Every day, from the moment we are born, we have been being told things that are not actually true, or only part of the truth. We believe these truths because they come from someone we trust as an ‘authority’. Our parents, our family, church, school, the government, the news, at times even our best friend becomes an authority that we believe what they say without irrefutable evidence. The belief in these “truths” is defined as dogma and the act of teaching us these truths is indoctrination.
Not all Dogma and Indoctrination is bad for us, but knowing the difference can change the Human Experience for each of us, dramatically. These beliefs can hold us back. As children we can become afraid of things that cannot hurt us. “You can’t go outside, it’s too dark” and when we get a little older, we ask mom to leave the light on “because it is too dark.” This is a harmless example, but if it can happen so innocently, where else is it happening?
Before large governments, world powers, churches and corporations, there was a common method used for learning and discerning the truths within reality. Philosophers and educators alike organized knowledge into 7 liberal arts, that were then organized into 2 categories; The Trivium and The Quadrivium.
It is through the use of these liberal arts that a person is able to free themselves from dogma and prevent future indoctrination into ideas or beliefs that are not personally experienced.
The Trivium consists of the first 3 Liberal arts: Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric thus making up the arts of language that pertain to the mind.
The Quadrivium consists of the other 4 Liberal arts: Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, and Astronomy making up the arts of quantity that pertain to matter.
I encourage people to develop both of these categories, but today we are going to talk about the Trivium.
Sister Miriam Joseph Rauh, C.S.C., (1898-1982) earned her doctorate from Columbia University. A member of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Sister Miriam was a professor of English at Saint Mary’s College from 1931 to 1960. In her book The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric, she writes:
Explained: ‘The utilitarian or servile arts enable one to be a servant–of another person, of the state, of a corporation, or of a business–and to earn a living. The liberal arts, in contrast, teach one how to live. They train the faculties and bring them to perfection; they enable a person to rise above his material environment to live an intellectual, and rational, and therefore a free life in gaining truth.’
These are ancient tools, that are seldom taught in today’s educational institutions for many reasons. We may have heard the words, and even know how to use them in conversation, but do we know how to use them together?
Grammar is how we communicate about the who, what, where, when. Phonetics combines sound, spelling combines letters, and grammar combines words. Once we agree on a set form of communication, let’s say “English”, then we can have a dialog about anything we perceive, both in our objective reality as well as our subjective imagination. We name things so that we may communicate about them.
In short, Grammar is our words, and how we use and understand them to explain the who, what, where, and when of any topic.
Logic is thinking about the connection between things within our objective reality as well as our subjective imagination. We ask why, building more knowledge and understanding of an idea or subject. This helps with greater understanding of the meanings, as well as to validate and verify both definitions and identities of the grammar used.
Rhetoric is communicating using Grammar and Logic effectively. Depending on the goal of the person communicating, rhetoric can open discussion about the truth of a matter or be used to convince someone of something without regard for the truth. In both cases a clear understanding of Grammar and Logic are imperative for both the speaker and the listener.
This is a lot of information, but with a little practice and attention to details, we can free ourselves from ideas and thoughts that limit our awareness of our own reality. Think of the process as ongoing, and revolving.
We collect information or knowledge (grammar) and analyze it for contradictions (logic) so that we may have a greater understanding. This gives us the wisdom of how to share our understanding with the world (rhetoric). The product of this way of thinking is an objective truth, that anyone can verify with their own thinking.
We increase our understanding by reading, writing, speaking, and listening, but be aware, garbage in is garbage out. Validate and confirm your understanding of the logic.
Using the trivium, nothing you are told by me, or anyone else, can ever be held as truth, without you personally experiencing it.
A simple example of this in action:
Let’s look at the statement “The cat ran up the tree.”
Now, let’s break this statement down.
“Cat” – a small domesticated carnivorous mammal with soft fur, a short snout, and retractable claws. It is widely kept as a pet or for catching mice, and many breeds have been developed.
“Ran” – past tense: run – to move at a speed faster than a walk, never having both or all the feet on the ground at the same time.
“Up” – toward a higher place or position.
“Tree” a woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches at some distance from the ground.
We can all recognize the statement.
A cat can run, but because we live on earth, and there is such a thing as gravity, a cat cannot “run up a tree” so this statement is not true and is misleading.
Because of this logic, to make this statement true we would have to say “The cat climbed up the tree so fast it looked like he was running.”
The new statement becomes our grammar and we begin again until we have personally experienced a truth, in which we cannot objectively find any flaws. As soon as something new in our logic becomes relevant, we begin the process again. This allows us to grow infinitely within our understanding of our reality.
While here at Swamp University we encourage you to use the Trivium and have challenging conversations to find an experienced truth.
This is the first step to mastering one’s own Human Experience.
To learn more about Swamp University, please visit us HERE.
Joseph, M., & McGlinn, M. (2002). The trivium: the liberal arts of logic, grammar, and rhetoric: understanding the nature and function of language. Philadelphia, PA: Paul Dry Books.