The humanities: The humanities is the study of everything that differentiates humans from other forms of life as we know it. In other words, it seeks to answer this question:
“What does it mean to be human?” This is an unimaginably complex question to answer, which is why the humanities are so important. Now that we understand the underlying question that drives the humanities, we need to figure out what exactly to look at with the intention of finding a solution to this question. Obviously, human cultures, societies, languages and arts are a good place to start. However, as we seek to understand every aspect of humanity, we need to dig deeper. We start asking more questions, exploring the underlying assumptions that provide the backbone of humanity, like “How do we know what we know?” or “What caused things to be as they are?” As these questions start to surface in the exploration of the humanities, more topics gain relevance. Philosophy, religion, and history, among many, many others, can help explain the original question “What does it mean to be human?” In all likelihood, we will never have a complete answer to this question. The human experience varies too greatly through time and location. However, the unattainable nature of the goal of humanities makes it even more worth studying; since it won’t ever be fully answered, there will always be more to find.
The Humanities: I struggled for a long time to answer this question, but came to the answer after I got home for winter break. Upon reuniting with my friends and extended family, I was bombarded with question after question about my college experience thus far. One recurring prompt was “What classes did you take this semester?” For two out of my three classes, the answer was simple: Calculus and Spanish. However, I knew that “Humes” wouldn’t mean anything to the majority of the people who were asking me about my classes. The following is roughly what I have been saying in order to explain what Humes is to my friends and family who are unaware of the course:
“Humanities, or Humes as we call it, is a year long, three credit course that broadly explores the liberal arts. This means that we study language, culture, history, society, philosophy and much, much more. This year, we have examined all of these topics while placing a special emphasis on revolution. This also counts as a writing requirement; so far we have written two essays, and we are required to write short posts every week. The structure of this class is non-traditional: a group of professors teach it, switching out every unit. This is great because each professor can teach what they know best, and it is fun to get to know more faculty members this way. This class is not only about the factual knowledge and writing technique. In fact, what really makes me love it is that it teaches us empathy; examining humanity throughout time and place gives us a way to view the world with a more generous mindset because it demonstrates the similarity between all humans.”