The Story of the Liberal Arts


Adam looked around at the world God had made for him. Was it just a place to eat and sleep? Was it just a place to work with strength of body and skill of band? Adam at first did not even think about eating or sleeping, and be had no need of working. He only thought, "What strange things I see and hear! They are all mine, but what are they?"

Reaching up he touched the leaves. Bending down he felt the grass and smelled the warm earth and the flowers. In the sky he saw the sun move to the zenith and begin to descend again. In the shadow of the woods he saw the animals playing, and in the boughs he heard the song of birds.

As he examined each strange thing, touched it, listened to it, be began to understand its nature. The lion was different from the rabbit; yet every rabbit was the same as every other rabbit, and every lion was the same as every other lion. In his mind Adam formed a name for each thing he saw and understood, a mental word that stood for the nature of the thing. "The man named all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the beasts of the field, but he found no helper like himself" (Gen. 2:20).

At first Adam was not surprised that he was the only one of his kind, the only thing with a human nature. He knew that he was very different from the animals about him. He understood that they were interested only in food and their families. Adam was interested in all things, in just looking at the universe and trying to understand it. It seemed to him that he could never tire of exploring the world about him, particularly because he had begun to realize that God, who made so great a world, must be still more great. Sea and sky had their limits, but there was no boundary to the everlasting wonder of God. How could he ever finish exploring the mystery of God? Would there be a day when God would finally let Adam see him face to face? There was only one God, and Adam knew that it was in God's image that he had been made. Why then was it so strange that just as there was only one God, so there was only one man?

Adam realized that in being king over the world about him, he must imitate God, who is the King and Father of all things. How could Adam be king and father to his world? He could not create it anew, but at least he could keep it in perfect order. He could tend the garden, watch over the animals; but how could he share the greatest of all gifts which God had shared with him, namely, wisdom and understanding? The animals could not share this wisdom and understanding with Adam. If only Adam had children of his own kind to whom he might be a father as God was Father to him, children whom he might teach to understand the wonder of the world, and the infinite wonder of God!

After sleeping on this problem, Adam awoke to find a companion at his side whom God had made for him to be his helper in raising a family of his own. Adam understood that this was Eve, "the mother of all the living" (Gen. 3:20). Adam and Eve were to share the world together, to be its king and queen. How could they also share each other's thoughts? Adam had named all things in his mind with mental words or concepts. Some of these were proper names, like the name of Eve, each belonging to a single thing. Others were common names, representing a universal concept, as the name, "woman," or "lion," or "bird." These were in Adam's mind, but he did not know at first how to teach them to Eve.

Around them be heard the animals calling, some with squeaks and growls and some in song. Adam understood these signs which the animals made by instinct. They were natural signs because there was a natural connection between the sign and the thing it stood for. When Adam saw the footprint of a lion, he knew that this was the natural sign that a lion had passed by. When be heard the lion's roar, he knew that this was the natural sign that the lion was hungry. At first Adam and Eve themselves may have used only such natural signs. They smiled at each other to show their love; they pointed or cried out to call each other's attention. This natural language was enough for the animals who had only their feelings to talk about. Adam and Eve, however, wanted to talk over all the things that interested them. Eve saw a lion and turned with questioning eyes to Adam. "What is it?" her eyes said. Adam wanted to explain it to her, to tell her what he had learned about the nature of the lions. He longed to tell her about all the things he had explored; about his plans for the future; above all about God their Father, who had made this world and whom he hoped they might some day see face to face. Natural signs were not enough to say all this, and Adam, with Eve's agreement, began to invent new sounds to stand for the natures of everything he knew. These spoken words were not natural signs, but signs whose meaning came from agreement, conventional signs.

Adam in this new language taught Eve all that he knew about the world and God, and she listened in delight. Adam explained it all so clearly! Still there was one thing he said that puzzled her. He said that God had given them the whole world to know and use, but bad forbidden them to taste the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When she asked why , Adam explained that he did not know why God had given them this command, but that he was sure that it must be for a good reason. In fact, it was because God wished to test them. He wanted to give them soon the greatest knowledge of all, the most wonderful secret. He wanted to let them see him face to face so that their happiness might be complete, since all the beauty of the world is only a sign of God's perfect beauty. This gift he intended to give them as the reward of their obedience and trust.

