On today’s show, Mystie and Brandy discuss the ancient Latin motto multum non multa – meaning, much not many. Applied to education, and somehow misapplied to education, we chat about who used the motto in reference to education, what they meant, and what this has to do with Charlotte Mason and The Latin-Centered Curriculum. We also bring up one of the great unmentionables: the dangers of taking a minimalistic approach to life and homeschooling.

Both applied and misapplied to education, Mystie and Brandy tackle the Latin motto "multum non multa" which means "much, not many."

 

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32 Responses

  • I really enjoyed the discussion on today’s episode! Thank you!

    I’m wondering how you two reconcile your take on multum non multa with Clark and Jain’s apology for the *seven* liberal arts in The Liberal Arts Tradition. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what they are presenting, but it seems like they are saying, “There are infinite arts to study. The classical canon limits this field to seven.” I had understood this to be positing that the limit of seven equals the “much” without the “many,” and refers to subjects rather than the quantity of books read, unlike the conclusion you seemed to come to today. Any thoughts on this to help enlighten me?

    Thank you!
    Emily

    • Ooh! Interesting question!

      I can’t speak for Mystie, but this is something I’ve been pondering a lot lately — this idea that arts and subjects are not the same thing. I think for a number of years I thought the seven liberal arts were seven subjects that needed to be studied — like they were a recommended curriculum for a seven period school day. 🙂 Since reading Quintillian’s assertion that grammar is the *entire* body of literature for a culture (so it includes history, poetry, literature, grammar proper, and much more), it sort of woke me up to there being more than meets the eye for the seven liberal arts.

      I have read a number of “definitions” of the seven liberal arts, and I’m not sure that there is one that yet sticks out to me as reconciling what I see when I read ancient authors with current practices. To me, Charlotte Mason seems to have done the best job by far, at least in the modern era.

      I will say that I think if the arts are viewed as kinds of things (sort of akin to subjects), the rotation among them would take us quite far in regard to Pliny — and look much like a Charlotte Mason classroom — with literature and math and science and geometry and music and such. But, like I said, I still don’t have a definition of the liberal arts that I find 100% satisfying!

      • Thank you, Brandy.

        I think this is the frustrating thing for me as I try to wade through all of this–there doesn’t seem to be consistency in definitions. I appreciate you taking the time to explain your findings!

    • Hi Emily – I just reread Ravi & Jain’s chapter on what the liberal arts are (they go with Aquinas’ formulation) and it is not that there are infinite but we have limited ourselves to seven. Rather, there has been a long tradition of calling out these specific arts as *the* arts of knowing, the ways of coming to an understanding of truth.

      In The Liberal Arts Tradition, Ravi & Jain distinguish arts and sciences. Sciences, in the classical and medieval understanding, are bodies of knowledge (more akin to subjects than our modern idea of science as empirical knowledge). Arts are ways of doing things. So you would study a science with an art – when you write, you are practicing an art, though the result of and reason for doing it is better understanding a science. Hence, the liberal arts are the tools of learning. Once acquired, the liberal arts were used to study philosophy & theology, which were called the “Queen of Sciences.”

      The Liberal Arts were never the be-all, end-all, either – which I am seeing myself as I read through The Great Tradition. Children were expected to have a physical and religious upbringing (gymnastic & piety) before beginning the LA, and the study of the LA was for the purpose of being prepared to study philosophy and theology. The liberal arts are *the* ways to come to knowledge. They are how we come to know. They are the tools of learning.

      Also, Ravi & Jain make a good case that “Grammar” actually encompasses not chants nor merely language grammar, but in the classical tradition would have included poetry, myth, religion, history, literature, geography – all the background a student needed in order to perceive and understand the world around him. We tend to think of all of those as separate subjects (many), whereas in the classical tradition it was all a rich and deep one (much).

      • Thanks, Mystie.

        I did understand their distinction between science and art, but I am still confused how the LA are distinguished from gymnastic and piety…I learn through the physical world and through my five senses, therefore, at least as far as I understand it now, I would consider gymnastic an art. The same goes for religious upbringing as described by piety. Why are these not arts? Or, maybe the question is, why are these not part of the *7* liberal arts. (As meant by the separation in the anagram PGMAPT)

        It was this quote that made me think the LA were chosen to limit the scope of a student’s education (not for his whole life, I understand, but for his formal schooling): “The exponential growth of information today overwhelms the student. The liberal arts, on the other hand, offered a particular canon of seven *studies* which provided the essential tools for all subsequent learning.” (p. 6) From this condensed description, it still appears to me that there is some real way in which the LA are “studies,” or areas of study. I do understand that this encompasses more than a literal 7 subjects, but still, it seems like these authors, after searching out the roots of Classical Education, are saying there is still a desire to limit the studies of the student. And here they are also linking that to quantity of information. If they only stand for “tools,” why would there be limits imposed on the amount of information or quantity of studies?

