Liberal Arts and Moral Education

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a short paper discussing the relationship between the two


Andrew Ticzon (110422)Professor Lacsamana Thesis Writing: Paper 1August 7, 2015Liberal Arts and Moral Education

Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but if he be isolated from law and justice he is the worst of all The Politics I, Aristotle

The above quote taken from Aristotle is a statement that links Liberal Arts with Moral Education. However, how does that happen? What does perfection have to do with liberal arts and moral education? One can be a perfect driver, singer, or even student but Aristotle refers not to the perfection of a profession but of the person. However, before one can be perfect one must first know what perfection consists in for a person. By the etymology perfectus it means to be complete. For a human being to achieve completeness in his being, he must be more human, but what does it mean to be more human? In order to know this, one must first see that more human is comparative of its lesser, which is to be human and this is where it starts. To be a human being or person by the definition of Aquinas and Wojytla, lifted from the writings of Boethius is: persona est rationalis naturae individua substantia (Wojytla 167). A person is an individual substance of a rational nature. The species of the definition is rational nature because rational nature is what separates man from all other creatures and puts him as the highest and most perfect creature among other creature due to this unity of rationality and freedom, but not yet perfect in himself (Millare 4).Therefore to be more human, one must be more rational, and to be completely human, one must be completely rational. Rational here means step-by-step reasoning and not simply grasping (intellectuality). In order to learn how to reason out properly, one must train the process of thinking. For a person to think properly, one must train the operations of the thinking: reading, writing, listening, and speaking (Adler 279). However, to have the art of thinking one must train these activities of the initiation and reception of communication by seeing the educational trinity these operations are primarily concerned with the trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric, as:There is no art of thinking other than the three liberal arts as arts of language or communication. (Adler 281).

All three are co-implicated with the operations of thinking because when one wants to communicates properly, one must order language (grammar) and thought (logic), and express it properly in order to be understood (rhetoric) (Adler 280-281). This educational trinity is the foundation to further ones knowledge in other disciplines that have to do more with the mathematical nature (workings) of reality rather than the mere communication of it. These are the quadrivium: music, astronomy, arithmetic, and geometry, which trains the numerical skills of the person to understand nature or what they use to call natural philosophies (Contakes 13). Based on this, one can say that the liberal arts are there to train ones mind to think and understand the truths of reality and communicate it to others: The arts of logic, grammar, and rhetoric constituted the portion of the ancient liberalizing arts known as the trivium; the other portion, the quadrivium, consisted of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. All these arts were skills of thinking and expressing oneself in word and number (Nicgorski 452).

The liberal arts thus help develop the mind of the person but only the mind. For the liberal arts to help man reach his perfection, the person must direct his skills towards the attainment of truth. This is because good of the intellect is the truth the whole truth - through reason. For the mind to be properly trained to work for the truth, it needs to develop virtues of the intellect, one of which is wisdom. With his intellectual trajectory at wisdom, one will come across three kinds of truth: ontological, logical, and moral. The moral truth has to do with which decisions of man will make him less or more human which is very much part of his reality as a person because every complete action has a moral dimension. Therefore if the intellect rationalizes and sees the moral truth, in order to be more perfect, one must act according to that moral truth in order to achieve the moral good. As a result, the person becomes more good, and by acting on reason, more human as well. Mans perfection thus lies in being morally good by using powers and capacities developed by the liberal arts properly. In using his thinking skills rightly, properly developing the process, he should reach the right end (as a process implies an end). The end of thinking properly is a universal or particular judgment (i.e. it has truth value). In making many correct moral judgments based on moral truths (that have an overarching moral law), the person by theory and experience becomes morally educated and thus more morally responsible. In the process, the person also helps others become good by revealing moral truths to others through their actions. Moral education for others and for oneself thus becomes a consequence based on the persons good actions, because the other form of teaching other than exhortation is example. However, if the person has the art of thinking, but not geared towards the truth, he becomes as Aristotle says the worst of all because he does not see himself bound or directed towards any moral truth, and thus any moral law, and thus does injustice not only to himself, but to others.

Works Cited

Adler, What is Basic About EnglishPerson and Community by Karol Wojtyla Walter Nicgorski, The Morality of the Liberal Arts: AnAristotelian Perspective from The Good Man in Society:Active ContemplationEssays in Honor of Gerhart NiemeyerContakes, Stephen. Reinforcing the Trivium, Reimagining the Quadrivium, and Promoting the Good Life for All: Why the Sciences and Humanities Need Each Other in Liberal Arts. Delivered at the Fourteenth Annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA. 27 February 2015. Millare, Roland. Personalist Metaphysics: The Creative Integration and Retrieval of Fr. Norris Clarke S.J. Independent Study: Philosophical Thought of Norris Clarke, S.J. Christendom College. 22 February 2012.

it This is not far from what the ancient philosopher Parmenides said in claiming that Being is one (Metaphysics, 5, I).

Man finds his perfection in his reason, higher level is contemplation (highest virtue) EthicsReason is the thing most attuned to man, what separates him from other people (he is a rational animal) - st. Augustine and Aristotle In order for him to reason properly, he must think properly liberal arts (in words and numbers). Thinking is a process and implies an end, the end of which is first simple understanding, there is not truth value, but from understanding and conforming your understanding with reality, you make the final act the intellectual act of judgment (particular or universal) for something to be true or false. Truth can be divided into 3, logical, ontological, and moral. Your mind sees the moral truth, and your will aims to get the moral good. the critical mind needed for distinguishing right from wrong starts at the education of the mind through the liberal arts which have subjects that increase thinking skills in words and numbers, and are improved thorugh the operations of thinking: reading, writing, listening, and speaking (adler, what is basic about English).

Law comes from word lex, legis, which means to bind, if you make the linguistic comparison, in spanish its derecho, which means right, but Derecho, means Law. You bind yourself to something. This involves the will, and only when the mind can see the truth for itself will the will achieve the good of it. Binding to a moral law whih he seems for himself is true and good. this capacity to see is the result of training the mind through the art of thinking, which one needs the trivium and quadrivium for. Liberal arts art, how a thing is done well, liberal, equates to freedom. How to be free, you need to think properly, because freedom is part of our nature, and we have to use it well to be more in sync with our nature, to be more in tune with our humanity.

How do the skills of numbers help in moral education? Being is one? You have to know what being one means. You are not divided, you are not morally upright if you live a double life? Or you study nature with the use of numbers? The hard sciences help explain the physical world. Help understand the natural world? Nature? Knowing the thing through its operations? Grammar and logic expressed in numbers. Logic. Skill of thinking. You need the trivium to study the quadrivium.

If you can contemplate reality to the furthest extent possible, (reflection spurred by love), one will be able to know hwo to act according to the truth of it, and that every action, has a moral dimension. The liberal arts can teach you how to use reason to reflect, and eventually contemplate, to and in contemplation, one can be morally educated, and education includes action. If one does not act on it, he probably did not fully learn.

However, if he perfects his intellect, and aims to defend an idea, and act on it, and it is not in sync within the norms of what is morally upright, he becomes less human. Or worst of all. A case would like the Hitler and his following of Nietzsche on Eugenics.

The intellect is in service of the will,