The Humanities are abstract disciplines represented in academic institutions that focus on the observation of identity and the exploration of the question of who is human. The humanities are a dimension of thought that take on the task of defining humanity.
Essentially, the only difference between the two lies in their presentation of thought. Both are contingent on conceptual schemes and subjective truths. The question of how we assign human value is taught in the Humanities, but determined and challenged in the humanities. To define who is human, both, but especially the humanities, must define who is not human. However, because, again both are heavily subjective, “human” can mean whatever we want it to mean at any given time, so no definition presented in either study is safe from alteration.
Topics discussed in the Humanities and constructed in the humanities include:
- the rival categorization of the “human” or “Self” versus the “Other” and the injustices that result from it
- abortion. At what point does an entity have human value?
- whether being a “human” and being a “person” are the same. Is it possible to be a person without being human? For example, one may argue that a dog is a person if one defines a person as any sentient being that deserves moral consideration.
- the 3/5 Compromise. Given that it is not possible to be partially human, must the state of being human therefore be absolute?
- the necessary existence of binaries and how to handle them. Although absolutism and polarizing language are always dangerous, there is always an “Other.” One cannot think about dogs unless there is something that is not a dog.
- multidimensional humanity. Our Unit 1 readings of Amin Maalouf and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak address how the language surrounding identity creates unnecessary binaries and distinctions between social groups.
- the role of capacity for rational thought in defining humanity, explored in John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government.
- social hierarchy and inequality.
- who controls information and thereby decides who is human, as explored in our Unit 4 discussion of the social impact of the Hamitic Myth.
- the media’s influence on global perception, as discussed in our Unit 3 readings of Philip Gourevitch and Susan Sontag.
I have documented my process of developing these definitions, as well as the texts and conversations which contributed to it, in my notes shown below: