What use is humanities? Does it contribute to self-improvement? Does it maximize opportunities? Is it a means to a well defined end? Does it expand your career? Several recent books on the humanities note that the Stoic philosophers recommended that we think about these questions in negative terms. They recommended that we think about what would happen if we were to lose the abilities and assets that we currently have. In other words, recognize our individual limitations, focus on self-discipline and gratitude for our lives.
Humanities, to some a useless discipline, takes our attention away from our personal preferences and narrow concerns. Humanities cultivates insight into history, literature, visual art, music, multiple cultures, and philosophy. The returns on this knowledge may not be able to be predicted with certainty because the pursuit of arts and ideas for their own sake is always an experiment with life itself.
-Dr. Dorothea Olkowski, Program Chair
To see what inspires some of the faculty who are devoted to the humanities, read their impassioned statements here:
Humanities offers a look at the world and at things that happen in the world through so many more perspectives than most of us would have on our own. It features scholarship, but it also features the arts. It literally opens your mind.
-Dr. Rob Sackett, Department of History
The question, "who are we as human beings?" is perhaps the most important one that we can ask. The Humanities, like no other academic discipline, attempts to answer this question in the broadest, most comprehensive way imaginable.
-Dr. Jeff Scholes, Department of Philosophy
I study Humanities to figure out the best and deepest questions to ask, knowing that searching for the answers will be a lifelong pursuit. The Humanities also cultivate doubt, uncertainty, skepticism, and the desire to research further and more deeply, all the more important in an age of fake news and the constant reiteration of false claims.
-Dr. Paul Harvey, Department of History
In a rapidly changing, fragmented and often violent world, appreciation of our collective humanity makes us whole - able to understand and savor the rich depth of human diversity and experience. To the ancient Romans, and especially Cicero, the concept of humanitas included an education that instilled the virtues of character required to live an active and fulfilling life: dignity, integrity and temperance. The study of the humanities recognizes and informs the intrinsic value and infinite potential of each human being. It is a locus amoenus, where thinkers from many different fields engage each other to explore new ideas, and to awaken the minds of others to new viewpoints and modes of being. It is in creative thought that our true self lies, and vivid interaction with thinkers outside of one¹s field of expertise generates radiant creativity and innovation. The eminent George Steiner wrote that good teaching is an accomplice to transcendent possibility. The same may be said of an effective humanities program.
-Colin McAllister, Department of Visual and Performing Arts