Humanities

The philosopher Plato – Roman copy of a work by Silanion for the Academia in Athens (c. 370 BC)

Humanities are academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture. In the Renaissance, the term contrasted with divinity and referred to what is now called classics, the main area of secular study in universities at the time. Today, the humanities are more frequently contrasted with natural, and sometimes social sciences, as well as professional training.[1]

The humanities use methods that are primarily critical, or speculative, and have a significant historical element[2]—as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences,[2] yet, unlike the sciences, it has no central discipline.[3]The humanities include ancient and modern languages, literature, philosophy, history, human geography, law, politics, religion,[4] and art.

Scholars in the humanities are "humanity scholars" or humanists.[5] The term "humanist" also describes the philosophical position of humanism, which some "antihumanist" scholars in the humanities reject. The Renaissance scholars and artists were also called humanists. Some secondary schools offer humanities classes usually consisting of literature, global studies and art.

Human disciplines like history, folkloristics, and cultural anthropology study subject matters that the manipulative experimental method does not apply to—and instead mainly use the comparative method[6] and comparative research.

Fields

Anthropology

Anthropology is the holistic "science of humans", a science of the totality of human existence. The discipline deals with the integration of different aspects of the social sciences, humanities and human biology. In the twentieth century, academic disciplines have often been institutionally divided into three broad domains. The natural sciences seek to derive general laws through reproducible and verifiable experiments. The humanities generally study local traditions, through their history, literature, music, and arts, with an emphasis on understanding particular individuals, events, or eras. The social sciences have generally attempted to develop scientific methods to understand social phenomena in a generalizable way, though usually with methods distinct from those of the natural sciences.

The anthropological social sciences often develop nuanced descriptions rather than the general laws derived in physics or chemistry, or they may explain individual cases through more general principles, as in many fields of psychology. Anthropology (like some fields of history) does not easily fit into one of these categories, and different branches of anthropology draw on one or more of these domains.[7] Within the United States, anthropology is divided into four sub-fields: archaeology, physical or biological anthropology, anthropological linguistics, and cultural anthropology. It is an area that is offered at most undergraduate institutions. The word anthropos (άνθρωπος) is from the Greek for "human being" or "person". Eric Wolf described sociocultural anthropology as "the most scientific of the humanities, and the most humanistic of the sciences".

The goal of anthropology is to provide a holistic account of humans and human nature. This means that, though anthropologists generally specialize in only one sub-field, they always keep in mind the biological, linguistic, historic and cultural aspects of any problem. Since anthropology arose as a science in Western societies that were complex and industrial, a major trend within anthropology has been a methodological drive to study peoples in societies with more simple social organization, sometimes called "primitive" in anthropological literature, but without any connotation of "inferior".[8] Today, anthropologists use terms such as "less complex" societies, or refer to specific modes of subsistence or production, such as "pastoralist" or "forager" or "horticulturalist", to discuss humans living in non-industrial, non-Western cultures, such people or folk (ethnos) remaining of great interest within anthropology.

The quest for holism leads most anthropologists to study a people in detail, using biogenetic, archaeological, and linguistic data alongside direct observation of contemporary customs.[9] In the 1990s and 2000s, calls for clarification of what constitutes a culture, of how an observer knows where his or her own culture ends and another begins, and other crucial topics in writing anthropology were heard. It is possible to view all human cultures as part of one large, evolving global culture. These dynamic relationships, between what can be observed on the ground, as opposed to what can be observed by compiling many local observations remain fundamental in any kind of anthropology, whether cultural, biological, linguistic or archaeological.[10]

Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, and cultural landscapes. Archaeology can be considered both a social science and a branch of the humanities.[11] It has various goals, which range from understanding culture history to reconstructing past lifeways to documenting and explaining changes in human societies through time.

Archaeology is thought of as a branch of anthropology in the United States,[12] while in Europe, it is viewed as a discipline in its own right, or grouped under other related disciplines such as history.

Classics

Bust of Homer, the most famous Greek poet

Classics, in the Western academic tradition, refers to the studies of the cultures of classical antiquity, namely Ancient Greek and Latin and the Ancient Greek and Roman cultures. Classical studies is considered one of the cornerstones of the humanities; however, its popularity declined during the 20th century. Nevertheless, the influence of classical ideas on many humanities disciplines, such as philosophy and literature, remains strong.

History

History is systematically collected information about the past. When used as the name of a field of study, history refers to the study and interpretation of the record of humans, societies, institutions, and any topic that has changed over time.

Traditionally, the study of history has been considered a part of the humanities. In modern academia, history is occasionally classified as a social science.

