The Arts of Liberty - Dr. Matthew Mehan
ARTICLES The Arts of Liberty

By Dr. Matthew Mehan

Seneca[1], the Roman philosopher and statesman who served, and then was executed by, Emperor Nero, wrote a series of 124 epistles to his dear friend Luculius.  In Epistle 95, Seneca expounds poetry, proverb, logic, being, metaphysics, grammar, moderation, detachment, prudence, friendship—it is a letter full of wise and eloquent counsel.  But midway through the letter, he advises Luculius that he must embrace Roman polytheism.  He even offers Luculius a set of spiritual exercises for polytheists: “The first way to worship the gods is to believe in the gods; the next to acknowledge their majesty,” and so on.[2]  Seneca is, in truth, a monotheist, but he pays lip service to the Roman gods, giving what he takes to be lesser powers (like angels) the title “gods.”  Such a letter could cause no small confusion for one of our Heights students.  It is true: Seneca, an foundational author for the study of the liberal arts, is not a saint.  And yet, great good can be gleaned from Seneca’s letters, so long as a well-trained teacher—one with a deep knowledge and understanding of the liberal arts and of the teachings of the Church—provides, as Pope Pius XI put it, an “antidote of sound doctrine.”[3]

Since the letters of St. Paul and from the time of the earliest Church Fathers, the liberal arts, of which Seneca comprises no small part, has been recommended consistently to all schools by the Church, for, as Pope Pius XII wrote, “The Church encourages and fosters all that really assists in the enrichment of the mind (she is, after all, the patron and support of humane studies and liberal arts)….”[4] Humane studies, or studia humanitatis, and the liberal arts, or artes liberals, were first systematically developed by the Romans and still possess a palpable Romanity.  In case there is any doubt, Pope Leo XIII, as only a true student of the liberal arts could, makes the point abundantly clear:

To this, furthermore, bear witness Our own fostering city, the home of the Popes, which, under their rule, reaped this special benefit, that it…became the refuge of the liberal arts and the very abode of wisdom winning for itself the admiration and respect of the whole world.[5]

The liberal arts take their foundations from ancient Greek philosophy, history, poetry, and rhetoric; the birth of the term and concept of the liberal arts dates from centuries after Athens’ golden age when the great Roman humanist and orator Cicero, who was murdered for his powerful and persuasive opposition to the tyranny of the Caesars, first referred to them as the artes liberales.[6]  They consisted of education, literature, and eloquence, and later humanists would tease out a fourth category implicit in Cicero’s presentation of the liberal arts, namely the laws,[7] what Thomas More referred to as “the traditions of men” and the “dictate[s] of practical reason.”[8]  Under the Roman Empire, the great philosopher, statesman, and poet, Seneca, developed further Cicero’s ideas of the liberal arts and humanitas.  The liberal arts are a decidedly Mediterranean and specifically Roman concept, developed and expanded by the Latin West after the Christianization of the Roman Empire and the conversion of the barbarians of northern Europe.

So does this historical account mean that the liberal arts are a cultural artifact from the historical experience and development of early Western Europe?  Would a school, from a non-European country—let’s say the U.S., Japan, or Mexico—that engaged vigorously, as a faculty, and heartily adopted the liberal arts—would that school be guilty of cosmopolitanism, or a lack of patriotism, or a lack of curricular imagination for adhering to colonial biases handed down from our older brother Europe?  Would that school be guilty of clinging too fiercely to old ways—ancient modes, as Machiavelli might put it—ones no longer fitting for the modern era?  More provocatively, are the liberal arts universal and permanent or merely Western and historical?

Christianity’s vision of the liberal arts, put simply, argues for the universal applicability of the liberal arts to successful schooling, whether in 12th century Europe, in 21st century Japan, or on 25th century Mars.  From the beginning, the Church Fathers were greatly concerned with incorporating the liberal arts into education.  Two of the most famous apologies for the liberal arts from the Church Fathers could not be more different and yet the message is the same.  In ancient Greek, Basil the Great’s famous letter, “To Young Men, On How They Might Derive Profit from Pagan Literature,” is a complex and ironic letter that requires one to have a training in the liberal arts in order to fully understand the letter’s meaning, in part by employing many of the subtleties and allusions of ancient, pagan literature.  The letter is a kind of mental work out that, after several reads and more and more study in the liberal arts, bears much fruit.  On the other hand, in Latin, Augustine of Hippo offers a thorough and straightforward defense of Christianity’s adoption and adaptation of the liberal arts in his short but extremely influential De Doctrina Christiana, or On Christian Teaching (which should be required reading for any teacher).

