(Latin: artes liberales; from liber, free)
Name given in the Middle Ages to those branches of knowledge which train the free man, in contrast with the artes liberales, those pursued for economic purposes. Their aim is to prepare the student for the pursuit of science, i.e., philosophy and theology combined, or scholasticism. Forming two groups, the liberal arts embrace:
- the tridium: grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic, or the sciences of language, oratory, and logic
- the quadridium: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music
The language branches are considered as the lower, the mathematical branches as the intermediate, and science properly so called as the uppermost grade of studies. This system, which was used by the Greeks, Romans, and ancient Orientals, was developed during the Middle Ages, and continues to the present time.