Humanities is the oldest area of study in the world, originating with the first considerations of human beings about who we are, where we come from, and what we ought to do. It deals with the fundamental questions of what it means to be human and what we value. Hence, the Humanities encompasses religious studies, ethics, aesthetics, and the relationships among the personal, the social and the political.
The Humanities analyzes how we encode our beliefs and how we transmit them. It includes: the writings that we regard as vital and significant; the myths through which we comprehend the world; the images we perceive as symbols and as interpretations of reality; and the music we listen to as a way of creating beauty and engaging the aural universe.
Various cultures use different modes of communication for conveying their fundamental questions and beliefs. The Humanities considers how various cultures interpret the world, and how cultures both resemble one another and are unique. The quest for knowledge and truth is something all cultures engage in and we believe they all have a serious contribution to make to our knowledge of humanity.
There are a number of benefits that may be gained through a study of the Humanities:
First, it provides the individual with an opportunity for personal development and the understanding of others. It asks questions about human nature, political and social values, and how we ought to behave. The analysis of important texts helps us to understand the human condition and why it is that we behave as we do. Indeed, the Humanities is very important in giving us an understanding of today’s world. It covers a broad scope of inquiry including: analyzing preventive war and the nature of colonial authority; understanding the role of women in society and gender relations; exploring the nature of sexuality and the morality surrounding it; or questioning the difference between what is and what ought to be which is at the centre of great protest literature, art and music.
Second, the Humanities teaches one about one’s own culture and those of many others. Through the Humanities, students can gain a deep understanding of their own backgrounds as well as knowledge of other societies. The Humanities asks cross-cultural questions in its attempt to find the best solutions to social or political dilemmas. Regarding ethics, it considers concepts and beliefs from a variety of sources, including those from aboriginal societies and the cultures of Islam, Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin-America. It often seeks the truth from those who are marginal to society, rather than from the pronouncements of those in power. From this perspective, madness might be considered a way of behaving which challenges established truths; the views of the poor, in the past and in the present, might differ from those of the establishment; and minorities might challenge old ideas and force a reconsideration of what we ought to be doing instead.
Third, the Humanities as a discipline focuses on the learning of critical skills, especially the analyses of texts and the development of skills to learn what is really being said by an author, painter or musician. Students in the Humanities learn to analyze and synthesize material and to write coherently, with style and grace. They learn research skills, and the ability to judge the validity of a variety of materials in an era when we are overwhelmed by information, some of it highly suspect. Students are taught to develop their own ideas and judgments and to make arguments that are clear and forceful.
Individuals who have majored in the Humanities are found in many professions because a wide variety of professions value the skills and insights developed in the discipline. They include: teaching, law, journalism, creative writing, editing, publishing, library studies, museum studies, information technology, film, television and the media, public service, business, civil service, and university teaching and scholarship.