What is humanities? That is the first question every one of HUMsters would encounter when asked what class do we have. Let’s disintegrate the question “what is humanities?” into two parts: Humanities and humanities, which may shed light on answering this question.
The Humanities can be described as the study of how people process and document the human experience. Since human have been able, we have used history, philosophy, literature, politics, religion, science, art, music, and language to understand and record our world. Transferring these requests into questions, the Humanities ask: Who are we, and Where are we coming from? In this class, we focused our lens on Revolution.
The Humanities are a collection of facts dictated and originated from human experiences, which necessarily encompass human bias and incompleteness in perceiving history and facts. In attempt to derive objective description of the facts, the study of Humanities has to deal with subjective experiences. In Unit 2, Professor Robb led us to have a glimpse of “the truth,” which offers different perspective on dictating the human facts. The perceptive tools we use to gather facts are directed by human brain, which, so far, are still considered subjective behavior. This leads to the absolute presence of Subjectivity. Yet in todays society, we use science as a tool to describe and predict the world, which is an objective subject in the aspect of researching method. Objective, or subjective. Which is more accurate? Which one do we rely on the most while studying the Humanities? Is there a possibilities of multiple truth? How do we encounter different perspectives?
The humanities are collective thoughts that drives every human to figure out and act on the purposes of being human. In another word, the question “where are we going?” The humanities are forces, like gravity maybe, that drive us to think about what is the actual meaning of being human. This notion is very much connected to the definition of Revolution. The revolution are the processes we been through in the influence of the humanities. (It’s quite confusing for me because I think my perspective on being human is focused on social justice or social truth or human truth, but I think it’s a very different approach to look at the truth outside the topic of human. Speaking of Truth, there are more than one perspective. Still we need go back to Unit 2 to further examine this topic. I need to work on this later.)
Yet underneath the seemingly peaceful definition, there are intangible nature of humanities to explore. Let’s look at the materials we learnt during the course. In unit one, at the last lecture from Professor Quillen, we discuss the “The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)”, which encompass the fairest qualities one can think of. This declaration seems to be the product of humanities. Yet looking closer, it encompass such sentences like “all men are created equal.” What about women? Why people who share the same concept would discriminate colored people who are created equal? This horrible truth is demonstrated with more examples from Unit 3 and 4, where professor Tamura and professor Wills expanded on the topic of genocide and racial. These examples showed the intangible nature of the humanities that lead people from a justice goal to a dehumanizing result. Then there are more questions following up. How to define good and bad in the face of humanities? Are the collective thoughts “good”? How do we know? Who can correct them? Do all human share the common ground of purposes of being human? It seems there’s only one thing to be sure is that the humanities always exist and the act to figure out the purposes of being human always have value.
Some other disciplines solve problems. (Capital H) Humanities returns to the problem that can never be solved, but must be addressed again by each intellectual generation in its own way. Through the process, we hope that (Lower case) humanities can be renewed and even lead us some where.