The trivium, quadrivium, and blah blah blah

I’ve been reading Jordan Peterson, and finished his book Twelve Rules for Life. It was enough of JP for me, as at my age, there was not much new for me in it. As we age, we become wiser, learn from mistakes, even become more sympathetic to others and to different ideas. For instance, at age 38, having abandoned the Catholic faith, I was angry at the Church for having brainwashed me as it did, and thought people who were devoted to the faith to be of a lesser mind than me. Later I would read The Varieties of Religious Experience by the American intellectual/psychologist William James, and took on a new outlook. While religion would never appeal to me, those who experience religious enlightenment are experiencing real phenomena, and are made better and happier people in the process. (Oddly, I no longer have this book. It was a keeper, and I do not know what happened to it.)

I now look at my Catholic upbringing as a means of 1) brainwashing me, to ensure I stayed Catholic all my life, but also 2) as a means of protecting me, since teachers viewed most of us kids as having little enlightenment and intellectual ability. Life was going to be hard for us. Having a rudder, even if one based on superstition and falsehood, would not hurt. It would prevent thinking, but also prevent despair. Stupidity is a great insulator.

Peterson came out with another book, Beyond Order, Twelve More Rules for Life, and I began to read it. It had the same preachy tone, the same forgone conclusions and lessons already learned. It now resides next to me under my desk, in a gray receptacle. If anyone wants it, contact me before recycle day, two weeks forward. (I normally recycle old books by putting them in a bin at 2nd and Charles, a used book store, but when they offend me, as this one did, I trash them.)

Looking for something better to read, I sorted through my stuff, and came up with an unread book I acquired long ago, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric, by Sister Miriam Joseph (1898-1982). As most readers here know, the Trivium consists of grammar, logic and rhetoric. Sister Joseph reverses the order for the first two, logic first, and grammar second. If one thinks of teaching as approaching children with ideas appropriate for their age, then it would seem orderly to start them off with first-grade grammar. But if one thinks it further through, logic, the art of thinking, is an essential element of grammar, the art of inventing and communicating symbols. Both lead to rhetoric, the art of communication. It is a lifelong process.

Further down the road, students will encounter arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy. These four comprise the Quadrivium, and complete the seven stages of learning as used in medieval times. Many people believe that the Trivium/Quadrivium presents a rounded education, and all that students need be equipped with to get through this life. I doubt it. I would add yet another element, disputation, and beyond that, the Socratic method as a form of classroom rhetoric. And beyond that, I would introduce the recognition and study of propaganda, advertising techniques, and intense study of the principles of finance.

Disputation: A formalized method of debate used to uncover truth. We’ve all seen political debates, where the questioners are chosen from journalists known to be submissive to power, and where politicians prepare their answers long in advance of questioning. Such “debates” are really propaganda exercises. In a real debate, candidates would not face the crowd, but each other. They would not be allowed notes. They would probe one another with burrowing questions, making the opponent clearly define thoughts and ideas that give way to policies. In fact, a court of law is a forum for disputation. In theory.

Socratic Method: This means of dialogue, easily made part of disputation, used persistent questioning of ideas as a means of forcing students to think things through logically. Ideally, students  also pepper the teacher with questions. It is the searching for inconsistencies, contradictions (there are no contradictions, only faulty premises, said Ayn Rand, a truly useful bit of her otherwise overblown tribute to individual genius as opposed to group genius). Students can even expose outright lies. The process  eventually allows truth to blossom. That’s the idea.,

Study of propaganda: There is no reason why this subject cannot be taught in schools. It is a formal science with volumes written on its use and methods. Teaching it would allow students to become aware of it. Propaganda cannot stand light of day. It withers. It has to be carried on disguised as other things, such as “news” and “events” or “education”, leaving people to become “informed” by passively collecting impressions, which are usually false. Edward Bernays in the early 20th Century published a book called, oddly, Propaganda, which should be on every high school curriculum, and from which I take the following words:

“No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or especially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by group leaders in who it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and clichés and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.”

Were it known how little our leaders value our opinions, or of how their only objective is “manipulation of public opinion,” then we might turn out smarter students who might even be capable of recognizing and resisting … propaganda. All hail Covid, nothing more than agitation propaganda, no underlying reality. Hardly anyone is capable of seeing through it.