No doubt, Christendom has seen the ebb and flow of liberal studies.  Charlemagne’s famous Carolingian Renaissance is said to have stemmed, in part, from his shock over the ignorance and “uncouth expression” of the clergy “uneducated on account of the neglect of study” in Latin and Greek.[9]  Or witness the great “prince of the humanists,” Desiderius Erasmus in 1521: “[W]hile only a few days ago, a love of literature was thought to be of no practical or ornamental value, there is now hardly one of our great nobles who would reckon his children worthy of their ancestry if they had no education in liberal studies.”[10]

But, of course, this is not Charlemagne’s hour any more than it is Erasmus’ Northern Renaissance.  One might ask whether our new, modern era of education need feel any sting of shame for having left off the study of the ancient authors of Rome and Greece.  Or in specifically Catholic terms, might the new spirit of Vatican II, the new attention to local language and culture, the flexibility, the attempt to engage the world as it is, not as it once was—might all of this argue for a deemphasizing of the liberal arts in favor of more contemporary methods?  Compare the contemporary education of our clergy to this assessment of the writings of a medieval monk given by a modern scholar in 1961: “In order to defend the ideal life as described by St. Benedict, a Cluniac quotes Phaedrus, Terence, Plautus, Statius, Virgil, Juvenal, Persius, Cicero, and the historian Josephus.”[11]  Who today is familiar with the bulk of this list?  But, as Pope Pius XI put it, the “noble traditions of the past require that the youth committed to Catholic schools be fully instructed in the letters and sciences in accordance with the exigencies of the times” while at the same time they “also demand that the doctrine imparted be deep and solid, especially in sound philosophy, avoiding the muddled superficiality of those ‘who perhaps would have found the necessary, had they not gone in search of the superfluous.’”[12]  The pope here directly quotes Seneca, as a sort of not-so-subtle hint: Do not forsake the sound philosophy of the ancients—their “deep and solid” “doctrines”—in favor of modern superficiality.[13]  Does our modern moment in history provide sufficient vision to adjudicate a new and lesser role for the liberal arts and humane studies?  It is an important question because we did, in fact, answer it more than half a century ago when educators throughout Christendom decided to trim and alter substantially our liberal arts curriculum in schools.

Perhaps the better lens through which to understand our current moment in education is rather more like the fragile embryonic stage of a Renaissance than a privileged moment of modernity.  Better, and, I think, more fitting for a talk on the liberal arts, to adopt a Greek philosophical vision of human history as, in a very real sense, cyclical.  There are times of growth and times of decay, times of ignorance and times of great learning—seven fat years and seven lean.  With regard to education, and especially with regard to education according to natural reason, which is the provenance of the liberal arts, we should look at our own moment as a kind of pre-dawn, after a very dark night.  Consider Pope John Paul II’s assessment of the 20th C. from his last work, Memory and Identity: “The evil…was not a small-scale evil…. It was an evil of gigantic proportions, an evil which availed itself of state structures in order to accomplish its wicked work, an evil built up into a system.”[14]  And lest one think that Christendom and its systems of education came out unscathed, the subtle understatement of Pope Benedict XVI on the state of Christendom in the post-conciliar era makes the point clear enough: “No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the [second Vatican] Council has been somewhat difficult.”  He then compares the post-Vatican II era to that of the post-Nicean era, saying,

[St. Basil the Great] compares [the Church’s] situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm, saying among other things [that the] raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamouring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith….”[15]

Pope Benedict continues with his trademark rhetorical understatement: “We do not want to apply precisely this dramatic description to [our own] situation [in] the post-conciliar period, yet something from all that occurred is nevertheless reflected in it.”[16]

I would submit to you that our schools and the counsels of the Church concerning the need to teach the liberal arts and humane studies in our schools have suffered along with the rest of Christendom, along with the rest of Western institutions—along with the rest of the world.

