Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Liberal Arts - The Nexus Between Imitation and Knowledge

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This post contains an affiliate link to the book we are discussing.

Oh, how I am excited to be discussing The Liberal Arts Tradition with you!  Why am I so excited?  It is because in the past six months I feel like my eyes are being opened to a greater understanding of classical education, but I know that I still have so much more to learn.  This book is going to help me (and you, hopefully!) gain some of that knowledge.

The Arts vs The Sciences

When most people think of classical education, they think of the trivium.  A few weeks ago, we discovered how the trivium is just a small part of classical education.  Remember?  The trivium, along with the quadrivium make up the seven liberal arts, and the liberal arts is only one of six aspects of classical education (discussed in this book, anyways).

The next two chapters will go into detail about the trivium and quadrivium, but first the book explains what makes something an art.

"{Thomas Aquinas} stands at the beginning of the medieval tradition which taught the liberal arts as preparatory for the studies of philosophy and theology.  Aquinas described them as the tools by which knowledge is fashioned."  pg 30-31

I think that is a wonderful way of looking at the liberal arts.  So, essentially, as we teach our students we are giving them tools.  That is a freeing thought =)  If we don't get our children to remember every detail that we put in front of them, it is ok!   We are preparing them for further study.

So what exactly is an art?  This chapter distinguishes art from science by explaining that an art produces something, while a science is strictly the knowledge of something.  These definitions are obviously different than our modern categories of art and science.  It takes a little time to let your brain settle on these wider definitions.

Before we can produce something, though, we must imitate the greats.

"One of the ancient maxims in education was 'imitation precedes art.'  An art could only be attained from an extensive foundation in action and imitation forming cultivated habits."  pg. 31

I think our current model of classical education does a great job emphasizing this.  We do copywork to learn to imitate great writing, we study great artists and imitate their styles of painting, we read great literature and copy their styles in order to produce great works of our own.

Once we have imitated extensively, we can combine that practice with the knowledge we have obtained through science and produce art.  Art is imitation joined with reason.

Why the Liberal Arts?

So what is the point?  Why are the liberal arts so important?  The liberal arts are the vehicles by which we produce reason.  We could have great amounts of knowledge stored up in our heads, but if we cannot get that out for others to benefit from, it is of no use.  We learn to express our selves through poetry and persuasion, and to justify knowledge through experimentation and logic.

Going back to what we said earlier, that an art is something that produces something, you might ask what exactly the liberal arts are producing.  On page 32 it says,

"It is the liberal arts alone whose good produced in knowledge...the liberal arts would have been the seven ways in which knowledge was justified."

This book continues to give us lots of food for thought!  I have certainly never thought about classical education in this way before.  It is making me rethink some of the ways that I am teaching, though I don't have any great answers yet =)

Have you made any changes in the structure of your homeschool because of The Liberal Arts Tradition?

Thanks for reading along this week!  What did you think of this chapter?  Leave comments here on the blog post, or share about it on social media (#ClassicalMamasRead).  I'll be sharing too, so follow me on facebook, twitter, or google+ and we can chat about it there as well!  Don't forget, if you want to share your thoughts about Home Education on your own blog, link it up below so we can all come and visit!

Next time we will look at the trivium in The Liberal Arts Tradition.  If you haven't gotten your own copy yet, make sure you grab a copy so you can join in on our discussions soon!

Classical Mamas Read Link-Up

Did you write about The Liberal Arts Tradition on your blog?  Have you been reading and blogging about another book (for you, not a children's book)?  Do you have a book club going on at your blog (once again, not for a children's book)?  I'd love for you link up here so we can all be encouraged by each other and maybe find another great book to read!

I'm going to keep this link-up ongoing since there aren't going to be a huge number of posts and then anyone new will be able to be encouraged by the other book reading ideas and discussions.  If the number of posts gets too large, I will fix it.

Please note, all posts must be on topic (about a book you are reading) and appropriate (think family friendly).

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