        I am grateful for any response you’d like to give, but there is no rush…I’m chewing on all of this!

      • I think the question about why gymnastic is *not* an art is a good one…and I don’t know the answer. 🙂 So…I sent a quick email to Ravi Jain. I have no clue if he’s available to show up to the conversation or not, but we’ll see…I invited him to come explain to us. 🙂

  • Hello, Emily! What an interesting question. I think the root of the issue is how knowledge is understood and integrated. In the classical tradition there is only one Truth, the Logos, the Incarnation, Jesus Christ.

    An art is a skill of truth perception. The liberal arts being the trivium which is grammar (rememveranceof who we are-hearkeningredients back to our creation and Christ the Truth), logic (rational understanding of our relationship with Christ the Truth), and rhetoric (loving our neighbor by public decisions based on our relationship with Christ the Truth) and the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, harmony, and astronomy) which is where man learns to speak the language of Truth and participate in the order of the cosmos.

    Since there is only one Truth not many truths, man learns much about the Truth.

  • Hi Brandy and Mystie,
    Thank you for the thought provoking podcast! During my recent pregnancy with my third baby, I cut back our homeschooling scope to the bare essentials. While that has served us with efficiency for a short period of time, I can see in my 8-year-old son that the minimal approach is taking its toll on his appetite and enthusiasm for learning. In keeping with your comments about learning through analogies and comparisons between different fields of study, his school work has become as monotonous as having the same thing for dinner over and over.

    Sarah Mackenzie’s recommendations for audio versions of great books eventually hooked me on the audio format. It has been a wonderful way to supplement our intellectual diets while more demands are being placed on my time. Somehow I find it easier to “re-read” audio books that deserve additional contemplation, as opposed to printed books. During a series of lectures on Augustine (with Professors Herzman and Cook via The Great Courses), this interesting point about books was brought up: It was considered an oddity in Augustine’s time to read a book silently to one’s self. I hadn’t thought about that before. Reading was traditionally done aloud. I’m not sure what prompted the shift to silent individual reading. Do either of you know more about that?

    Mystie, I am also a second-generation homeschooler and an INTJ. Now that I am following the “Schole Sisters” I am going to have to start writing and selling books in order to pay for all of these recommended books that are going on my wish list. Have either of you read Cicero’s work on friendship? I think it might be the next book I buy.

    I’ll definitely be tuning into your podcast when I get the opportunity. Thank you both.

    • Hi, Jessie! I’m glad you’re here. 🙂

      You know, I just interviewed Wes Callihan on Thursday for an upcoming episode, and he mentioned something very similar. He mentioned that someone saw — was it Anselm? — reading silently with his lips moving and thought it was bizarre. And then he, too, launched into the idea of reading aloud and its centrality.

      I do *not* know enough history to know what prompted the shift to individual reading, but I would be surprised if the invention of the printing press wasn’t at least a partial influence. I know that even in the 1800s, Charlotte Mason’s schools had books that were read aloud even when the children could have read for themselves, and the reason she gives for that is that the books were expensive or hard to find and so the schools only had one copy per class. Now, I think the merits of reading aloud extend beyond economic efficiency, but I’m thinking here mainly that reading solo wasn’t very practical before books were printed en masse.

      I also have not read Cicero’s work on friendship. What is the official title? You have gotten me interested! Do you have a translator picked out already?

      • Brandy,
        I’ll pick up the audio version “Selections from the Writings of Cicero” published by Tantor Audio, narrated by Robertson Dean. I don’t know who translated it. Recent changes in personal friendships have inspired me to seek definition on the topic, which will help me learn how to set healthy boundaries. I also want to help my kids learn how to manage friendships thoughtfully as they grow older.

      • Brandy,
        I had to look up Wes Callihan and found his bio on CirceInstitute.org. Sounds like he will be a fantastic guest! Can’t wait to hear your interview. I wonder what part of Northern Idaho he’s from. Everyone from here calls it “North Idaho”. I noticed that the entire staff from the Classical Learning Resource Center is from North Idaho also. My son is taking their Latin class this year.

      • I just tried to look up Wes to see if I could figure out where he is from and I couldn’t get more specific that what you already know. Total bummer. I was hoping we’d find out he was your neighbor or something? He runs a gap year program called Hill Abbey that looks intriguing!

