[dropcap]I[/dropcap] was a tiny bit nervous about continuing this series through the latter portions of The Liberal Arts Tradition. There is a sense in which, while we are traveling up the tree, we are also traveling through an age range. And so, while piety, for example, is always necessary, it’s best to lay that foundation as early as possible. Likewise, the Trivium and Quadrivium come, at least formally, in the older years. I guess I was thinking that philosophy was for adults.
Part of me wishes I had read this section before I spoke at the conference last month. It dovetailed so nicely with my What’s Love Got to Do with It? talk that I could have quoted it liberally (and likely saved myself some time spent researching). And I was taken aback — how in the world did I miss that most important clue, lying in plain sight in the word philosophy itself?
This is my heart, you know — the idea that in order to truly know we must come to care. It’s been the driving thought for me this year. Naturally, then, this quote jumped right off the page at me:
[B]y joining philia (love) with sophia (wisdom) the ancients held together what we moderns often separate, namely, the seemingly subjective quality of love with the often objectified idea of truth.
It turns out philosophy is the ultimate marriage of knowing and caring, and I totally missed that before!
[T]he ancients understood that it is not enough merely to possess wisdom — as if one could in fact possess knowledge purely objectively or dispassionately — one must actually love it and pursue it from the soul.
And, of course, Charlotte Mason is right there in agreement, for she considered the level of care to be the ultimate test of an education’s success:
The Divisions of Philosophy
I had worried about whether Charlotte Mason would have anything to say to us in regard to this chapter, but my fears were completely unfounded. It turns out, she was totally tracking.
The Liberal Arts Tradition explains that philosophy is divided thus:
The area of philosophy devoted to comprehending the eternal and spiritual truths was called divine philosophy (its synonym was metaphysics). The branch of philosophy that pursued man as God’s image, both in his being and his relationships, was termed moral philosophy. Finally, the kind of philosophy devoted to exploring causes in the realm of nature, the world of God’s creation, was natural philosophy.
Turns out, these are Charlotte Mason’s three sorts of knowledge proper to a child:
First and chiefest is the knowledge of God, to be got at most directly through the Bible; then comes the knowledge of man, to be got through history, literature, art, civics, ethics, biography, the drama, and languages; and lastly, so much knowledge of the universe as shall explain to some extent the phenomena we are familiar with and give a naming acquaintance at any rate with birds and flowers, stars and stones; nor can this knowledge of the universe be carried far in any direction without the ordering of mathematics.
Her categories are more broadly defined, as you can see — and yet the parallel is striking. In both passages, we see the knowledge of God, the knowledge of man, and the knowledge of the universe. In Charlotte Mason’s passage, we see the categories as they apply to children, whereas with The Liberal Arts Tradition, I think we are seeing the more mature version — the version fit for the grown, or at least nearly so.
Either way, I was really excited to, once again, witness the philosophy of The Liberal Arts Tradition come together so nicely with Charlotte Mason. It is so refreshing to me to see a new education book reviving the ideal of love as a necessary companion of knowlege. I have read so many newish pedagogy and educational philosophy books, and while they may emphasize the importance of children “enjoying” themselves, they always miss the central importance of caring — of loving — when it comes to learning. I love that The Liberal Arts Tradition is paving the way for a revival of this old ideal!
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