John of Salisbury on the Liberal Arts

“While there are many sorts of arts, the first to proffer their services to the natural abilities of those who philosophize are the liberal arts.  All of the latter are included in the courses of the Trivium and Quadrivium.  The liberal arts are said to have become so efficacious among our ancestors, who studied them diligently, that they enabled them to comprehend everything they read, elevated their understanding to all things, and empowered them to cut through the knots of all problems possible of solution. Those to whom the system of the Trivium has disclosed the significance of all words, or the rules of the Quadrivium have unveiled the secrets of all nature, do not need the help of a teacher in order to understand the meaning of books and to find the solutions of questions.” John of Salisbury, Metalogicon, Book 1, Chap. 12, trans. Daniel D. McGarry (Philadelphia 2009), p. 36.

The trivium consists of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric.  The quadrivium includes arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.  These arts formed the basis of literary comprehension, understanding, and true problem solving.  Once someone has mastered these arts he or she does not need a teacher.

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