Advertising techniques: Advertising is but a branch of propaganda, but one worthy of study. Like propaganda itself, I do not think that the techniques and secrets of advertising are taught in any formal setting, but are rather learned on the job. Advertisers learn something also from Bernays’ book, that the group mind is different from the individual mind, and that individuals are but part of  a herd. People are layered as well, with the outer person not the object of ads. It is the inner person, the one who lies to others and covets his neighbor’s goods and wife, who imagines himself smarter than everyone around – he is the object of advertising. If advertisers do not reach that person they won’t be selling many tacos or Toyotas. The beating heart of advertising is behavioral psychology.

Finance: This is a personal peeve of mine. As a tax preparer I was once foolish enough to point out to people that they were paying far more tax than they knew about, that the hidden and revealed part of the Social Security tax combined usually exceeded their regular income tax. The response: “How much is my refund?” I gave up. I left them as dumb as I found them.

But my interest in teaching basic finance principles goes far beyond taxation. The beating heart of finance is called the “annuity.” That is a fancy word for a string of payments. If you are making a car or house payment, you are paying annuities to banks. The reason for the importance of this is that lurking behind annuities is compound interest. It eats people alive. People who do not understand compound interest are thrown bare-assed into the deep end of the pool. The most egregious examples are, of course, credit cards where interest rates exceeding 20% are not uncommon. At that rate, any accumulated unpaid debt will mount so fast that people resort to transferring their debt to a new credit card. It merely “compounds” the problem. Our society makes it so easy to spend, to have immediate gratification, that credit cards are our number one enemy.

But it gets worse: Seniors in high school are allowed to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to attend college. They are at an age where their brains are not fully developed, and anyway I doubt their high school taught them about annuities. They quickly become saddled with huge debts that it will take half or more of their career to pay off, that is, if they studied and excelled in a major that will lead to good income. But it gets worse: Student loan debt never goes away. They cannot bankrupt their way out of it. They are saddled for life.

The Trivium and Quadrivium are medieval concepts, but useful in teaching kids the basics of thinking. But we oversimplify if we assert that is all they need. They need much more, and I suggest our readers add that much more to my ideas above.

37 thoughts on “The trivium, quadrivium, and blah blah blah

    1. The best tax, from a government standpoint, is a hidden tax. If you look at your paycheck or W-2, you’ll see that 7.65% of your pay is withheld for Social Security and Medicare. But another 7.65% is “matched” by your employer. That cannot be. If your employer is paying an additional 7.65%, he has to set aside that money to have you on the payroll. No one can pay someone else’s expense. You are paying it, even though you don’t see it. So the total Social Security tax, or “payroll tax” that goes to the government is 15.3%. They claim it is for separate programs, Social Security and Medicare, but the money all goes into the same pot. They print the money. They simply want to keep you poorer by taking as much money from you as possible, better without your knowledge. They are sneaky devils. The object is to keep you on the edge of poverty, never comfortable.

      I’ve written about this stuff, the hidden tax, the deceit, the supposed “Social Security Trust Fund,” the word “Trust” a laugher, and will link tomorrow. My writing on this subject does not reach many people as the financial chicanery is done by experts, massive deceit, their specialty.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mark you pointed out that the hidden and revealed part of the Social Security tax combined usually exceeded their regular income tax, I didn’t see in the other articles how can someone get around it?


        1. The Social Security/Medicare tax (FICA) is an inescapable first dollar tax, that is takes fifteen cents of the first dollar you earn. You never see it again. Regular income tax offers exemptions and deductions, so you don’t actually pay tax until you’ve earned many dollars. Consequently, for most people of modest income, FICA is the primary and largest tax, and they are not even aware of it. That’s how government achieves its goals, by deceit and mirrors.


          1. I don’t understand what these (helpful!) facts about FICA, government deception, etc., have to do with your semi-sass, above, about leaving people as dumb as you found them because they just want to know what their refund is.


  1. I too read the Peterson book, and said so what, or actually “no shit.” However, like you, I too am a bit older than his target audience – I presume. He is an unrepentant male, and speaks the King’s English; two big pluses in this world of ambiguity and imbecility.

    I was much more angry at that bastion of deceit than you… I hated The Church (and I don’t use that word lightly), into which I was forced. I lashed out at whomever was handy. I too accept that many, many people gain from such blind faith. I still think they’re simpletons though, and have no patience for Ignorance is Bliss.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Finance. At its foundation, global finance,or any finance for that matter, is what was for centuries called usury. Usury is forbidden in the Bible, and in Islam, and was punishable by death in 13th Century England. The idea that wealth increases over time is myth, contrary to the laws of physics. So what happens, as is now perhaps the case, when the usury rate is set a zero, while “economic growth” has stalled or is headed in a negative direction? Usury makes financial destruction and eventual collapse a lead-pipe cinch. Simple math. Remembering the meaning of usury might be a good first step toward ending the racket of extorting/ensnaring borrowers who need loans to simply live.