They did not earn their reward. Eve one day listened to another teacher, not to Adam, and that teacher was the evil one, "who is a liar and the father of lies" (Jn. 8:45). The devil suggested to Eve the wicked idea that God had forbidden them to eat of the tree because he wished to keep men in ignorance lest they become his equals. If Eve had asked Adam, he would have explained how impossible it was for their heavenly Father to be envious of his children. But Eve did not wait to ask Adam about what the serpent said. Curiously she ate of the fruit, and then persuaded Adam that, since she had already eaten, he must join her.

After they were cast out of their garden into the wilderness, they found life very hard. Adam had to work all day to keep his family alive. He had little time any longer to explore the wonders of the world and little time to give to Eve and the children. Eve too was kept busy all day keeping the children clothed and fed; she was often tired and impatient with them. Their minds filled with a thousand

worries and their hearts with restless hunger and anger, Adam and Eve often misunderstood each other and quarreled. Their children grew up missing much that Adam might have taught them, if he had had more time and if there had been more peace at home. The children of Adam and Eve grew up without that clear and wonderful vision of the world their parents once possessed. To these boys and girls life seemed rather puzzling and often very dull.

Today we "poor banished children of Eve" also find the world pretty hard to understand. Often we give up trying to understand it and are content to be ignorant and bored. Who is there to teach us the answers? Many false teachers in television, movies, books, and newspapers give us lying answers when we look for the truth. To get back the beautiful vision of truth and reality which God gave to Adam and Eve we will have to study very hard.


Living in the wilderness the family of Adam and Eve and all their descendants struggled to recover their lost heritage of knowledge and their lost control over nature. Their life was probably a great deal like that of savage peoples of today, the jungle people of Africa, the desert people of Australia, or some of our own American Indians.

Yet even such savage people have discovered many arts of making a living and recreation. They honor as heroes those who invented these arts and taught them to their tribes. In the book of Genesis it is recalled that Cain and Abel, two of the sons of Adam and Eve, soon learned to earn the necessities of life by their skill. "Abel was a keeper of flocks and Cain a tiller of the soil" (Gen. 4:2). Soon they were not content with bare necessities, for we read that among the descendants of Cain there was a man named Jabel who "was the forerunner of those who dwell in tents and have flocks. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the forerunner of all who play the harp and the flute" (4:20-21). Thus there were not only useful arts for the food, shelter and clothing that men require for life itself, but also arts of recreation, like music, which men needed to enjoy life and to live well.

At times these savages seemed as poor and ignorant as the animals about them, and yet it took great intelligence to discover and develop any of these arts. It had been easy enough for Adam and Eve to pluck fruit from trees in the garden of Eden, but to earn a living in the wilderness was difficult, and that is why arts were required. To discover even so simple an art as making a tent, a savage bad to figure out four things:

1. He had to fix clearly before him his purpose or end, exactly what he was trying to accomplish: to make something that would keep out the rain, yet let out the smoke from the fire, and which could be easily moved.

2. He had to picture what the form or pattern of such a tent would be like.

3. He had to decide out of what material it would be suitable to make it.

4. He had to find the power and instruments to cut, shape and fasten this material.

As time went by, men discovered how to use even very difficult materials. "Tubalcain was the forerunner of those who forge vessels of bronze and iron" (4:22).

Nor were the savages content to live their lives in mere work and occasional recreation. Men cannot be content with the things that satisfy mere animals. Adam and Eve had found their greatest happiness in exploring the world, and in friendship with each other and with God. Cain killed Abel because he was jealous of Abel's friendship with God which Cain himself had not deserved. Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, had a son named Enos, who taught men how to pray rightly to God. When men pray to the true God and seek to do his will so that they can serve him perfectly, they also want to know the truth about the world which God has given them. Throughout ancient times some men pondered on the law of God and recovered something of the wisdom which Adam had possessed.

