Academic disciplines that study society and culture / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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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 defined as any fields of study outside of natural sciences, social sciences, formal sciences (like mathematics) and applied sciences (or professional training).[1] They 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, there is no general history of humanities as a distinct discipline in its own right.[further explanation needed][3]

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

The humanities include the studies of foreign languages, history, philosophy, language arts (literature, writing, oratory, rhetoric, poetry, etc.), performing arts (theater, music, dance, etc.), and visual arts (painting, sculpture, photography, filmmaking, etc.); culinary art or cookery is interdisciplinary and may be considered both a humanity and a science. Some definitions of the humanities include law and religion,[4] but these are not universally accepted. Although anthropology, archaeology, geography, linguistics, logic, and sociology share some similarities with the humanities, these are widely considered sciences; similarly economics, finance, and political science are not typically considered humanities.

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

Human disciplines like history and language mainly use the comparative method[6] and comparative research. Other methods used in the humanities include hermeneutics, source criticism, esthetic interpretation, and speculative reason.