gather information into a consistent body of knowledge.
Logic and reason are a critical part of the foundation of a classical education. At its core logic is primarily concerned with the general laws of truth. Logic means to attempt to resolve contradictions within a given body of knowledge.
Rhetoric simply means to communicate effectively. Whether this is through your author’s voice when you write or how you communicate to people you encounter in your daily life. Having a strong ability to communicate effectively is possibly one of the most valuable skills we can possess in the modern day. It is implied that rhetoric is the ability to share the insights gained from gathering and processing a body of knowledge so that others may also share the insight.
The Quadrivium is composed of four pieces: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. All four deal with defining our external reality using number systems.
The basics of mathematics, add, subtract, multiply, divide, fractions, ratios and how these operations are performed and in which order. Numbers.
Geometry deals with numbers in space. Geometry allows you to define your space to a high degree of precision which in turn gives you greater control over your environment.
Relative to the Quadrivium, music is about the movement of numbers through time. Music is very mathematical in nature but is not static, it changes over time to produce a melody.
And finally, we have astronomy which is about the movement of numbers through space and time. Ancient astronomers were able to chart the movement of planets and stars relative to their position on earth and build predictive models that were accurate, given the technology and discoveries of that era.