Yet as the human race was scattered over the world, those living in small groups without wiser men to teach them sometimes became almost like animals in their way of living. Others developed many arts, but also tried to gain still more power by the practice of magic and the worship of the evil spirits. Gradually their ideas of God became clouded and colored by their own cruelties, lusts, and ambitions. Some of them worshipped not God, their Father in heaven, but the earth, which they thought of as their mother who had given birth to them and to whom they would return at death. As they forgot the true God, so their ideas about human conduct and the world of nature in which they lived became twisted and strange.

All over the world these savage people have left their traces: the stone tools which they made, the pictures they painted in the caves, even their living descendants in the backwoods and corners of the world. The simplest and oldest of these tribes which remain today still remember the true God, but many have ideas and customs which seem like a nightmare of fear, cruelty, and impurity.

When the human race had sunk very low, God brought disasters upon men, such as the great flood recorded in Genesis, to warn them that they must turn back to seek him or be extinguished. After this warning he promised that he would let the human race develop once more and strive to rise again to the glory it bad lost.


Once more men began to struggle and work to rebuild paradise on earth. Some 6000 years ago men began to build great cities. The first were in the country we now call Iraq, along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and in Egypt along the Nile River. Somewhat later they were built in India, in Crete, in China, and finally in Central America.

Today as scientists dig about in the ruins of these cities they find proof that the men who built them were experts in many arts. Irrigation improved the art of agriculture. With a more ample food supply men could live in large groups, and each could specialize in a particular art, exchanging what he made for the other things he needed. Tools and weapons were no longer made of stone but of copper, bronze, and finally of iron.

The life of these cities also became very colorful as the arts of recreation flourished. In the ruins are evidences of the physical games of the people: their ball-games, wrestling matches, chariot and boat races -- as well as such mental games as puzzles and checkers. The fine arts made their buildings beautiful with paintings and sculpture In which we see also portrayed musicians, dancers, and actors.

Yet if these city-dwellers had known only such arts, they would still have been savages. It was their discovery of writing that proves they were truly civilized, because it shows that they had begun to appreciate the value of human thought. They wrote down business contracts and city laws because they saw the importance of living according to fixed principles. Thus their social thought was recorded in writing. They also wrote down records of the movements of the stars and kept a calendar. This was their thought about nature. Above all they recorded the prayers and ceremonies by which they worshipped God. To all these thoughts they began to try to give clear and beautiful language and expression.

Nevertheless, although they appreciated the value of thought, they did not always appreciate the value of truth. The true ideas they recorded were also mixed with all kinds of imaginings that grew out of their pride, ambition, rivalry, and hatred. In Genesis we read how men built the Tower of Babel (11:1-9), not for any useful purpose, nor in order to worship the true God, but merely to display their pride. As a punishment God made this ambitious undertaking the occasion of quarreling, confusion, and social division. As society became divided into rival groups, each city tried to outdo the next in a display of power and skill, and finally each came to war with the other. Great conquerors like Nemrod (Gen. 10:9) built up huge empires based on cruel slavery.

Only a few men kept the right idea of human life and of man's relation to God; among them was Abraham, who lived near Babylon in the city of Ur. At God's command he took his family out of these evil cities and found a home for them in Palestine, where later, after his descendants had been freed by Moses from the power of Egypt, they built their own holy city of Jerusalem with a temple dedicated to the one true God. Here they kept the Sacred Scriptures in which they wrote down -- just as did other peoples -- their laws, their science, their prayers to God, all in beautiful and exact language. This sacred book, or rather library of books, seemed much like the libraries of the other people of that period. But while other ancient books, except for pitiful fragments, have been destroyed, the Bible remains the best-seller of all books today. This is because it was inspired by God and preserved by his Church.