In our own modern era, we have seen a systematic attack on the liberal arts, to the extent that what used to be considered standard linguistic knowledge (Latin and Greek[17]) and standard texts for a liberal arts education are no longer taught in many Catholic schools at all.  Cicero, or “Tully” as the medievals fondly called him, wrote a work known as the De Officiis, or On Duties, which both Thomas More and Thomas Aquinas memorized and employed throughout their works (although Aquinas memorized most everything).[18]  From that work, the Catholic Church has adopted the now-famous frameworks of the four cardinal virtues as well as the concept and the apparatus by which we argue and understand the natural law.  The work also contains the single most powerful argument against utilitarianism—the vice of our age—that I know of.  These are not small contributions from the realm of natural reason, but they are now ignored in most of Catholic education where once they were just shy of adored.[19]

But so far we have only begged the question: what are the liberal arts, and what do they do? Why are they so important?  The liberal arts go by a variety of names: humane letters, humanities, humane studies, liberal studies, classics, the Trivium, the Trivium and Quadrivium, good letters, arts and letters, cultural studies, great books, fine arts.  Most people recognize these terms as denominating some body of knowledge worth studying for a complete and happy life.  But that is often where consensus ends.  Centuries of corrosion, confusion, and, at times, inessential addition has rendered for us a concept of liberal arts that is somewhat relativistic and unspecific; at best there might be recourse to St. Paul’s famous admonition:

For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things.[20]

Good advice.  But advice for the “brethren” is not advice for what ought to be selected from that vast pool of human knowledge of which St. Paul speaks.  No, the composite wisdom of Western civilization, Christendom’s long tradition of education, and the Church all recommend that schools once again take up the discipline of a special focus on the liberal arts.  Because of the current era’s confusion over just what comprises the liberal arts, it is of the utmost importance to understand them as they were intended to be taught.

And it should be said here that the famous list of seven liberal arts, namely the trivium, comprised of logic, grammar, and rhetoric, and the quadrivium, comprised of arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy, is not without its pitfalls.  For that reason, my focus here is on those parts of the seven liberal arts which were in the original charter for the liberal arts and which govern the application of the rest.  In particular, I mean that the trivium concerns the mind and the quadrivium concerns matter.[21]  In our era of atheistic-materialism, it is very often the case in schools with at least some adherence to the liberal arts that the quadrivium, being, as it is, more physical, tends to bully the more spiritual and essential core of the liberal arts, and, in the process, having lost the guidance of the trivium, curricula tend to see anything scientific, mathematical, or musical as—presto!—a key element of the liberal arts, when often, in fact, it is not.  The quadrivium’s moral neutrality makes it an all too convenient focus for schools just as the trivium’s strong infusion of moral philosophy makes it difficult to implement in the current climate of moral relativity.  Yet, the quadrivium’s content can only be properly discerned when one understands the original charter of the liberal arts, which resides in the trivium.

It may help clarify just what that original charter of the liberal arts is if we rendered the Latin, artes liberales, not as “the liberal arts,” but as “the arts of liberty.”[22]  What is it that we must know in order to be free?  If you consider the question in this light, certain specific characteristics of the liberal arts—the “arts of liberty”—come into focus.  Cicero and Seneca, the key proponents of the arts of liberty, had a very specific course of study in mind in order to teach people to be free.  A student of the liberal arts would study logic, grammar, and rhetoric and would have a working knowledge of law.  First, the logic would not be symbolic logic of a technical sort; rather the logic contained in Seneca’s Epistles and in Aristotle’s Organon, the collection of his six logical treatises, which would help one to reason, discuss, debate, and think logically, that is to say, truly.  The Organon was until recently considered a prerequisite for any attempt at philosophy.  Second, the study of grammar did not—and does not—mean simply the study of subjects and predicates.  It includes that, of course, but it is much more.  Grammar means the teaching of vernacular grammar, Latin grammar, and Greek grammar, as we understand the term today, in order to teach and to understand the use of language on the higher order of poetry, both lyric and epic.  The grammarian of Rome was a master linguist and arch-literary critic (from the Greek for “judge”). The teacher of Latin and Greek grammar teaches the language but also selects and teaches those great works most beneficial to an education in liberty, those works that best communicate the moral philosophy required for a free life.  Some combination of a classics teacher and a vernacular literature teacher would be the equivalent of a teacher of grammar in the sense of that word as listed in the trivium.  And finally, rhetoric, or what the Romans called eloquentia, was more than merely public speaking.  The topic, frankly, is well beyond the space available for this piece, except that I might refer you to, among other works, the De Oratore (or On the Orator) by Cicero, if you wish to enter into a “deep and solid” study of the “doctrine[s]” of rhetoric, the crowning glory of the liberal arts.

