Liberal arts education (Latin: liberalis, free and ars, art or principled practice) can claim to be the oldest programme of higher education in Western history. It has its origin in the attempt to discover first principles - 'those universal principles which are the condition of the possibility of the existence of anything and everything'. The liberal arts are those subjects or skills that in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free person (Latin: liberalis, "worthy of a free person") to know in order to take an active part in civic life, something that (for Ancient Greece) included participating in public debate, defending oneself in court, serving on juries, and most importantly, military service. Grammar, logic, and rhetoric were the core liberal arts (the Trivium), while arithmetic, geometry, the theory of music, and astronomy also played a (somewhat lesser) part in education (as the Quadrivium).
Liberal arts education can refer to academic subjects such as literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical sciences, or it can also refer to overall studies in a liberal arts degree program. For example, Yale University offers a Bachelor of Arts degree, which covers the social and natural sciences as well as the humanities. For both interpretations, the term generally refers to matters not relating to the professional, vocational, or technical curriculum.