The Trivium: the Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric

Book cover: 'The Trivium: the Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric'
Sister Miriam Joseph, C.S.C.
2 147 483 647
Paul Dry Books
Number of pages: 
292 pages

This little gem was used as a freshman college course after the author met philosopher Mortimer Adler and understood the importance of teaching basic language skills as the foundation of other learning. After some years of study, she put together this course in the Trivium, the three language arts -- of word relations (grammar), concept relations (logic), and composition (rhetoric). The result is a primer in Aristotle's Categories, a demanding course in logic, and a prerequisite to good composition. It is not, mind you, a course in grammar conceived as the study of commas, periods, and subjunctive verbs, though it might lead to insight into these matters. Not is it a course in "symbolic logic", the modern logic stripped of thought and studied simply as a form of mathematics. Rather, Sister Miriam offers a prerequisite to philosophy and writing, for this is a course in clear thought and the right use of language.

With all this, The Trivium is demanding, yet it is very accessible. Despite its original use as a freshman college course, it reminded me very strongly of my high school logic text, which, like this, was the work of an obscure nun who had studied Aristotle and wanted his clarity to form the minds entrusted to her care. I look forward to the opportunity to use it at the high school level.

Not only is the volume accessible, but one must delight in its literacy. The illustrations are taken from the great literature of western culture -- so the mind is always lifted. It is a pleasure to read, and study is always rewarding, because every step sparkles with beauty and interest as well as clarity. Many of Sister Miriam's examples were originally taken from great literature; her loving editor Marguerite McGlinn has taken the liberty of replacing those illustrations which were time-bound with even more good literature so as to move the book into its rightful place as a timeless resource.

For those who know and love Dorothy Sayers' little essay on the trivium, it may be appropriate to warn that this is not in any sense a resource for primary or middle school children.

Review Date: 
Reviewed by: