Thoughts from Master Teachers
In order to help students and lifelong learners to cultivate their mind and help teachers to excel in their profession, the Arts of Liberty Project provides a range of articles for your use. These include articles from the Arts of Liberty Journal (see below for more information), as well as pieces written by experts on the liberal arts. Enjoy!
The Arts of Liberty Journal
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. Read More
Historically, the journal is interested in contributions which situate or manifest some important aspect or truth central to a liberal education. Read More
The journal’s practical goals are twofold, one educational, the other political. Read More
The Blessings of Liberty: Reminders from Aristotle and Livy For Our Troubled Times
by Dr. Andrew T. Seeley
Portia’s Powerful Tongue: The Ethics of Lady Rhetoric in The Merchant of Venice
by Dr. Scott F. Crider
Augustine’s Modification of Liberal Education: Reflections on De doctrina Christiana
by Dr. Matthew D. Walz
"Is there more to be said for free institutions that would inspire in our young the love for and devotion to liberty that animated our fathers? Or have we been deceived in thinking that liberty deserves our devotion? Perhaps a look back to times when freedom was in question will help us see whether we should despise freedom, adore it or consider it a matter of indifference.... [Aristotle and Livy] both see political liberty as ideal—it fosters the full development of human virtue. Yet they also recognize that it is difficult to maintain. It demands virtue."
"What Shakespeare finally understands is that ethical rhetoric is a difficult achievement; that, in the ethical moment of disposing means to end, the rhetor is only imperfectly in command of a fallen world, and if this limitation can lead a woman of Portia’s moral and intellectual virtue to error in her sacrificing a tragic usurer to secure comic marriages, we ought not be overly confident in either the virtue of our own rhetoric, or the exactitude of our own generic terms."
"Christianized liberal education is informed, therefore, by a trajectory toward that Wisdom which touches from end to end strongly, and hence it embraces all that the various sciences and disciplines do in order to bring such Wisdom to light.... In short, a Christianized liberal education is sacramental in character, i.e., salvifically anointed by Wisdom itself in a way that can lead those well-disposed by faith toward beatitude. It is underlyingly rational, but with a reason measured by the divine Reason, the Logos, who became flesh in order to lead us to our patria."
"Dante is indebted to Augustine not only for the basic schema of his interior or autobiographical epic but also for his treatment of such themes as truth, beauty, knowledge, speech, love, and conversion, or the turning of the soul. One important dimension of Dante’s poetic interaction with the Confessions is his emphasis on the connection between reading, love, and conversion. In the Confessions, a handful of encounters with texts structures the entire narrative, from Augustine’s early preoccupation with the Aeneid to his enthrallment with Cicero’s Hortensius to his reading of the Psalms and the writings of Paul. Similarly, in the Commedia, reading both sets in motion and carries forward the process of conversion."
"History was a moral genre in the classical period, not a scientific one, and the incorporation of moral judgments was therefore natural and appropriate.... In his Bellum Catilinae and Bellum Iugurthinum, Sallust provides an analysis of the corruption of contemporary Rome and offers readers an explanation for Rome’s decay from freedom to slavery. Along with a diagnosis of the moral causes for this slavery, Sallust also offers a partial solution. Sallust carefully constructs the Bella as educations in virtue for talented young men, who have the potential to become either great statesmen or tyrants like Jugurtha. By training up virtuous and politically adept leaders, Sallust’s Bella have the potential to restore the freedom and greatness of Rome."
"In his Confessions Augustine fashions an account of the first thirty-four years of his life.... He is just as concerned that his readers follow him in his present meditations on the Word of God as with their interest in how the Word brought him to where he now is. In effect, we encounter two Augustines. First, there is the Augustine narrated, the boy and young man whose actions and thoughts and feelings are brought forth out of memory. Second, there is Augustine who is the mature, teaching bishop writing his confessiones and situating the biographical parts within the larger “speech act” of the whole of his work. It is the overarching intent of the text as a whole that carries implications for understanding the meaning and practice of education."
"Cicero sought in himself and in the young whom he attempted to influence a continuing Socratic renewal as philosophers of the household and political community, extending even to an unpopular willingness to learn from “those Greeks.” Inquiry was to arise from the moral horizon of ordinary life and in the ordinary language of public life. The question of how to educate arises in this horizon from an interest in how to live rightly and how to order our communities rightly. So it is our question too, a living question, and not one that is merely historical."
"There is no denying Augustine’s rejection of contemporary theater. Nevertheless, it is the burden of the first part of this essay to demonstrate that in his earlier writings and possibly throughout his life, Augustine understood the theater as a metaphor for life in all its psychological and political complexity, for better and for worse. Once this metaphor has been brought to light, it will be left to establish in the second part how the liberal arts can, in Augustine’s view, contribute to playing one’s part well in the theater of life."
These articles, offered with the gracious permission of their authors, are here because of their topics, rather than their publications.
"It is a little known secret—though it should be no secret at all—that classical education has been making a comeback of late.... 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."
"In distinct yet intimately related ways, the quadrivial arts serve this very purpose: to purify and rekindle the mind’s eye so that it may see the truth. In doing so, the quadrivial arts lead us through the foothills of philosophy; they help us begin the journey, pointing us in the right direction, perfecting our intellectual vision so that it is well-suited for the philosophical way of life. Through a renovation of the imagination, these arts can assist in freeing us from an undue preoccupation with and attachment to lower things. Through them the philosophical soul begins its ascent to the things themselves and what truly is."
"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, to will subject to responsibility, to self-rule fully responsible to religious, familial, and political obligations. The agency driving this threefold development is human effort in partnership with divine purpose."
"Summing up, then, I propose the following as a working definition of liberal education: Liberal education is the pursuit of wisdom through a cultivation of intellectual virtue and an encouragement of moral virtue by means of a rich and ordered course of study, grounded in the liberal arts, ascending through humane letters, mathematics, natural science, and philosophy, and culminating in the study of theology, yielding informed self-rule and a well-ordered understanding of human nature, the cosmos, and God."
"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 art, it is a ‘speculative art’ [10-24]. (Here I show how this art is ‘speculative’ as a whole [10-11], and can yet be divided into parts that are ‘speculative’ and ‘practical’ in several ways [12-25].) Finally, I discuss the respect in which it is entitled ‘liberal’ [26-28]."
"[T]hrough 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.... 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."