And there lies the problem: the liberal arts are both a kind of attitude toward virtue and a set of golden books and doctrines concerning liberty, self-rule, human nature, the nature of the city, the dangers of tyranny, the art of friendship.  While it is true that the liberal arts make room for the literature and history of a given native tongue, provided that the language’s poets and historians understand, adopt, and incorporate the liberal arts—provided they are truly wise—and while it is true that other texts can be read by teachers who, as Basil the Great says, like the bee will gather from the pollen the choicest honey;[23] it is, however, not true that the ancient authors are just as good as any other set of vernacular authors for teaching these “arts of liberty.”  The ancient authors (studied, ideally, in their original Latin and Greek) are, in fact, better, and deserve pride of place.  The “arts of liberty” cannot be reduced to an intention to expose students to a general history, or to some vague notion of good books, the fine arts, high culture, or good music or—worst of all—art for art’s sake, which has ever been the slogan of those opposed to the liberal arts.  No, the liberal arts are a certain cannon of works which teach a certain attitude, or, if you like, a certain attitude which demands a certain cannon of works from a more or less definite canon of authors in history, poetry, oratory, and law.  And from those flow, as Pius XI put it, “doctrine” that is “deep and solid, especially in sound philosophy….” Here he does not mean Catholic doctrines of theology; he means natural, secular doctrines of natural reason, doctrines of, for the most part, ancient philosophy.  And if that were not clear, he quotes Seneca’s warning against fads in the same sentence.  The Church knows that the liberal arts, the arts of liberty, prepare one for that solid doctrine in philosophy with their own “deep and solid” humane “doctrine,” the Latinate word for teaching.

So what do the arts of liberty teach?  For instance, the arts of liberty teach that good poetry must both delight and instruct.[24]  They teach the difference between a ponderously ill-formed and onerous turn of phrase and the words that might move a friend from vice.  They teach that undisciplined passions can be mistaken for the will of the gods.[25]  They teach that flatterers are difficult to detect, and they give strategies for spotting and avoiding them.[26]  They teach their student how to benefit from what he reads and how to read only that which benefits him.  The liberal arts bequeath moral types and stock characters of extreme importance to what has been called the “moral imagination”[27]: the philosopher, the poet, the tyrant; the powerful sophist, the noble orator, the honor-loving soldier, dangerous in his lack of self-knowledge; the peevish lawyer, un-graced by poetry and rhetoric which would help him to hear profitable truth spoken in a diction bereft of his own preferred legal jargon.  And then, the most dangerous type of all: the teacher of the liberal arts who easily falls in to pedantry!  The arts of liberty teach the path of citizenship and statesmanship and the means to rise in the world without recourse to vanity, pride, and self-will.  They teach that any true philosophy must first teach its student to be humane and sociable with all the rest of mankind and that it is a false philosophy that teaches otherwise.[28]  And the liberal arts will begin to teach that a good death is worth a life’s pursuit.

All of these great gifts could, it must be said, mislead us into thinking that the “arts of liberty”, the study of humanity, will make their student virtuous.  Rigorous study of Greek and Latin poets, historians, and orators is better said to prepare the soul for the acceptance virtue.  And in saying so, I’ve just paraphrased Thomas More[29] and Pius XII[30], as well as the last flower of pagan philosophy Seneca[31], whom both More and Pope Pius were deliberately and knowingly echoing.  The liberal arts do not make their student virtuous, but they are, except in certain cases among the incapable, a necessary condition for the attainment of virtue in, Seneca says, much the same way food does not make one virtuous and yet it is necessary for the attainment of virtue.[32]  This claim may be the most striking and powerful that the arts of liberty make, so let me rephrase it in more familiar terms: “There is no excuse for those who could be scholars and are not.”[33]  So says the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaría Escrivá, the patron of The Heights, in The Way.  And the very next point in The Way, as arranged by St. Josemaría himself, quotes the old Roman proverb made famous by the ancient Pliny the Younger and the rhetorician Quintilian: “non multa, sed multum—not many things, but much.”[34]  Perhaps this is another not-so-subtle hint like that of Pius XI, enjoining us not to stray too far in our studies from the liberal arts and the sound doctrines of the ancients?  Maybe, maybe not.

