Liberal Arts Overview
The Liberal Arts at Living Water College
n order to provide an education for the artist, rather than for the philosopher or theologian, it is important to tailor the Liberal Arts so that they suit the student with an artistic disposition and interest.
The essence of the Liberal Arts is that they are arts, more than subjects. They are skills which have to be developed, rather than information or knowledge to be memorized. These skills are the three arts having to do with thinking properly (the Trivium: Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric), and the four arts having to do with the things to think about (the Quadrivium: Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music), which together lead to philosophy.
At Living Water, the Liberal Arts curriculum is distinguished by its method of instruction and by its Catholic context. In its method of instruction, the college uses the “Great Books” as the subject matter. Students assimilate the teachings of the great authors not through lectures or textbooks, but through reading, seminar discussions, dialogue and writing. This method of learning, called Socratic dialogue, is incomparable in its effect on the students. The Great Books study forces them to wrestle with the fundamental thoughts proceeding from truth (without preconceived notions obtained from second-hand interpretations normally conveyed through lectures). In discussion, students express these thoughts in an atmosphere aimed at an educated open-mindedness. Under the guidance of a tutor, they review the opinions around the table candidly, trusting that their fellow students are companions, not critics, in their search for truth.
What distinguishes it as Catholic is that all of the liberal arts, while retaining their classical form, are ordered toward Philosophy, and ultimately toward Theology. This spirit of Christianity infuses the entire program at Living Water College, starting with the personal faith of each student and reaching into the daily classrooms and studios where their training develops.
Why the Liberal Arts at Living Water College?
The person is a unity of different parts. With St. Paul, we can reflect and pray, “May God keep you …spirit, soul and body…until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Just as our bodies cannot function without our souls, so the artist cannot truly flourish without developing his intellect. The artist who has grasped the truth in his mind, will be much more effective in the expression of beauty through his art. His expression and artistic creativity will be grounded in truth, formed in truth, and be a living reality because it will point to the truth.
What are the Liberal Arts?
Today, one can attend nearly any university and find a Liberal Arts department. Most people know the Liberal Arts simply as “the Arts” or “the Humanities”: literature, philosophy, history. Modern or non-Christian approaches to the Liberal Arts have robbed them somewhat of their full meaning and importance; and being taught as material to be memorized rather than concepts to be wrestled with has robbed them of their greatest impact. Traditionally, always presented by means of Socratic dialogue, the Liberal Arts have formed our culture. To truly understand and appreciate their necessity, we must look at their origins and developments in Ancient Greece and Rome and their subsequent flourishing within Christianity and Catholic European culture.
The word liberal is from the Latin word liber, meaning free. The attainment of knowledge was something that distinguished free men from slaves. Beyond this literal meaning there is something much more than free access to education. The Liberal Arts free us from ignorance and indifference and prepare our minds and hearts for the desire and reception of the truth.
During the Middle Ages the Catholic Church was the strongest proponent of education throughout Europe. The cathedral schools, and later the universities, were a result of the Church’s support for the Liberal Arts. In Medieval Europe the Liberal Arts were divided into two sections, based on the classical Greek and Roman roots. The first was the Trivium which included grammar, rhetoric and logic. Mastery of the Trivium was then complemented by the Quadrivium--geometry, arithmetic, astronomy and music.
The Trivium equips our minds, giving us the tools necessary for analysis and critical reasoning. Knowing the structure of language--grammar, its persuasive use--rhetoric, and reasonable argument and discussion--logic, enables us to use our reason to its fullest capacity, to go in earnest pursuit of the truth in whatever discipline it may be found. The Quadrivium reveals the order of the universe, of reality, the harmony of nature and knowledge. Intellectual ability in these areas prepares us to ask the deeper questions and pursue philosophy, placing us on the threshold of the ultimate truths. Within Christianity this approach opens us to Divine Revelation and knowledge of the Person of Christ.
The Liberal Arts open the soul to the only reality that will ultimately satisfy--the Truth. As Saint Augustine said, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. We could add that the intellect, or the mind is dissatisfied until it has found the Truth. Since God designed the intellect for truth, it is our responsibility to seek out and fulfill this need, this hunger. Only then do we realize our true worth and purpose--to rest in God, to fix our minds upon the Truth. Because the Liberal Arts train us to think logically, to examine reality, they prepare us for the Truth. Aside from this ultimate goal, the Liberal Arts are in many ways, a very practical education as well. Some of the benefits these benefits are outlined below:
Education for Life
Reading, Writing and Communication Skills