In this Bible we read about the wisest man of ancient times, King Solomon, and the wisdom which he taught his people. "God gave to Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart as the sand that is on the sea shore. And the wisdom of Solomon surpassed the wisdom of all the Orientals, and of the Egyptians. . . . Solomon also spoke three thousand parables: and his poems were a thousand and five. And be treated about trees from the cedar that is in Libanus unto the hyssop that groweth out of the wall: and he discoursed of beasts, and of fowls, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And they came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth who heard of his wisdom" (III Kings 4:29-34). It seemed that Solomon had regained the wisdom of Adam. Yet in his old age he was led by his pagan wives into foolishness, and to please them be began to worship idols.


It was not in these most ancient lands that the arts and sciences came to full flower, but in Europe in a more youthful country, in the small and busy cities of Greece. Unhappily, even there slavery was common, and the useful arts were left to slaves who had no ambition to make new inventions. It was only in those arts which were thought fitting for free men that the Greeks showed unique genius.

In the Olympic games athletics became an art. As men developed a keen appreciation for the strength, proportion, and control of the human body displayed in these games, they also learned to make and appreciate buildings, statues, and paintings that were strong, well-proportioned, and yet graceful. The same sense of balance and symmetry helped them to write stories and plays, such as the epics of Homer and the tragedies of Sophocles, more dramatically told than those of former times.

Finally, this search for clarity and order in all that they did led the Greeks to discover the art of arts, the art of clear and orderly thinking which is called logic. It is the art of arts, because clear thinking is the basis of every art and science.

To think clearly is to give the precise reason or proof for whatever we claim to be true. There were many clever men in Greece called sophists (wise men) who were constantly arguing and talking and proposing new and surprising ideas. What one man said was true, another claimed was false. Men began to doubt that it was possible to be sure what was really true.

Then appeared a man who was truly wise but refused to be called anything but a "lover of wisdom" or a philosopher. He showed that the only way to settle an argument about what is true and what is false is to begin by defining your terms. He was named Socrates, and was finally put to death because he angered men when he pointed out that they were always talking without knowing what they were saying.

His pupil Plato continued the work of Socrates and showed that to think clearly one must not only define his terms, but must also state his principles, that is, the basic truths on which knowledge rests. In youth Plato excelled as a wrestler, and he knew that to throw an opponent in wrestling one must plant one's feet firmly on the ground. It was in a gymnasium that he established the first great university called the Academy, and here he made mathematics the basic study, because it is by the hard intellectual wrestling of mathematics that the mind is developed in the art of logic.

In the Academy were taught arithmetic (or algebra) and its application to music. These had already been invented by another philosopher named Pythagoras. Also geometry was taught, although it was only somewhat later that it was brought to perfection by Euclid, and its application to astronomy fully developed by Ptolemy.

It was the greatest of Plato's pupils, Aristotle, who realized that logic should be strictly applied not only to mathematics but to all branches of learning. He founded his own school, the Lyceum, with a museum and laboratories, and there established the first complete curriculum of studies. He showed that the chief task of logic is not merely to define terms and to state principles, but to make proofs or demonstrations. He discovered that there are four kinds of proof and hence four kinds of logic:

1. Sometimes in studying the sciences we can prove that a statement is certainly and exactly true. This is demonstrative logic.

2. Sometimes in studying the sciences we cannot prove a statement exactly, but we can give probable proofs and keep searching. This is dialectical logic.

3. Sometimes what is needed to convince people are reasons which persuade them by moving their emotions so that they will accept the truth and act on it. This is rhetoric.

4. Sometimes what is needed is to entertain people by helping them, to appreciate and enjoy the truth. This is poetics.

The followers of Aristotle founded a still greater school at Alexandria in Egypt, called the Museum (after it all our museums are named), and from there Aristotle's system of education spread to the whole western world and became the basis of all our education today. In this system of education a student has four main subjects to master:

1. The four types of logic and the four types of mathematics just listed. These are called the liberal arts.

2. Natural science, the study of the nature of man and the world in which he lives.

3. Social science, the study of man's life.

4. Theology, the study of God.


The attempts of savage people to restore paradise on earth by their corrupt arts had ended in such disasters as the flood. The attempts of the great ancient cities to restore paradise on earth had ended in warfare and vain schemes like the Tower of Babel. The search of the Greeks after wisdom seemed at first to succeed, but it too came to an end when the Romans established a world empire in which wisdom became only a tool to gain power and wealth. In Rome the emperor was made a god, and Rome began to go down to the same destruction that had followed all the foolish pride of previous civilizations.