But at the very least, we see in this little point the key operation of the liberal arts, namely to help those who study them to become prudent in human affairs, and develop, as Thomas More says, that “one special thing without which all learning is half lame…[namely,] a good mother wit,”[35] This good mother wit, a phrase—not surprisingly—which More borrowed from the poet and classicist Chaucer, prepares one for true prudence, which sets out on a plan of life for growing in virtue until death.  The liberal arts are the path to philosophy, which is the path to wisdom and theology, which is the path to God, the end of every teacher’s toil.  Cicero writes in the De Oratore that these “[liberal] arts were devised for the purpose of fashioning the minds of the young according to humanitas and virtue.”[36] The liberal arts are designed to educate the students of The Heights, but this essay is designed, above all, to encourage all educators, be they parents, the primary educators, or be they teachers, administrators, or alumni, the secondary educators: because we all educate and because we never stop educating ourselves, we should each earnestly adopt for ourselves a course of study in the liberal arts.  The teachers cannot give what the teachers do not have, and they must have these liberal arts to the very best of their abilities.  For as Pope Puis XI also said, “Perfect schools are the result not so much of good methods as of good teachers….”[37]

The liberal arts and the humanities require our attention.  It is the subject of another essay to begin to explain in full the nature of the humanities, humanitas, as distinct from the liberal arts, artes liberalis, but it is enough here merely to hint that their fruits are peace and prosperity, friendship and commerce, and that the liberal arts—those arts of liberty—are, along with the humanities, the means to such an end.  These natural ends comprise the foundation for our understanding, pursuit, and attainment of our supernatural ends of final peace, ultimate prosperity, final friendship with God and neighbor, and eternal bliss with the same.[38]

Perhaps it is best to step out of the way now, and present one final sentiment from Seneca’s epistles:  “Hence you see why ‘liberal studies’ are so called: it is because they are studies worthy of a free-born gentleman.  But there is only one really liberal study,—that which gives man his liberty.  It is the study of wisdom, and that is lofty, brave, and great-souled.”[39]

[1] This article was developed from a paper delivered on 25 April, 2013 at the “Educating Leaders Conference” hosted by The Heights School in Potomac, MD, U.S.A., under the title, “Growing in Virtue Through the Liberal Arts: A Historical Perspective.”

[2] Epist. XCV.50/Loeb Ed., p. 409.

[3] Divini Illius Magistri, 87.

[4] Miranda Prorsus, 33.

[5] Inscrutabili Dei Consilio, 10.

[6] De Inventione, I.35 (“artium liberalium”).

[7] Cf. Gerard Wegemer’s “The Civic Humanism of Thomas More: Why Law Has Prominence over Rhetoric” (Ben Jonson Journal 7 (2000): 187-198).

[8] A Thomas More Source Book (hereafter “TMSB”), eds. Gerard B. Wegemer and Stephen W. Smith (Washington DC: CUA Press, 2004), p. 253.

[9] Cf. Charlemagne’s letter to Abbot Baugulf of Fulda, De Colendis Litteris: “For when in the years just passed letters were often written to us from several monasteries in -which it was stated that the brethren who dwelt there offered up in our behalf sacred and pious prayers, we have recognized in most of these letters both correct thoughts and uncouth expressions; because what pious devotion dictated faithfully to the mind, the tongue, uneducated on account of the neglect of study, was not able to express in the letter without error. Whence it happened that we began to fear lest perchance, as the skill in writing was less, so also the wisdom for understanding the Holy Scriptures might be much less than it rightly ought to be. And we all know well that, although errors of speech are dangerous, far more dangerous are errors of the understanding.” Trans. by D. C. Munro, from,  accessed on April 21, 2013.

[10] TMSB, Letter to Budé, p. 224/4-6.

[11] The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture by Jean Leclercq, trans. Catharine Misrahi (New York: Fordham UP, 1982), p.137.

[12] Divini Illius Magistri, 87. The interior quote is from Seneca, Epist. XLV.4-5: “invenissent forsitan necessaria nisi et superflua quaesiissent,” concerning sophistical argumentation.

[13] Once again, Divini Illius Magistri, 87. Please note that, at times, Pope John Paul II employs the same trope.  For instance, he cites the ancient doctrines of—this time—Cicero, not Seneca, while cautioning the embrace of the new, in Dives in Misericordia, VI.12.  After granting some credit to newer modes of teaching and understanding justice, and after recommending Catholic Social Doctrine, he writes, “The experience of the past and of our own time demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself, if that deeper power, which is love, is not allowed to shape human life in its various dimensions. It has been precisely historical experience that, among other things, has led to the formulation of the saying: summum ius, summa iniuria.”  The citation, not given by the pope, is to Cicero’s De Officiis, I.x.33. Like his predecessor, John Paul II gives the same not-so-subtle hint to stay close to the ancient wisdom of the Roman proponents of the liberal arts and humanitas, even as one engages contemporary learning.

[14] Published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005; p. 189.

[15] Here included is the citation for St. Basil’s words from Pope Benedict’s address (see n15 just below): “(De Spiritu Sancto, XXX, 77; PG 32, 213 A; SCh 17 ff., p. 524)”.