    1. “Usury is forbidden in the Bible”

      And then to think the international banking cartel as we know it today that’s bleeding the common people dry started with the Knights Templar, a catholic order.


    1. Not sure I followed that. Maybe you can help – I regard the Trivium as a mechanical process wherein minds can be prepared to study any subject matter, and to resist charlatans, politicians, propagandists. Rhetoric based on sound logic would be the objective. Thomas seems to think we are preparing to burn witches. [I loved the Monty Python reference.]


  3. My university class on advertising and propaganda was the single best course I’ve ever taken. It was in France and in French so I could barely follow at the time, and still it was mind-blowing. I was told by the professor there would never be such a course in an American uni for undergraduates because there would be no interest in deconstructing a field they invented in such a ‘negative’ light. That was about 1989 and it has become common now in this country to study such things online, but it seems to be creating just another black/white division along political lines, when the entire point of this study should be to get beyond the politics. If I were a formal student now I’d study Ancient Greek and Latin, which I was strongly discouraged from doing in high school (offered Latin, not Greek) and now I think they will be phased out altogether. Even though I do not regret my Master’s degree and had a number of memorable professors, I would not advise it for most today. If I had to start over I would homeschool, which was something we laughed at when I was in school—for Bible-thumpers only, we believed. At my age (53) I love that I still love learning, but I don’t kid myself that I could take up Ancient Greek now. Myth, psychology, symbolism, sociology (social engineering) and all things Nature are quite enough to keep me occupied and deeply engaged for another 20, easy! It’s the best thing about aging, if you deepen into self-knowledge, your life path does become easier to identify and therefor easier to carve out.

    I really do not get the fascination with Jordan Peterson or Joe Rogan at all. Must be a guy thing??

    Liked by 3 people

            1. What ever happened to; “it is not the critic who counts; or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is Marred by dust and sweat and blood; Who strives valiantly; Who errs, who comes short again and again, Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; But who does actually strive to do the deeds; Who knows great enthusiasms, The great devotions; Who spends himself in a worthy cause; Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

              Liked by 1 person

                  1. I think the critic counts a great deal, especially today. We are having the critic bred out of us. Sorry souls follow the most pathetic of ‘leaders’ and even the most vile criminals. Those of stature are well-cushioned with armies of minions. To say half the truth is exalted, so starved are folks for the truth. The critics today are hardly critics of the established order, they are practically champions of it. How far one must travel for a true rebel with authentic cause these days!


                    1. How far one must travel may be out of our reach; But the “Homestead Happenings” are what it’s all about. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Jordan Peterson is standing up to the cancel culture, as I see it, claiming that there is no “patriarchy” per se, but rather just an order established by successful people. He’s become a demigod. I like much of that. I just find his writing preachy. If you want to have some real fun, given your last line, find the two hour Rogan/Peterson podcast. It’ll cost you sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I tried and I got nearly half-way through. Good enough to remind me. It’s not that I disagree with what they are saying, it’s just that it sounds to me like they are there to keep folks muddled in the matrix. Rogan sells himself as being very edgy, with the drugged out logo image and the entheogens and extreme sports, but he and the few interviewed by him that I’ve heard are ping-ponging still in the Marxist-Capitalist false dichotomy and promoting the notion that these ideas are still new and fringe when they are so very tired and played out, which is why they have to keep coming up with more and more absurd nonsense to keep folks coming back for more manufactured outrage. Like the pronoun thing as an example, which is brought up constantly, but has barely infiltrated the real world for all the hype it gets. They praise Bezos as some amazing business man when we all know they get to where they are by rigging the game, who they know, and then changing the rules when they get enough power so it’s tougher for the next guy. Tax codes that few understand except those who are willing to cheat to get ahead or care to juggle on the line of barely legal just to stay in the game. I find it terribly dull and repetitive and would rather shovel shit onto my flowerbeds, frankly. So, Peterson is spot on—men and women have different interests—amazing revelations!


