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Trivium: Rhetoric

Beginning the week of June 6, all Lyceum Institute members will have access to a 10-week course in the Art of Rhetoric. Discussion sessions will be held twice per week: Mondays at 6:00–6:45pm and Thursdays at 12:00–12:45pm (subject to change). Each week there will be an assigned reading, relevant practice, and brief lecture. Discussion sessions will cover both the reading and selected issues raised in the lecture.

The study of rhetoric is a study not only of defending ourselves against false accusations, slander, calumny, and other verbal assaults upon our character, but is further a study of making known the truth, so that it may speak for itself. If logic, which cannot be justly divorced from rhetoric, consists in learning the valid structures whereby one discovers truth for himself (by understanding the nature and action of thought), then rhetoric consists in the discovery of righteous means to persuade others to grasp those same truths—and, moreover, the ability to defend ourselves against the manipulative persuasions of others.

This talent resides not principally in the manipulative arrangement of language, but rather the effusion of virtue in that most-human of capacities, the linguistic. In the words of Quintilian:

The orator then, whom I am concerned to form, shall be the orator as defined by Marcus Cato, “a good man, skilled in speaking.” But above all he must possess the quality which Cato places first and which is in the very nature of things the greatest and most important, that is, he must be a good man. This is essential not merely on account of the fact that, if the powers of eloquence serve only to lend arms to crime, there can be nothing more pernicious than eloquence to public and private welfare alike, while I myself, who have laboured to the best of my ability to contribute something of value to oratory, shall have rendered the worst of services to mankind, if I forge these weapons not for a solider, but for a robber… To this must be added the fact that the mind will not find leisure even for the study of the noblest tasks, unless it first be free from vice… vileness and virtue cannot jointly inhabit in the selfsame heart, and… it is as impossible for one and the same mind to harbour good and evil thoughts as it is for one man to be at once both good and evil… Consequently, the bad man and the perfect orator can never be identical.

Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, lib.12, c.1

This course is open to all Lyceum Institute members. Download the syllabus or find out more in the links below.

Learn more about Rhetoric at the Lyceum

The Lyceum Institute offers courses in all three arts of the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. Together, they form a core of knowledge necessary to every educated human being.

Learn more about our approach at the links below.


Enroll

Trivium courses are included in every level of membership for the Lyceum Institute. See enrollment options here.

Trivium: Logic

Logic as a Liberal Art – HFS Books
Houser: Logic as a Liberal Art
[Order – Amazon] [Order – CUA Press]

Beginning the week of January 10, all Lyceum Institute members will have access to a 13-week course in traditional Logic. Discussion sessions will be held twice per week: Mondays at 6:00-6:45pm and Thursdays at 11:45am-12:30pm (subject to change). Each week there will be an assigned reading, problem set, and brief lecture. Discussion sessions will cover both the reading and selected problems.

But why study traditional logic? Some will say it has been obsolesced by modern (symbolic) logic. Others will say that it is a frivolous activity used even less commonly in “real life” than algebra or calculus. Both are wrong: for though we do not break down our propositions and arguments into formal, syllogistic formulas, by a deep familiarity with their structure, their rules, and their application in natural language, we are able to recognize illogical arguments from others and to construct more logical arguments ourselves.

To quote our primary textbook, R.E. Houser’s logic as a Liberal Art:

The natural habitat of logic is the verbal and written language of ordinary human discourse, including the high-level verbal discourse that occurs in university courses.  The man who invented this approach to logic was Aristotle, who wrote the first textbooks in logic in the fourth century B.C.  The main reason why this approach is preferable for most people is that it avoids the two problems that have plagued the teaching of symbolic logic during its heyday and up to the present.  First, the verbal approach is clearly preferable for those who have math phobia.  The problems used in the verbal approach are set out in ordinary language, language that often contains clues that help us to understand the logic of verbal discourse.  Such clues, of course, are missing from the mathematical symbols used in symbolic logic.  Second, the verbal study of logic has the advantage of avoiding the problem of needing to translate back and forth between abstract logical symbols and the more concrete verbal symbols we call words.  While mathematical symbols do on occasion help us see logical relations… by using ordinary or “natural” language to study logic we can avoid the large headache of translating from the language of symbols to ordinary language, and then back again.  So we content ourselves with the smaller but real headaches involved in searching out the logic contained within verbal or natural language.

Houser 2020: Logic as a Liberal Art, xxviii.

This characterizes our approach to the Trivium as a whole at the Lyceum: striving to master language as a real and integral part of thinking. In our logic course, we will focus on affecting clarity in thought so as to better express it in words. I hope you will join us!

Learn more about Logic at the Lyceum

The Lyceum Institute offers courses in all three arts of the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. Together, they form a core of knowledge necessary to every educated human being.

Learn more about our approach at the links below.


Enroll

Trivium courses are included in every level of membership for the Lyceum Institute. See enrollment options here.

