The term liberal arts has long been connected with education. In colleges, there are liberal arts programs starting at the associate degree level and continuing all the way up to the graduate level. “Liberal” has many connotations, but what are liberal arts? How did they get their name, and why are they considered important in education? 

First, let’s look at the origins of the term “liberal arts,” which is believed to have first appeared in a work written by Greek scholar Cicero (106 B.C.-43 B.C.) and ultimately published as De Inventione (“invention” or “discovery”) in 1470 A.D. According to Merriam-Webster, the roots of the modern usage of liberal arts “can be traced to the Latin word liber, meaning ‘free, unrestricted.’ Our language took the term from the Latin liberales artes, which described the education given to freeman and members of the upper classes, and involved training in the mind (grammar, logic, geometry, etc.).”  

According to the late literary scholar and philologist Ernst Robert Curtius, the liberal arts are so named because they are “the studies whose purpose is not to make money. They are called ‘liberal’ because they are worthy of a free man.” To clarify, slavery was common in the Greco-Roman world, where these ideas first took root. 

Philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt made a strong connection between broad liberal arts knowledge and employment when he wrote: 

“There are undeniably certain kinds of knowledge that must be of a general nature and, more importantly, a certain cultivation of the mind and character that nobody can afford to be without. […] If this basis is laid through schooling, vocational skills are easily acquired later on, and a person is always free to move from one occupation to another, as so often happens in life.” 

Britannica explains that “in modern colleges and universities the liberal arts include the study of literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, and science as the basis of a general, or liberal, education.” Further, it describes a liberal arts curriculum as a “study of three main branches of knowledge: the humanities, the physical and biological sciences and mathematics, and the social sciences.” 

The Seven Liberal Arts 

From the Middle Ages onward, the liberal arts constituted the core of secular education. The liberal arts were made up of the quadrivium—arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music—and the trivium—grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The quadrivium arts were said to pertain to the mind, while the trivium arts pertained to matter. Together, these formed the seven liberal arts, which were considered essential fields of study. Formal education has since combined some of these into a single subject and added new subjects along the way. 

Liberal Arts Subjects as Part of a Humanities Degree 

A good liberal arts education provides a solid foundation for a variety of important and rewarding careers, with broad skills that can add value to virtually any role. A Bachelor of Arts in Humanities encapsulates what a liberal arts education is all about. Humanities is a multidisciplinary major that includes history, philosophy, religion, literature, languages, social sciences (such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology), and the performing and visual arts. This degree includes all the required core general education subjects of most degree programs, such as English, math, and life and physical sciences and incorporates culture (art, drama, music, humanities) as a key part of its curriculum. 

Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities Online 

The online Bachelor of Arts in Humanities program at The University of Texas Permian Basin can help you develop a variety of skills that will benefit you in your professional life and beyond, including: 

  • Communication 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Empirical and quantitative reasoning 
  • Personal responsibility 
  • Social responsibility 
  • Teamwork 

At UT Permian Basin, we offer an immersive, affordable online BA in humanities program that gives you a greater amount of flexibility than many other available programsYou don’t have to adherto fully prearranged path, but instead can follow your own pathOur online BA in humanities program enables you to choose up to two concentrations (a total of 24 credit hours of specialized courseworkthat align with your personal areas of interest, including: 

  • Art 
  • Communication 
  • English 
  • Spanish 
  • History 
  • Music 

Some other university degree programs combine one major and one minor, but this doesn’t provide the same experience. UT Permian Basin faculty advisors work with you to create an individualized plan of study based on a multidisciplinary theme, set of problems, specialization, period, or perspective.  

Benefits of Online Learning at UT Permian Basin 

Our online BA in humanities program is presented in a 100% online, asynchronous format that enables you to complete coursework at your own pace, at any convenient time of day, from any location where internet access is available. If you have career and/or family responsibilities to manage while you’re earning your BA degree, you’ll find this flexibility invaluable. 

Our program has six start dates per year, so there’s never a long wait to start your program once you’re admitted. These advantages enable you to complete your degree on an accelerated schedule. Program courses are taught by the same distinguished faculty who teach on-campus at UT Permian Basin. Upon successful completion of the program, you’ll receive the same respected Bachelor of Arts degree that campus-based students receive, and your diploma will not indicate that it was earned online. 

Experience the value of a liberal arts education for yourself with UT Permian Basin’s online Bachelor of Arts in Humanities program