  5. It would be useful in the education of finance to learn how much interest (usury) is included in the cost of goods and services. As pretty much all businesses have a percentage of debt in their cost of capital every participant in a supply chain must have their interest costs included in the price of an end product.
    For a loaf of bread that means the interest owing with the costs of buying a farm, cultivating a field, growing the commodity, harvesting, transporting, storing, transporting, milling, transporting, manufacturing, transporting, shelving, selling; and no doubt a few more steps I missed, including genetic modification and laws and regulations, between the earth’s bounty and the consumer’s by now sh1t sandwich.
    Multiply that by every function in an economy and we can see why the Temple Knights earned their place in history.
    No wonder the Evergreens got stuck – they were weighed down transporting all that interest load.


  6. Your taste and preferences in music are your taste and preferences in music. We all have them. Your attempts to get us to spend our time listening to your picks is a bit narcissistic. There are plenty of outlets for this. Please do not use my venue for this purpose. I have twice deleted the above video you think so important. You keep coming back with it.


  7. Wonderful piece, Mark. The state of stupefaction that prevails is a sight to see, a wonder of the controlled devolution of the mind that runs rampant, despite abundant plain-sight witness opportunities to question during these last 24 months; a mass menticide seemingly without consequence and with benefits for the architects. Siggy would be proud of his nephew Eddie.


  8. Mark already mentioned the most important aspect: the system makes sure, you’ll never get rich. And to make sure, you’ll never stop trying they show you Kardashians. That way you’ll always know how the rich people live and that you have to have it too. They will always find ways to take as much of your money as they can up to the point where you could decide to take actions. That’s what media does. That’s why after every major event new and old gate keepers come up to tell you exactly what you want to hear. The trick with the “employer-part” of your social security contributions is very popular in Europe. And it works. The employees around the world feel better knowing their employer has to pay for their “social security” too. They don’t understand, that it is still their money. We have our Kardashians in Germany too. They’re called “Die Geissens”. I like them. Nice people, hard working all the day to move their valuables from one corner to the other.


    1. Back during the Reagan/Bush I/Clinton era, there was this great clamor about Social Security, that it was going to go broke. Even today young people sigh and say “It won’t be there fore me.” There was alarmism, and the need to cut benefits. Finally. because they are patient, devious and disingenuous, they passed a bill that levied a tax on benefits, but only on the very wealthiest people. Later still they passed another bill that made 85% of benefits taxable., but only for the wealthiest people.

      The first law was passed in 1983, during Reagan’s second term, but did not take enough of a bite. The second law, signed by Clinton, hit hard, nailed us good. The Clinton bill is the only one that matters now, as 85% of benefits became taxable, but only for those making more than 25,000 (32,000 married). What I noticed at the time was that the thresholds were not indexed to inflation, even as the entire tax code is indexed. I wrote to my senators (I believed in politics at that time) to complain, and was greeted with silence. This was unusual, as they were set up with Autopen to answer all correspondence. I wrote again, crickets.

      Well, it’s been almost thirty years now since the Clinton bill, thresholds still the same, and virtually everyone except the poor is paying a tax on 85% of benefits, the net result to reduce benefits by maybe 13%, all they ever wanted to do back then. They could not push it through the front door, so brought it in through the back. The object? To “save” SS? To “rescue” the illusory Trust Fund? No. The object was to be sure that retirees never become too comfortable. It is to keep everyone on the edge of poverty.

      Taxes Part 2: The Tax on Social Security Benefits


  9. The “edge of poverty” is no place to be. Might as well drop down — slightly below the “poverty line” — and “qualify” for whatever government benefits are being awarded for accepting ward status. Little wonder the “underground” economy is thriving, and those petty local criminals are hunted down like stray dogs, while the criminals with off-shore numbered accounts are untouchable and un-taxable. What a game.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. From: Jesuits, Jews and Freemasons: Rhetoric of Conspiracy
    – Loïc Nicolas, Translated from the French by Mandy Hewett
    – In Diogenes Volume 249-250, Issue 1-2, January 2015, pages 75 to 87

    “…viewed as criminal and rejected by society, rhetoric is, it is believed, capable of drugging the senses and taking over the mind. [ ] the premise of Joseph Lequinio, a French revolutionary and deputy to the 1792 National Convention, seems to me to sum up the thoughts of all dogmatists of every persuasion and every era, dogmatists who fear the power of any word that is not their own: ‘What is eloquence? It is the art of deceiving people while making them love the deception, a sure way for conspirators to succeed, and the scourge of freedom’ (Lequinio, 1793, viii, ‘On eloquence’: 38).”


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