Humanities Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

humanities modes human inquiry expression. Be address items paper: Define term humanities. Distinguish humanities modes human inquiry expression.

What are the 'humanities?' Why do they matter?

The word 'humanities' contains the word 'human' and thus interlinked with the definition of the humanities is the definition of what it means to be 'human' as conceived within academia. According to Stanford University, "the humanities can be described as the study of the myriad ways in which people, from every period of history and from every corner of the globe, process and document the human experience. Since humans have been able, we have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language to understand and record our world" (The humanities experience, 2013, Stanford University). These disciplines are very diverse but there is a general 'lumping' of non-quantitative fields under the broad 'tent' of humanities disciplines, even though mathematics is occasionally classified as a humanities field and academics from fields such as history and architecture use quantitative data to substantiate their analyses.

The humanities have come under recent attack in academia: many outside the field have complained that humanities majors do not generate workers who can fulfill current demand for employment in the STEM fields. "The prestige of the humanities is at an all-time ebb, partly because there is a public sense that the most profitable way of making a livelihood in the global era is through technology or finance" (Seervai 2014). The popular media tends to stress that humanities graduates in the fields of, for example, English and History, are less likely to find lucrative employment than graduates from the fields of chemical engineering. However, defenders of the humanities stress that there is still great value -- personal if not always economic -- in learning how to write well and think critically from a humanities perspective. "Scientific knowledge pertains to external reality, to that which lies outside us and is available for objective observation. Humanistic knowledge pertains to inner reality, to our experience of the world, to what reality feels like. Humanistic knowledge is subjective. It is not verifiable, or quantifiable, or reproducible. It cannot be expressed in terms of equations or general laws" (Deresiewicz 2013).

Sometimes the differences between the humanities and other fields of inquiry can seem very fine, such as the distinction between political science (a social science) and history (a humanities discipline). However, political scientists are usually concerned with how specific research affects the 'here and now' of political development and often construct paradigms to analyze present-day actions, even if the knowledge they use is based in the past. In contrast, history attempts to analyze how people from the past saw themselves and experienced reality using subjective elements (such as personal accounts from the period) along with more objective data.

Art is another example of how a humanities discipline may at times use technical knowledge but always has that element of subjective, impressionistic experience that makes it uniquely part of the humanities in spirit. An artist may need to understand how the human eye interacts with color, shading, and light and understand technical aspects of using various media. Having a sense of the history of culture and art is often important in terms of creating art that stretches current creative boundaries, just as Pop Art like Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup portraits simultaneously mocked commercial culture and aspirations of 'high art.' What makes art a humanity is its subjective reaction to…

Sources Used in Document:


The humanities experience. (2013). Stanford University. Retrieved from:

Deresiewicz, W. (2013). How does it feel? The American Scholar. Retrieved from:

Cite This Essay:

"Humanities" (2014, January 13) Retrieved May 29, 2020, from

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"Humanities", 13 January 2014, Accessed.29 May. 2020,