Things Good, True, and Beautiful

The study of grammar, the first subject of the Trivium, is difficult–not to mention potentially tedious–but the benefits one receives from the study of grammar are great if difficult to detect. Grammar, vocabulary, and formal writing are like the rind, the shell, of a hard fruit such as a coconut. One must first pierce through them to get at that the fleshy fruit within: literature (the appreciation of good stories, poetry, song) and other intellectual joys which leap above the senses. Grammar is like a skeleton: it is hard, dry, and gathers dust if exposed just as bones does. Grammar is also like a skeleton in its good points: it supports and protects better things like muscles, bones, eyes, nerves, the other internal organs of the body, and, best of all, if one has it and it is functioning properly then one doesn’t see it or think about it much. Grammar is hard, dry, collects dust if left alone, it supports higher things like poetry, philosophy, literature, and speech-making; it also, is not directly seen in a person who has a healthy portion of it. Which of these do grammar, literary devices, formal writing, and vocabulary match up with or correspond to? They are true things. The Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude) and the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Love) are good things. The literature and poems you study are beautiful things. The philosopher Plato indicates the importance of good, true, and beautiful things in his works. The Apostle Paul in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippians does the same: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (KJV).  It is not easy to find one of these without the others. The study of the liberal arts such as history, literature, philosophy, poetry, et cetera is worthwhile when it helps people see truths about human nature and to approach their truly human selves more closely through grasping the good, the true, and the beautiful in the world around them. A robot does not benefit from these things and slave may not want them.

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