  • Had to stop in the middle of your podcast regarding the dangers of minimalism and the question of whether there is scripture regarding cutting to the bare minimum – I immediately thought of the story of Jesus at Mary and Martha’s house. With regards to Martha’s busyness and frustration with her sister, Mary, who is sitting at Jesus’s feet, Jesus says, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

    ONLY ONE thing is needed from a scriptural perspective. On the other hand, I also believe scripture is not the only way to come to know God. I am also an INTJ and am much more persuaded by rational arguments and numbers, so I see God frequently when we study science and marvel at the intricate mysteries at work there.

    • I have gone around and around many times with this scripture. I’m not sure that this isn’t more of a heart rebuke — the Greek here is περισπάω (perispaō) which deals with Martha’s heart — it implies that she’s driven to distraction on the inside. I think we all know that feeling. 🙂 So it’s not so much the difference in the *actions* between the sisters, but the states of heart — we see Mary serving again in John 12, but she’s not freaking out, meaning she doesn’t need to be rebuked.

      It’s true, though, that Jesus says here that there is only one duty. But, again, due to the context, I still wonder if this is a heart issue — the one duty is the worship of God, which is what Martha was unable to do while she was frantic. I don’t know! It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? ♥

      Ps. it appears evident that I am surrounded by INTJs!! That’s okay, because I consider myself an avid collector. 😉

      • On the Mary and Martha passage, I wonder if the point of the passage is to essentially distinguish between time investment tiers. I was recently studying Elizabeth Grace Saunder’s book, “The Three Secrets to Effective Time Investment” in which she makes the case that each of us has a finite amount of time every day. Since our time is finite, we usually have to structure our use of time by covering the most important tasks first, then use our remaining time to work our way down our priority tier. However, she says there are different levels of ROI that we need to consider carefully before we plan how to invest our time. Some time investments have a high return, some are neutral, and some are negative. Spiritual development and education would be top tier investments. Neutral investments are things we basically get a 1:1 return on such as working out or doing laundry. Negative investments may be something such as taking a few hours to make decadent cinnamon rolls or watching silly movies. We get no notable nutrient return on cinnamon rolls and many movies are a pure waste of time, but these things make us feel happy for a short burst of time.

        The negative tier and the neutral tier can consist of GOOD things, and all of us need to spend a certain amount of our time in those zones. But you know, if the Eternal King of the entire universe happens to drop by for a visit, I hope I remember to put the dish towel down. This idea of accountability in investments is also played out in the parable Christ tells of the three servants who are entrusted with talents by their Master. Each one is given responsibility in accordance to his abilities. When the servant with the lowest abilities buries the talent, he receives a STINGING rebuke from the Master. Our time and attention are resources and we have a moral obligation to be perceptive and spend them wisely. I long to follow this advice, but confess to failing frequently. It makes me think of “ordering affections”.

      • Jessie!! ” if the Eternal King of the entire universe happens to drop by for a visit, I hope I remember to put the dish towel down” I laughed so hard I about spit out my coffee!

        And good point, of course. 🙂

  • Hi Emily,

    Brandy mentioned your question to me and I too thought it was a good one (as are many others on this thread). Gymnastic and piety are not considered arts because they are begun in imitation, obedience, and the affections and do not emphasize the active role of reason (as ratio). Augustine says that an art is imitation joined with reason (see note 53 in LAT). In 1 Timothy, Paul says “Bodily exercises [Gymnasia somatike] are good, but exercises unto piety (godliness) [gymnaze de seauton pros eusebeian] are much better.” The Greek text uses the word gymnasia from which we get the English word gymnastic. God calls Christians to train their bodies for the good of their souls. But we often call this spiritual discipline.

    It does seem that there are arts ordained to the works of the body and those are called the common arts or arts of service. They are named differently in the tradition as Aquinas says ‘servile arts’, Aristotle says ‘vulgar arts’, Hugh of St. Victor says ‘mechanical arts’ and the US constitution says, ‘useful arts’. But these are when the abilities of gymnastic cultivated in imitation become perfected through reason. It is when the expert blacksmith or archer has passed along not only his practices to the apprentice but also the reasons why his practices work. There is a post on Afterthoughts which explores the common arts a bit more if you are interested in how gymnastic flowers into the common arts.

    Piety is perfected into an art when studying theology, the study of Scripture and divine revelation with all of one’s mind–bringing every thought captive to the Word of God. As faithful obedience is brought together with the riches of understanding then it seems that piety would flourish unto an art. Wisdom unto Worship.

    I hope this helps. I love seeing the robust discussion you guys have here. The questions are great, and I love the depth and quality of the answers you guys are offering to each other as well.

    Thanks for letting me drop in,
    Ravi

    PS–I love the name of this post …’the real Multum non multa’…awesome Schole Sisters!

