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:
- The Classics:
- Literature and literary criticism
- The study of religion
- Art, art history, art criticism , and theory
- Women's studies
- African-American studies
- Regional interdisciplinary fields such as East Asian studies and American studies
The contents of the humanities are nowhere particularly prescribed. Some expand the definition to include other studies of human life using qualitative description and analysis:
- 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 inaccurate, as it also describes a philosophical position (humanism) which some antihumanist scholars in the humanities reject.