Humanities

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Giotto Donatello Duccio
Humanities

Giotto, Donatello, and Duccio

Hayden Maginnis: “In Search of an Artist” In the excerpts of “In Search of an Artist”,  Hayden Maginnis presents the situation of the “Giotto-not Giotto”

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Humanities

The humanities are disciplines that literally study humans. They look at how they move, where they migrate, why they leave and stay, how they communicate, how they develop culture, etc. As a field of knowledge, it includes several areas of scholarship including language, literature, history, philosophy, religion, art, politics and law. Within these frameworks are fields in which academic and professional careers are attainable. Ultimately, those interests revolving around society and culture land in these studies.

Interestingly, this field utilizes a multidisciplinary approach. Moreover, they rely on each other to further develop research and theories. Coursework at universities in this field often includes overlapping theoretical bases as well as requirements across multiple departments to provide a holistic approach to studying humans and their societies throughout history.

Of note, these fields are highly appealing to those interested in truly human endeavors like art, music, literature and language. These disciplines play a role in nearly every culture throughout history. Studying them allows for the identification of common issues, themes and ideas that span multiple eras and places. Humanities scholars not only aim to find these connections and expound upon them but develop critical reasoning, effective means of communication and unite broad areas of knowledge.

At Direct Knowledge, we look at four fields within this category: journalism, library science, philosophy and visual arts. These disciplines showcase great academic principles as well as professional opportunities.

Philosophy as the Original Humanities Discipline

One of the oldest areas of large-scale thinking and formal education, philosophy studies the grandest questions of life. Philosophers aim to resolve these fundamental questions on knowledge, existence, reasoning and value. However, many philosophers look to study a question of interest and compare the resolutions of multiple other philosophers in order to seek understanding rather than simply find a singular answer. For reference, here is a short list of the types of questions philosophers contemplate, discuss and study:

  • What is it to exist?
  • Do humans have free will, and what is that free will?
  • Is there truth, or what is truth?
  • If one can escape punishment, is it better to be just or unjust?

Some questions scholars in this field posit delve into religious understandings and contemplations. The ability to look at numerous cases of understanding and ethics makes philosophy one of the largest fields of study within the humanities. Moreover, it is also a foundation for many other academic focuses as scholars approach resolving these grand questions from different perspectives. What they share, however, is use of philosophical methods.

In discussing philosophy, it is important to focus on the approach to answering questions. Critical discussion, rational argument, the continuation of questioning and systematic presentation embody the methods taken to prove perspectives. As such, many branches of scholarship and thought derive from philosophical principles.

Practical Studies in the Humanities

Often, the perception of the humanities is that the field is theory-oriented. However, much of what is thought about, discussed in the written form or simply debated finds its place in practical fields. Knowledge, and how it is shared, is the true root of the humanities. As discussed on philosophy, the search for truth is inherent to humans and their pursuit for understanding. As such, putting that pursuit into practice is a necessary feat for societies.

Journalism

Although many look at journalism as simply “news” and television broadcasts, the field is actually quite large and encompassing. Journalists are, by trade, newsmakers. They seek to gather information, assess its implications and value, then create and disseminate this information to the public. Journalistic publications exist in several written forms or by television or radio broadcast. As such, this field of work is often considered a “whistleblower” field that enables the public to be better informed about political and social currents.

Journalism also holds a special place in democratic societies. Because it is an area within humanities scholarship, it takes root in several disciplines. Notably, journalism pulls from studies of culture (anthropology) as well as philosophy. As such, journalists are often plagued with tough ethical decisions about when and where to publish their findings. Moreover, their work plays directly into liberality in any given society and often marks whether a society operates democratically. In other words, the larger the role of journalism permits a more democratic political environment in which citizens have more information with which to make decisions or cast votes.

While the field often faces criticism, scholarship within it aims to identify ethical parameters for journalists, best applications for journalistic content development and links between media studies and other scholarship. Academically, it is still a fairly young realm of thought that continues to explore its own limitations and applications.

Library Science

Library scientists invest in many elements of managing not only libraries but knowledge generally. The field of library science is inherently multidisciplinary as a field in the humanities. Its practices and tools used for information management, information technology, data organization and more pull from multiple areas of scholarship. Plus, it takes into considerations multiple perspectives including how and where to disseminate information.

Studies in library science are believed to have begun in the mid-17th century. At that time, it was an accomplishment to simply establish a library to collect written works. Moving into the 19th century, scholarship had expanded greatly with numerous written works circling the western hemisphere, in particular. Melvil Dewey designed the famous decimal system, forging a new reason for library management and scholarship on information management. As technology continued to boom through the 20th century into the 21st century, data management became the apparent issue for library scientists. Today, there is a great amount of focus on access to information and working toward equity of dissemination.

Visual Arts and the Humanities

Painting, drawing, sketching, sculpting, photography, filmmaking, architecture — these are a few of the big-name visual arts. This body of scholarship and design encompasses the fine arts and applied arts. The distinction between these two is based on functionality: fine arts do not hold functional value, in the traditional sense, whereas applied arts incorporate decorative elements in designs intended for use.

The visual arts do not only study types of art, however. Scholars in the field often seek meaning from artists in addition to studying the methods used in the production of the piece. In this search for meaning and the emergence of interpretation, the field gains a large body of scholarship. Studies in the field will often argue over intent in a piece or interpretation of message from the artist.

For those who participate in the creation of visual arts, studying the world around them is critical. Regardless of the medium, artists who study visual arts and actively create them often draw from a specific source of inspiration. That source then represents an era, a culture, a place, etc. In the act of recording people and their worlds, the visual arts take root in the humanities.

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