New Book – Linguistic Signification

Dr. Kemple has–at long last–finished his Linguistic Signification: A Classical and Semiotic Course in Grammar & Composition. Comprising twenty-six chapters and four appendices, this text is the work of two years concerted effort, but roughly a decade of thinking closely about the nature and function of language, particularly in light of the doctrine of signs–that is, semiotics. It is available in either paperback or hardcover from Amazon, or as a PDF to all Lyceum Institute members.

This book intends to serve one principal end: instructing students, of sufficiently mature mind, how to compose thoughtful and insightful essays in the English language. Accomplishing this rather specific end, however, requires a broad range of study: a study much broader than that comprised by a simple question of “how to write”. That is, we cannot write well unless we understand the instruments whereby writing is accomplished; or, to employ one of those instruments—the metaphor—the fruits of composition are nourished best through growing deep the roots of grammar. As we will see, this linguistic growth requires some knowledge also of logic and rhetoric: for although this book intends an introduction into the first study of the liberal arts, all three arts of the Trivium are nevertheless inseparably convergent in the flourishing of our natural human ability for linguistic signification.

We will combine some use of all the Trivium, however abecedarian our talents in these arts may still be, by the time we reach the final chapter. While we will draw upon logic and rhetoric, however, the focal study of grammar, as pursued in this book, forms not only the foundational but rather the central part of this non-trivial pursuit of the Trivium.

This aim is carried out through various readings, exercises, investigation of literature, philosophy, and more.

Trivium: Grammar – Fall 2021

Why study grammar? We might think it a basic necessity for young students–elementary students, perhaps into middle school–but of little importance by the time of high school, the competent student having gained the adequacy in composition and speech necessary to make him or herself understood to most persons in most situations. At most, an extended study of grammar seems to be for the aesthete or dilettante: not someone to be taken seriously.

Certainly, many who pride themselves on their study of the liberal arts do so out of pretension. But, in truth, a real study of the liberal arts–a study that seeks habituation in clear and deep thinking–suffers none of the pretensions which inhibit our ability to understand the world in which we live common to the typical person of today. At the foundation of such a study is grammar: for all the validity and soundness of logic, and all the persuasiveness of rhetoric, rely upon the structures of signification.

Thus, our course in grammar–which incorporates much from the paired arts of logic and rhetoric, especially as it aims also for the improvement of our abilities in composition–looks at these significative structures not merely in terms of rules, and correctness, but with an eye attuned to the reasoning which governs our linguistic systems.

The Trivium courses are available to all Lyceum Institute members. Enroll here. The Fall 2021 course begins 9/20/21!

Or see the Trivium: Grammar Page for more.

Elementary Latin Course

Traditionally, a liberal arts education in Western civilization has included the study of three arts (or intellectual disciplines) which are fundamental to the development of clear thought and communication. These arts are known as the trivium (Lt., ‘three crossroads’), consisting of: logic, or the art of correct thinking; grammar, or the art of inventing and combining meaningful linguistic symbols; and rhetoric, or the art of persuasive communication. A natural aid to learning these liberal arts is the study of a foreign language, such as Latin.

Besides the self-evident intellectual virtue of learning another language, the study of Latin has several central benefits. First, such study enables one to read and translate the sizable body of Latin writings, which spans over two millennia. Second, Latin is a language of fundamental importance to the development of Western civilization; familiarity with Latin enables one both to study other languages and to recognize Latin’s cultural, societal, and historical influence with greater facility. Third, study of Latin helps a student to learn, in terms of the trivium, the general principles of grammar and rhetoric.

To learn more about the course, download the syllabus. The live instruction portion of the course runs Thursdays from 6:00-7:00pm Eastern Time (US), starting 15 July 2021.

This course is available to all Lyceum Members. Enroll today and join in!

Basic Membership
$115
  • (or $10.50/mo)
  • -Access to Core Programs, including Latin Study
  • -Access to Lecture and Resource Archives
  • -Discounts on Seminars
  • and more!
Advanced Membership
$300
  • (or $30.00/mo)
  • -Everything in Basic, plus:
  • -Access to Advanced Research Resources
  • -Includes two Seminars
  • -Discounts on further Seminars
  • and more!
Premium Membership
$600
  • (or $60.00/mo)
  • -Everything in Advanced, plus:
  • -Includes Six Seminars
  • -Two user licenses
  • and more!

Study and Motivation

Why study anything? Mostly, we open the books because a possession of the knowledge contained therein is believed to profit us: either because it will gain us coveted credentials or because it will enable us in some practical application. Our motivation seldom comes from the thing-itself-studied, but rather from something extrinsic, something beyond the practice of studying itself.

Thus, absent that promise of something beyond, we seldom if ever find ourselves in possession of the motive to study. Perhaps we will indulge an intellectual curiosity: reading a “smart” book–something concerning economics, or politics, history, literature, even a book of philosophy–or listening to a “smart” debate, watching a “smart” television show or documentary, and so on. But most of this, if we are honest, is entertainment masquerading as some sort of “self-improvement” or “continued learning”. We may gain information from such endeavors, but we do not gain understanding.