Of all the people in the world only the Jews had kept the true idea of God, of his law, of the relation of man to nature; but they kept themselves pure only by remaining narrow. The fate of their great wise man Solomon had shown them the danger of mixing with foreign nations, and they knew no way to combine the wisdom of the Greeks with the truth contained in their own Bible. This truth that the whole world needed was stored up in Jerusalem, and, like grain that is kept too long in storage, it had begun to mildew. Who would open the granaries of truth and feed the famished nations?

Mankind had proved that by itself it could not restore paradise. Then from a most unlikely place the true teacher of mankind, the second Adam of the human race, appeared. He seemed to be only a poor young workman, a carpenter of the Jewish nation. He was not a student of the philosophy of the Greeks. Nor was he a king like Solomon. He was the Son of God, who had become a man like us to save us and to teach all men by his example and his preaching.

Jesus Christ was not a student of the philosophers. He was the supreme philosopher and teacher who required no one to teach him. He gave an example to those who practice the useful arts by himself working for years as a carpenter. He gave an example also of fitting recreation, for he did not hesitate to come to the banquets of the people. In his teaching he used stories which are masterpieces of

poetics and of rhetoric. He corrected our understanding of nature when he showed how all things in the world follow the law of God's providence and how man has a dignity above all other visible creatures. He also corrected our understanding of life and society by teaching that all law, is summed up in the love of God and neighbor. Finally, he revealed to us the supreme secret about God himself, that he is one God in three divine Persons, a truth hidden (except in shadowy outlines) from all ancient thinkers.

Now that Jesus Christ has shown us the true way we need never be in any doubt as to where to find the truth. He taught us all the great truths we will ever need. Until he comes again, we have only to remain faithful to that truth, strive to understand it better, and use it as a guide in our search for the lesser truths that will complete the picture. Our Lord has even provided the Church and the help of his grace to guide us in remaining faithful to his teaching. When he ascended into heaven he left this Church, headed by his apostles and their successors, the bishops, to educate the whole human race. He warned his apostles, however, that this work of educating the world would be a difficult task which would not be completed before he comes again. Many would not understand what the Church was trying to do and would claim that the bishops were trying to suppress the truth, because they were correcting teachings which were only partly true.

Jesus promised that gradually the Church would go on gathering together the fragments of truth wherever they were to be found, cleansing them of error, and fitting them into the broad framework of his own teaching.


In order to bring the truth of Christ to the world, the Church had to overcome three great efforts of the forces of darkness to put out the light which she held so high.

The first threat was the effort of pagan Rome to absorb the Christians, when it found that it could not destroy them by persecution. The pagan philosophers tried to water down the truth of Christ's teaching and turn it into a mere form of pagan philosophy. The great Fathers of the Church -- teachers like St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome -- defeated this threat by showing how much greater was the teaching of Christ than that of the philosophers, although whatever was true in philosophy might be used in Christian education.

The second great threat was the period of disorder called the Dark Ages. The Roman government, weakened by its failure to accept Christianity wholeheartedly, collapsed under the onrush of Germanic barbarians from the north and Mohammedan barbarians from the south. During this dark time of war and confusion the Church kept patiently at work building the foundations of a new civilization. It was in the monastery schools, especially those of the Order of St. Benedict, that the ancient education was not only kept alive, but purified of its paganism and given a new and truer form based on the study of the Sacred Scriptures.