Linguistics and languages

While the scientific study of language is known as linguistics and is generally considered a social science,[13] a natural science[14] or a cognitive science,[15] the study of languages is still central to the humanities. A good deal of twentieth-century and twenty-first-century philosophy has been devoted to the analysis of language and to the question of whether, as Wittgenstein claimed, many of our philosophical confusions derive from the vocabulary we use; literary theory has explored the rhetorical, associative, and ordering features of language; and historical linguists have studied the development of languages across time. Literature, covering a variety of uses of language including prose forms (such as the novel), poetry and drama, also lies at the heart of the modern humanities curriculum. College-level programs in a foreign language usually include study of important works of the literature in that language, as well as the language itself.

Law and politics

A trial at a criminal court, the Old Bailey in London

In common parlance, law means a rule that (unlike a rule of ethics) is enforceable through institutions.[16] The study of law crosses the boundaries between the social sciences and humanities, depending on one's view of research into its objectives and effects. Law is not always enforceable, especially in the international relations context. It has been defined as a "system of rules",[17] as an "interpretive concept"[18] to achieve justice, as an "authority"[19] to mediate people's interests, and even as "the command of a sovereign, backed by the threat of a sanction".[20] However one likes to think of law, it is a completely central social institution. Legal policy incorporates the practical manifestation of thinking from almost every social science and discipline of the humanities. Laws are politics, because politicians create them. Law is philosophy, because moral and ethical persuasions shape their ideas. Law tells many of history's stories, because statutes, case law and codifications build up over time. And law is economics, because any rule about contract, tort, property law, labour law, company law and many more can have long-lasting effects on how productivity is organised and the distribution of wealth. The noun law derives from the late Old English lagu, meaning something laid down or fixed,[21] and the adjective legal comes from the Latin word LEX.[22]

Literature

Shakespeare wrote some of the most acclaimed works in English literature.

Literature is a term that does not have a universally accepted definition, but which has variably included all written work; writing that possesses literary merit; and language that foregrounds literariness, as opposed to ordinary language. Etymologically the term derives from Latin literatura/litteratura "writing formed with letters", although some definitions include spoken or sung texts. Literature can be classified according to whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and whether it is poetry or prose; it can be further distinguished according to major forms such as the novel, short story or drama; and works are often categorised according to historical periods, or according to their adherence to certain aesthetic features or expectations (genre).

Philosophy

The works of Søren Kierkegaard overlap into many fields of the humanities, such as philosophy, literature, theology, music, and classical studies.

Philosophy—etymologically, the "love of wisdom"—is generally the study of problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, justification, truth, justice, right and wrong, beauty, validity, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing these issues by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on reasoned argument, rather than experiments (experimental philosophy being an exception).[23]

Philosophy used to be a very comprehensive term, including what have subsequently become separate disciplines, such as physics. (As Immanuel Kant noted, "Ancient Greek philosophy was divided into three sciences: physics, ethics, and logic.")[24] Today, the main fields of philosophy are logic, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. Still, it continues to overlap with other disciplines. The field of semantics, for example, brings philosophy into contact with linguistics.

Since the early twentieth century, philosophy in English-speaking universities has moved away from the humanities and closer to the formal sciences, becoming much more analytic. Analytic philosophy is marked by emphasis on the use of logic and formal methods of reasoning, conceptual analysis, and the use of symbolic and/or mathematical logic, as contrasted with the Continental style of philosophy.[25] This method of inquiry is largely indebted to the work of philosophers such as Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Religion

The compass in this 13th-century manuscript is a symbol of God's act of creation.

New philosophies and religions arose in both east and west, particularly around the 6th century BC. Over time, a great variety of religions developed around the world, with Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism in India, and Zoroastrianism in Persia being some of the earliest major faiths. In the east, three schools of thought were to dominate Chinese thinking until the modern day. These were Taoism, Legalism, and Confucianism. The Confucian tradition, which would attain predominance, looked not to the force of law, but to the power and example of tradition for political morality. In the west, the Greek philosophical tradition, represented by the works of Plato and Aristotle, was diffused throughout Europe and the Middle East by the conquests of Alexander of Macedon in the 4th century BC.

Abrahamic religions are those religions deriving from a common ancient tradition and traced by their adherents to Abraham (circa 1900 BCE), a patriarch whose life is narrated in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, where he is described as a prophet (Genesis 20:7), and in the Quran, where he also appears as a prophet. This forms a large group of related largely monotheistic religions, generally held to include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and comprises over half of the world's religious adherents.

Performing arts

The performing arts differ from the visual arts in so far as the former uses the artist's own body, face, and presence as a medium, and the latter uses materials such as clay, metal, or paint, which can be molded or transformed to create some art object. Performing arts include acrobatics, busking, comedy, dance, film, magic, music, opera, juggling, marching arts, such as brass bands, and theatre.

Artists who participate in these arts in front of an audience are called performers, including actors, comedians, dancers, musicians, and singers. Performing arts are also supported by workers in related fields, such as songwriting and stagecraft. Performers often adapt their appearance, such as with costumes and stage makeup, etc. There is also a specialized form of fine art in which the artists perform their work live to an audience. This is called Performance art. Most performance art also involves some form of plastic art, perhaps in the creation of props. Dance was often referred to as a plastic art during the Modern dance era.