Understanding is an act, a recursive process whereby we gain knowledge of a thing–whether presented to us directly or through information about the thing–to the extent that we no longer simply know about it, but know it, through knowing its causes. We may be very familiar with an object–say, a person with whom we live or work for a long time–but that familiarity is not yet understanding, properly speaking; for understanding entails an intellectual grasp which no quantity of familiarity alone can provide.

And yet, understanding is a natural good for the human being. Understanding begets a right ordering of ourselves toward the objects of our experience, and consequently an ability to help rightly order those objects as well. It is a good not easily earned and yet one which rewards without dissipation; a reward that does not pass into disinterest or out of fashion. Why do we not seek it more?

Simply, because the processes of education to which we have all been inured, which ape the right pursuit of understanding but perversely convince us of the worthlessness of understanding in and of itself. Certainly, study is tiring, and does not give us the immediate gratification of a cheap pleasure. But pleasure is always the consequence of an action; and, as doubtless we have all experienced, the pleasure derived from immediate gratifications wanes all-too-quickly.

Perhaps, if we are to gain the motivation which ought in some way be directive of us toward that natural good–indeed, the highest of natural goods–we need to unlearn these lessons.

Importance of the Liberal Arts

Today, many minds have been shaped by educational philosophies of base pragmatism that treat the individual as a worker to be shaped for social goals, rather than a person to flourish within society.  This is not to disparage the professions of STEM, of doctors and lawyers, or to discourage learning the ins-and-outs of computer technologies.  But these endeavors aim primarily at the perfection of productivity, in making good things other than oneself, rather than in making better one’s own being, one’s own mind.

It is in contrast to these modern pursuits that we find the traditional curriculum of any schools with a classical inclination, known as the liberal arts.  These seven courses—grammar, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, geometry, music, and astronomy—are called liberal because they free the mind and are called arts because they are tools for the mind’s interaction with the world.  Through extension, in the modern world, “liberal arts” has also come to comprise university education that includes instruction in philosophy, history, literature, classical languages, and theology, for these studies, too, liberate the mind (and build upon the liberation gained in the traditional seven).  This freedom consists not merely in the lack of restraint, but rather in an empowering: an uneducated person may lack any physical, moral, or civil restraints on his or her behavior, and yet nevertheless is not truly free to do many things, because he or she lacks the knowledge of how and especially why he ought to do them.  Conversely, with the absence of restraint, someone may do many things which result in a consequent lack of freedom: thus someone becomes a slave to the passions, to addictions, to thought-atrophying forms of entertainment, and to any object which may receive a disproportionate estimation of its worth. 

Distinctively human action—that is, the kind of action which belongs to human beings and no other animals—receives its specifically-human character from the use of reason; and reason is developed through learning.  Learning therefore needs also to be sufficiently broad in its scope: if someone studies one and only one subject for the whole of life, he or she will never develop a well-proportioned perspective on the fullness of human experience.  It is to this purpose that the liberal arts are applied: to provide a broad basis of education with which one can more easily grasp any subject, investigate any question, and seek every answer.  Consider the praise given its study by John Henry Newman:

Surely it is very intelligible to say, and that is what I say here, that Liberal Education, viewed in itself, is simply the cultivation of the intellect, as such, and its object is nothing more or less than intellectual excellence.  Everything has its own perfection, be it higher or lower in the scale of things; and the perfection of one is not the perfection of another.  Things animate, inanimate, visible, invisible, all are good in their kind, and have a best of themselves, with is an object of pursuit… The artist puts before him beauty of feature and form; the poet, beauty of mind; the preacher, the beauty of grace: then intellect too, I repeat, has its beauty, and it has those who aim at it.  To open the mind, to correct it, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exactness, sagacity, resource, address, eloquent expression, is an object as intelligible (for here we are inquiring, not what the object of a Liberal Education is worth, nor what use the Church makes of it, but what it is in itself), I say, an object as intelligible as the cultivation of virtue, while, at the same time, it is absolutely distinct from it.

1852: The Idea of a University, 90-91.

There is a fruitful distinction suggested by the phrase “Liberal Education”, as comprising those subjects not in themselves arts—as philosophy or literature, for instance—but which nevertheless contribute to the freedom of the mind.  That is, though we are here enveloped in a study of the liberal arts, our ultimate goal is for a liberal education—towards which the arts are innately ordered.  We ought to keep this ordination in mind, to avoid lapsing into sophistical pretensions resulting in a misuse of these arts.

The liberal arts attain this not through each becoming a monolithic subject studied unto itself, but as each is interwoven through the others; each must be understood as part of a greater whole to which it ultimately belongs and within which it attains its ultimate fructification.  To study the liberal arts, therefore, requires rejecting the myopic specialization characteristic of modern university study.  Conversely, it thereby allows us to be doctors, but not just doctors; lawyers, but persons, too; engineers, but also poets; scientists, but also men and women of faith and human sensitivities.