Gradually peace was restored in Europe; many of the barbarians were converted, others were driven back. The Church at last was able to establish the great schools called the universities. Here the wisdom of the Lyceum and the Museum was restored, except that now on the throne of wisdom sat a new queen, no longer natural theology, but Sacred Theology based on the teaching of Christ. In the beautiful cathedrals of the Middle Ages we see Sacred Theology portrayed in stone, surrounded by all the arts and sciences which made up medieval education. They are symbolized as follows:


A. The Trivium or three ways to knowledge:
1. Grammar (and with it poetics), symbolized by the figure of Donatus, a Roman teacher who wrote the Latin grammar book used in all medieval schools.
2. Rhetoric, symbolized by the figure of Cicero, the great Roman orator.
3. Logic (including both demonstrative and dialectical logic), symbolized by the figure of Aristotle.

B. The Quadrivium or four ways to knowledge:
1. Arithmetic or algebra, symbolized by the figure of Pythagoras.
2. Geometry, symbolized by the figure of Euclid.
3. Music, symbolized by the figure of Tubalcain (rather than his brother Jubal, because in the Middle Ages bells were a favorite musical instrument and Tubalcain was the inventor of metal work).
4. Astronomy, symbolized by the figure of Ptolemy.

II. PHILOSOPHY (science), symbolized by a noble woman with her head in the clouds and her feet on the earth:
A. Natural science and with it medicine, sometimes symbolized by the figure of Galen, the great Greek doctor and disciple of Aristotle.
B. Social or moral science and with it law, sometimes symbolized by the figure of Justinian, the Christian Emperor who codified the Roman law.
C. Metaphysics or natural theology, represented by Plato, who was regarded by the earlier Middle Ages as the great pagan theologian.

III.SACRED THEOLOGY, symbolized by a queen holding the Sacred Scriptures, or later by St. Thomas Aquinas, the Common Doctor of the Church.

This system of education was perfected by the great Doctors of the Church (of whom St. Thomas Aquinas was the chief, along with St. Bonaventure and St. Anthony of Padua, St. Albert the Great, and later St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Peter Canisius) and by educators like St. Ignatius Loyola, St. John Baptist de la Salle, and St. Angela Merici. It remains the foundation of all education today, even of that given in non-Catholic schools.

The third great threat to the Church is still not wholly overcome. The reign of Christ had to be extended beyond the borders of Europe to the whole world. Yet this very expansion brought dangerous temptations. The Crusades opened up the East with its romantic luxuries and its mysterious cults. The discovery of the New World opened up the West as a source of enormous riches and power. The life of Europe became very colorful with the growth of the interest in literature and fine arts which we call the Renaissance. Dazzled with worldly riches and glory, the rulers of Europe began to struggle with each other for supremacy. They even sought to make the institutions of the Church serve their own purposes rather than those of Christ.

The result was the decay of religious unity which we call Protestantism, and the growth of indifference to spiritual things which we call Secularism. The progress in art, in science, in invention, and in geographical exploration were all achievements which had their roots in the education given Europe by the Church, but men forgot this and began to attack the Church as the enemy of progress. The Church, in spite of these persecutions which for a long time deprived her of much of her educational influence in Europe, continued patiently to spread her missions into other lands.


We are living in a time when the Church has finally become world-wide and is teaching all nations. Yet the world is full of wars and quarrels that make it difficult for the voice of the Church to be heard. In our own country we have two systems of schools. There are the Catholic schools which teach the wisdom of Christ in a complete way. Most of our young citizens, however, attend non-Catholic schools.

These non-Catholic schools (which are excellent in many ways) actually had their origin in the schools of the Church but are now separated from her influence. They still teach much of what they learned from the Church and from the civilization which she preserved and developed, but they are required to leave out the teaching of many truths, because there is so much disagreement about basic principles among non-Catholics.

Your own school is not perfect, because it has been hindered from developing perfectly by all the confusion and troubles in the world. Nevertheless it has a sound Catholic foundation and is striving to give you the best possible education, to give you the whole teaching of Christ, and to show you how all the other knowledge which the human race has discovered can be fitted into this framework and developed still further.

