The humanities are a group of academic subjects united by a commitment to studying aspects of the human condition and a qualitative approach that generally prevents a single paradigm from coming to define any discipline.
While the precise definition of the humanities can be contentious, the following disciplines are generally recognized to form their core:
- Literature, literary criticism, and comparative literature
- The Classics:
- The study of religion
- Law and Jurisprudence
- Art, art history, art criticism, and theory
- Music and Musicology
- Cultural and Area studies
History, while also considered at times a social science, is one of the most prominent humanities in the United States as measured by foundation contributions, National Endowment for the Humanities projects, and National Humanities Centers fellowships.
Some expand the definition to include other studies of human life using qualitative description and analysis, including at large parts of the following fields:
- Through the humanities we reflect on the fundamental question: What does it mean to be human? The humanities offer clues but never a complete answer. They reveal how people have tried to make moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of a world in which irrationality, despair, loneliness, and death are as conspicuous as birth, friendship, hope, and reason.
Scholars working in the humanities are sometimes described as humanists, but this can be confusing, as it also describes a philosophical position (humanism) which some antihumanist scholars in the humanities reject.
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