On the Liberal Arts

I’ll say more about this topic later.

Articles periodically pop up about why it is still important to major in the liberal arts and not bother with STEM fields. And then other articles will pop-up saying that liberal arts degrees are stupid and essentially put the individual student in debt without concern for said student’s future employment prospects.

To these claims I say, “Just shut up.”

Neither side ever means “the liberal arts.” They just mean “STEM or non-STEM degrees.”

The liberal arts, minimally include training in these seven skill sets (yes skill sets, not mere knowledge):

  1. Grammar – the art of understanding and constructing thought in language. It includes reading, story telling, riddles, memorizing, etc.
  2. Logic/Dialectic – study of the relationship of facts and propositions to other facts and propositions. Basic logic includes both classical deduction as well as the numeric version of categorical/inductive logic known as statistics. But logic is also the study of philosophy, discussion skills, question asking, dialogue, internal monologue, etc.
  3. Rhetoric – the art of discovering and using that which is persuasive. Rhetoric also includes the study of the human emotional life and politics thought/praxis.
  4. Arithmetic – the art of number or basic mathematical operations
  5. Geometry – the art of number in space and the proofs pertaining thereto (logic applied to arithmetic)
  6. Music – the application of number to the human passions.
  7. Astronomy – the art of geometry over time,  since Newton/Leibniz this has included the Calculus.

If one has a liberal arts education, then they have the basic skills for any other education. These subjects are not mere subjects. They are skill sets and even mindsets. Understanding rhetoric is like defense against the dark arts in Harry Potter. Understanding logic is not only helpful for writing papers, but for fixing cars and being a detective.

Anyway, I’ll probably do a series of posts on this in the future. But one does not need a degree in anything to have their mind transformed by a liberal arts education and one does not understand the liberal arts just because they have a degree in a non-science field.

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