Because of outside pressures and influences on Catholic schools, the names and arrangement of courses are often different from our traditional curriculum, although the subjects taught are still essentially the same. Thus under the term "English" we include all the branches of logic. Arithmetic is today called "algebra." The term "social science" has replaced the older term "moral science" or "ethics." Natural science is split into many branches: general science, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology.

The special work of improving Catholic schools began when Leo XIII in 1879 recommended that all Catholic teaching be placed under the guidance of the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. The present Holy Father, Pius XII, has repeated this advice and urged us also to fill in the Thomistic framework with all the new discoveries of our age.

In your lifetime you will play a part in this great story of the advance of truth. Like all men and women since Adam, you will find that living involves problems concerning the four great fields of human knowledge:

1. Liberal arts, or arts of thinking and expression, because it is these arts that will make it possible for you to think clearly, to study well, to teach and persuade others.

2. Natural science, because our knowledge of the world and of human nature is the basis of everything we think and do, and of all human progress.

3. Social sciences, because they are our guide in living with others.

4. Christian doctrine, because it tells us about God and the purpose of human life.

Of these the liberal arts must first of all be mastered, since to try to study other subjects without using the arts of study would be to try to fight without weapons. Already in elementary school you have been preparing to study all these subjects, but now you are entering a new phase of education when you will complete your liberal arts studies.

In the rest of this book you will find a guide to this work of completing your knowledge of the liberal arts. You will learn to think clearly and to read and speak effectively, by mastering four types of logic:

1. Demonstrative logic.
2. Dialectical logic.
3. Rhetoric.
4. Poetics.

Everything you say or read, even a comic-book, involves these four types of logic. You will learn all four together, emphasizing demonstrative logic, then seeing how its rules apply to other kinds of logic. This means learning to do three things, the three processes which Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle showed are needed for clear thinking:

1) To define your terms (Chapters I and II).
2) To state your principles (Chapter 11).
3) To prove your conclusions (Chapter III).


1. How do our emotions interfere with clear thinking?

2. Why do parents and children frequently misunderstand each other? Why do friends sometimes quarrel?

3. Can you name some other men or women, besides those listed in this chapter, famous for each of the arts and sciences? If you were going to symbolize each of the arts and sciences in a modern cathedral, whom would you pick to represent each art and science?

4. What are the advantages of attending a Catholic school rather than a non-Catholic school?

5. Can you place every course which is taught in your school in its proper place in the outline on page 22?


Memorizing may seem to be a very tedious task. There is no use in memorizing a great many random facts, but to memorize definitions and classifications of the fundamental concepts in a science or art is the most efficient way of studying. Such definitions and classifications summarize a great deal of orderly information in a very short and easily remembered form. If you have trouble in studying for examinations, it is probably because you waste much of your time on unimportant points. If you list the important terms in the subject and memorize their definitions and their classification, you will be quickly and thoroughly prepared. It is important, however, to memorize a definition exactly, since every word in a good definition is chosen with care.

1. An art is an intellectual ability acquired by practice of making something in a reasonable way.

1) A servile art is an intellectual ability, acquired by practice, of making something outside the mind in a reasonable way.

2) A liberal art is an intellectual ability, acquired by practice, of making something within the mind in a reasonable way.

2. Logic is a liberal art by which our reason is enabled to give a right mental order to the things it knows, so that it may proceed in an efficient and safe manner to attain truth.

1) Demonstrative logic guides us in attaining scientific, that is, certain and exact, truth.

2) Dialectical logic guides us in choosing the more probable opinion, when we do not yet know enough to have scientific truth.

3) Rhetoric guides us in persuading others to right opinion and action, when their emotions might incline them to the opposite way.

4) Poetics guides us in recreating others with the contemplation of beautiful deeds and the quieting of restless emotions.

3. A sign is something which leads to the knowledge of something other than itself.

1) A natural sign is something which leads to the knowledge of something other than itself because of a natural similarity or natural connection between them.

2) A conventional sign is something which leads to the knowledge of something other than itself because of human custom and usage.

3) A distributive universal sign or concept is one which signifies a nature possessed by each and every one of many things.

4) A singular sign or concept is one which signifies one single thing.