Musicology

Concert in the Mozarteum, Salzburg

Musicology as an academic discipline can take a number of different paths, including historical musicology, ethnomusicology and music theory. Undergraduate music majors generally take courses in all of these areas, while graduate students focus on a particular path. In the liberal arts tradition, musicology is also used to broaden skills of non-musicians by teaching skills such as concentration and listening.

Theatre

Theatre (or theater) (Greek "theatron", θέατρον) is the branch of the performing arts concerned with acting out stories in front of an audience using combinations of speech, gesture, music, dance, sound and spectacle — indeed any one or more elements of the other performing arts. In addition to the standard narrative dialogue style, theatre takes such forms as opera, ballet, mime, kabuki, classical Indian dance, Chinese opera, mummers' plays, and pantomime.

Dance

Dance (from Old French dancier, perhaps from Frankish) generally refers to human movement either used as a form of expression or presented in a social, spiritual or performance setting. Dance is also used to describe methods of non-verbal communication (see body language) between humans or animals (bee dance, mating dance), and motion in inanimate objects (the leaves danced in the wind). Choreography is the art of creating dances, and the person who does this is called a choreographer.

Definitions of what constitutes dance are dependent on social, cultural, aesthetic, artistic, and moral constraints and range from functional movement (such as Folk dance) to codified, virtuoso techniques such as ballet.

Visual arts

History of visual arts

Quatrain on Heavenly Mountain by Emperor Gaozong (1107–1187) of Song Dynasty; fan mounted as album leaf on silk, four columns in cursive script.

The great traditions in art have a foundation in the art of one of the ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Japan, Greece and Rome, China, India, Greater Nepal, Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica.

Ancient Greek art saw a veneration of the human physical form and the development of equivalent skills to show musculature, poise, beauty and anatomically correct proportions. Ancient Roman art depicted gods as idealized humans, shown with characteristic distinguishing features (e.g., Zeus' thunderbolt).

In Byzantine and Gothic art of the Middle Ages, the dominance of the church insisted on the expression of biblical and not material truths. The Renaissance saw the return to valuation of the material world, and this shift is reflected in art forms, which show the corporeality of the human body, and the three-dimensional reality of landscape.

Eastern art has generally worked in a style akin to Western medieval art, namely a concentration on surface patterning and local colour (meaning the plain colour of an object, such as basic red for a red robe, rather than the modulations of that colour brought about by light, shade and reflection). A characteristic of this style is that the local colour is often defined by an outline (a contemporary equivalent is the cartoon). This is evident in, for example, the art of India, Tibet and Japan.

Religious Islamic art forbids iconography, and expresses religious ideas through geometry instead. The physical and rational certainties depicted by the 19th-century Enlightenment were shattered not only by new discoveries of relativity by Einstein[26] and of unseen psychology by Freud,[27] but also by unprecedented technological development. Increasing global interaction during this time saw an equivalent influence of other cultures into Western art.

Media types

Drawing

Drawing is a means of making a picture, using any of a wide variety of tools and techniques. It generally involves making marks on a surface by applying pressure from a tool, or moving a tool across a surface. Common tools are graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoals, pastels, and markers. Digital tools that simulate the effects of these are also used. The main techniques used in drawing are: line drawing, hatching, crosshatching, random hatching, scribbling, stippling, and blending. A computer aided designer who excels in technical drawing is referred to as a draftsman or draughtsman.

Painting
Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, is one of the most recognizable artistic paintings in the world.

Painting taken literally is the practice of applying pigment suspended in a carrier (or medium) and a binding agent (a glue) to a surface (support) such as paper, canvas or a wall. However, when used in an artistic sense it means the use of this activity in combination with drawing, composition and other aesthetic considerations in order to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner. Painting is also used to express spiritual motifs and ideas; sites of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery to The Sistine Chapel to the human body itself.

Colour is highly subjective, but has observable psychological effects, although these can differ from one culture to the next. Black is associated with mourning in the West, but elsewhere white may be. Some painters, theoreticians, writers and scientists, including Goethe, Kandinsky, Isaac Newton, have written their own colour theories. Moreover, the use of language is only a generalization for a colour equivalent. The word "red", for example, can cover a wide range of variations on the pure red of the spectrum. There is not a formalized register of different colours in the way that there is agreement on different notes in music, such as C or C# in music, although the Pantone system is widely used in the printing and design industry for this purpose.

Modern artists have extended the practice of painting considerably to include, for example, collage. This began with cubism and is not painting in strict sense. Some modern painters incorporate different materials such as sand, cement, straw or wood for their texture. Examples of this are the works of Jean Dubuffet or Anselm Kiefer. Modern and contemporary art has moved away from the historic value of craft in favour of concept; this has led some[who?] to say that painting, as a serious art form, is dead, although this has not deterred the majority of artists from continuing to practise it either as whole or part of their work.