demands? This was certainly attempted by several Arabic astronomers. Unfortunately, the more ingenious of these efforts did not reach Europe during the Middle Ages, although the Latin West did have a translation of the concentric system devised by the Spanish Moslem, Alpetragius (al-Biṭrūjī); however, this alternative was never a serious rival to Ptolemy.
So long as astronomical theory was dominated by the purported characteristics of a metaphysical entity--Aristotle's "first body," itself a hypothesis--the peculiar distinction between physical and mathematical astronomy was possibly the only resolution of the celestial dilemma confronting the Middle Ages. Eventually, after a period of slow erosion, this domination will vanish, and a fresh start will be made that will see the end of both the spheres of Aristotle and the epicycles and eccentrics of Ptolemy.
Our volume on the liberal arts during the Middle Ages has concluded with this survey of astronomy during the medieval period. One must stress here, as a final word, that throughout their long history, the liberal arts have always comprised an interconnected group of disciplines and have ever been considered preparatory for a definite and much desired end.
To the Greeks, who invented the body of studies called the liberal arts, they were an enkuklos paideia, an educational round or circle. Plato considered pursuit of the liberal arts as a necessary first step in his ideal system of education.
During the Middle Ages, the liberal arts, fixed at seven, still were an educational unity in the old Greek sense; their purpose now a preparation for the true understanding of divine Scripture.
Today, the conception of what constitutes a program of liberal arts has enormously enlarged with the inclusion of studies undreamed of by our ancient and medieval forebears. But our liberal arts programs still retain the ancient notion of an enkuklos paideia--do we not speak of a person trained in the arts as "well-rounded?" Today also, study of the liberal arts is still a preparation for a higher goal, a basic step toward the fulfillment of our human capacity.
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Publication information: Book title: The Seven Liberal Arts in the Middle Ages. Contributors: David L. Wagner - Editor. Publisher: Indiana University Press. Place of publication: Bloomington, IN. Publication year: 1983. Page number: 240.
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