    • Hi Ravi! Thanks for dropping by. I really appreciate your comment here — I never noticed the use of gymnasia in I Timothy before — that is always fun. It’s like when I discovered paideia in Ephesians 6:4. It felt like a tiny miracle. You have given me a lot to think about…I think I will have to read this a few times. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for the time you took to answer my question! Unfortunately, your answer raises many more questions in my mind that I fear are departing too much from the topic at hand! I am coming to this discussion from an understanding of Charlotte Mason and am trying to wade through these ideas in search of points of contact between the two methods. I will keep reading and pondering. Thank you!

    • Oh, Ravi! One more question… In which work did Augustine define an art like that (imitation joined with reason)? I’m reading him right now {early writings} and wondering what I need to read to find it. 🙂

      • Hey Brandy,

        Augustine refers to an art as imitation joined with reason in his book “On Music” often referred to as “De Musica”. In our book, “The Liberal Arts Tradition” in the section on the “Seven Liberal Arts” we discuss Augustine’s notion of an art in footnote #53. If you look there, you will find the relevant passage.

      • Thank you, Ravi! I’m not surprised, but still disappointed that De Musica is not in my current book. On the bright side, this is an excuse to buy another book. 😉 I read all the footnotes in your book, but apparently I don’t remember that one! I will start there. 🙂

  • Really loved this episode and am also loving the discussion here. I watched Dr. Perrin’s webinar on Multum non Multa last year and took lots of notes; it’s a topic I have been pondering off and on since. Now I have even more to chew on!

    Also, I have to chuckle since I’m another (second generation homeschooler) INTJ. I think you have created a virtual watering hole for us. 😉

      • I’m curious Brandy, what is your Myers Briggs personality type? I don’t think I have ever come across so many INTJs in one place other than scanning INTJ-specific forums. I have read that we tend to be drawn to each other, so even though our type is rare it is not rare for one INTJ to know several others.

  • It is interesting to me that I have never met another homeschooler that follows A Latin-Centered Curriculum but on the rare occasion that I have come across someone who has heard of it, they rarely have anything nice to say. And to think, I am SO impressed with how well things are going with my little crew! I don’t follow it to the letter ( I do Right Start instead of Singapore Math and I decided to do history together rather than starting every child from the beginning independently) but we do spend the core of our day doing phonics/spelling, composition, math and Latin. Admittedly I do start the day with family devotions and poetry memory work and some beauty appreciation like a nice art print on the wall.
    I think the debate, though, comes down to what counts as SCHOOL. Campbell says specifically that he is limiting school to the academic, the development of the childrens’ minds. So, not that cooking and sports and light reading aren’t goods in themselves, simply that they are not school. When it comes to books, he specifically makes a distinction between study and other reading. So, we are studying Black Ships Before Troy this year extremely carefully, slowly, and for understanding and memory. We are also reading Grace Lin and we LOVE her books. But they aren’t school, they are fun! Campbell states in his book that limiting school to the types of skills and arts that need study and devoted and faithful practice leaves you time left over to spend enjoying things like reading. He recommends parents read aloud to the whole family an hour per day. He just recommends that you don’t treat a book like Little House on the Prairie as a topic of careful and close study like you would with Greek Myths as a child or THe Iliad as a teen. Honestly, as a philosophy it suits me, because we spend our school time on the things that my children would NEVER do of their own accord, say math problems or lifting a pencil, but leaves plenty of afternoons where they DO pick up books and read. (At least the literate ones. I still have two preschoolers.) Plus, I read a ton as a child, but I feel like I suffered in university because I did not know how to slow down and read a book like anything other than a novel. I want to rectify that with my children, but on the other hand, I looked at some of the classical programs out there and knew that I could cover that much material and read carefully at all. If I couldn’t why would I expect it of a 14 year old?

    So, I guess I can see how the phrase multum non multa could be abused, but I am the only person I know who does a Latin centered education fairly closely, and I don’t believe we are suffering for our muchness.

    • It sounds like Campbell is working well for you, for sure! I’ve never read the book before (as I said in the episode), but I have to say I agree that not all books should be treated like study books. 🙂

      My interest was that the philosophy wasn’t the original meaning of multum non multa. 🙂

    • You are not alone, Lena 🙂 I have used The Latin-Centered Curriculum since I started homeschooling 9 years ago. Although it is my base, I also pull selections from Ambleside Online and Mater Amabilis for our read alouds and morning basket or do some substituting. I tend to use the 2nd edition of LCC more, but most people I know prefer the 1st edition. The 1st edition is set up more like Highlands Latin School/Memoria Press. I think that traditional classical (not trivium as stages based) and Charlotte Mason are very much two sides of the same coin. Latin is perhaps more emphasized in LCC. But if you look at CM’s list of attainments for age 12, the Latin required to know grammar, be able to read fables and one or two books of Caesar would be pretty extensive.

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