What is Liberal Arts Education?

The Liberal Arts (Latin liberalis, free and ars, art or principled practice) can claim to be the oldest programme of higher education in Western history, learned and taught by such decisive figures as Aristotle and Augustine. It grew out of the study of philosophy in Ancient Greece where dialectic was accompanied by rhetoric and grammar (the trivium) in the education of the cultured person in society.

In medieval universities becoming a Master of Arts meant becoming a Master of Liberal Arts, and was most often a condition for the possibility of taking a specialist degree in various professions including law, medicine and the church.  This MA was formalized in the trivium, and the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Essentially, these seven subjects laid out the uniform laws of what could be known and achieved in the natural universe.

We know these broad areas of enquiry better now as philosophy, the humanities, social science, natural science, the visual arts, and the fine arts. As such, and rather than confining study to a recognized subject discipline, MA Modern Liberal Arts offers the chance to explore ideas across the wide range of these intellectual areas.

Liberal arts education has always tried to look behind specialist subject content at the principles which underlie them and at the meanings they carry. This exploration of first principles, even in conditions of post-modern scepticism, is still our main focus of interest.

Trivium and Quadrivium

The seven liberal arts