[16] Address Of His Holiness Benedict Xvi
To The Roman Curia 
Offering Them His Christmas Greetings; Thursday, 22 December 2005; <> accessed April 21, 2013. Emphasis added.

[17] For a historical account of Latin and Greek’s ubiquity in education up until the mid-20th century, see former Heights faculty member Tracy Simmon’s Climbing Parnassus: A New Apology for Greek and Latin (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2002).  For one snippet on the subject, see p. 219.

[18] Any digital search of the Summa will turn up numerous references to “Tully” and citations to his various treatises.  For an account of More’s intimate knowledge and use of Cicero, see Gerard B. Wegemer’s Young Thomas More and the Arts of Liberty (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), esp. the first four chapters, including p. 43n51.

[19] This great esteem of Cicero and Seneca in particular has been constant among the great teachers of Christendom.  One instance from the testimony of Erasmus: “And Seneca was so esteemed by Jerome, that he is the only non-Christian writer, whom he deemed worthy to be read by Christians.”  Erasmus wrote this to Thomas Ruthall, Bishop of Durham in the dedicatory letter for his Senecae Opera, Epistle No. 316 from The Epistles of Erasmus, from His Earliest Letters to His Fifty-first Year, Vol. 2, ed. Francis Morgan Nichols, [New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1904], p. 179.

[20] Philippians 4:8, Douay-Rheims.

[21] The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric by Sister Miriam Joseph, C.S.C., ed. Marguerite McGlinn (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2002), p.3.

[22] In using this phrase, I am following somewhat the work of former Heights faculty member Dr. Gerard B. Wegemer. Cf. Young Thomas More and the Arts of Liberty by Gerard B. Wegemer (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011).

[23] The reference is to Basil’s aforementioned Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature, as taken from Divini Illius Magistri, 87.

[24] Horace’s Ars Poetica, ll.333-346/Loeb ed. pp.478-79.

[25] Cf. Virgil’s Aeneid, IX.177-224

[26] E.g. TMSB, pp.185-94: an Eng. translation of Plutarch’s How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend.

[27] The English phrase—but certainly not the concept—comes from Edmund Burke’s The Revolution in France (1790), in which he discusses, in far less accurate terms than this paper would welcome, the Enlightenment’s attack on the trivium in favor of a grossly expanded and materialistic quadrivium: “But now all is to be changed. All the pleasing illusions, which made power gentle, and obedience liberal, which harmonized the different shades of life, and which, by a bland assimilation, incorporated into politics the sentiments which beautify and soften private society, are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason. All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off. All the superadded ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the heart owns, and the understanding ratifies, as necessary to cover the defects of our naked shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion.” As taken from Reflections on the Revolution in France: And on the proceeding in Certain Societies in London Relative to That Event in a Letter Intended to Have Been Sent to a Gentleman in Paris. 1790, paragraph 128 (Harvard Classics, Vol. 24, Part 3 (New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company, 1909-14., accessed September 6, 2014).

[28] Seneca, Epist. V.4/Loeb ed. p. 21: “Hoc primum philosophia promittit, sensum commune, humanitatem et congregationem.”

[29] TMSB, “Letter to Oxford University”, p. 207, line 30 and n2.

[30] Miranda Prorsus, 34.

[31] Epist. LXXXVIII.20/Loeb ed., p. 360: “Non quia virtutem possunt, sed quia animum ad accipiendam virtutem praeparant.

[32] Ibid.31/Loeb ed., p. 369.

[33] The Way by St. Josemaría Escrivá, #332

[34] See The Way: A Critical-Historical Edition Prepared By Pedro Rodriguez, St. Josemaría Escrivá Complete Works (London: Scepter, 2009), p.512.

[35] Taken from More’s Dialogue Concerning Heresies, as quoted in Young Thomas More and the Arts of Liberty by Gerard B. Wegemer, p.9 [CW 6, 131-32].

[36] 3.58/Loeb ed., p. 46. Cf. Wegemer’s Young Thomas More and the Arts of Liberty, p. 1.

[37] Divini Illius Magistri, 88.

[38] Cf. More’s “Letter to Oxford” in the TMSB, p.208: “Moreover, there are some who through knowledge of things natural construct a ladder by which to rise to the contemplation of things supernatural; they build a path to theology through philosophy and the liberal arts….”

[39] Seneca, Epist. LXXXVII.2/Loeb ed., p.349.

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