What are the Humanities?


The humanities are the stories, the ideas, and the words that help us understand our lives and our world. They introduce us to people we have never met, places we have never visited, and ideas that may never have crossed our minds. By showing how others have lived and thought about life, the humanities help us decide what is important and what we can do to make our own lives and the lives of others better. By connecting us with other people, the humanities point the way to answers about what is ethical and what is true to our diverse heritage, traditions, and history. They help us address the challenges we face together as families, communities, and nations. As fields of study, the humanities emphasize analysis and exchange of ideas and may be interdisciplinary.

  • History and Art History study human, social, political, and cultural developments, as well as aspects of the Social Sciences that use historical or philosophical approaches.
  • Literature, Languages, and Linguistics, as well as certain approaches to Journalism and Communication Studies, that explore how we communicate with each other, and how our ideas and thoughts on the human experience are expressed and interpreted.
  • Philosophy, Ethics, and Comparative Religion, which consider ideas about the meaning of life and the reasons for our thoughts and actions.
  • Jurisprudence, which examines the values and principles which inform our laws.
  • Critical and theoretical approaches to and practices of the Arts that explore historical or philosophical questions and reflect upon the creative process.

The humanities should not be confused with “humanism,” a specific philosophical belief, nor with “humanitarianism,” the concern for charitable works and social reform.