Think Humanities: Two Students look at a painting in the Cleveland Museum of Art


When we think about the humanities, we often think about academic disciplines such as art, classics, dance, literature, history, foreign languages and literatures, music, philosophy, religious studies, and theater. These disciplines share a common interest in exploring, interpreting, and expressing the experience of being human.

We also think of the humanities as fields that develop a broad array of valuable skills.

  • Collaboration: the process of thinking and learning together, often towards the goal of more fully understanding an issue, answering a specific question, or solving a problem. Even in a team environment, individuals do not always agree, which is why debate is common.
  • Debate: the critical exploration of varying opinions and ideas. It is best performed respectfully in an open, communal environment; or reflexively, as a test-driving of ideas through the labyrinths of your mind.
  • Respect: the act of treating your discussion partners as members of a shared community. When it appears likely that personalities or identities might clash, all parties should strive for empathy.
  • Empathy: the robust imagining of another human being’s culture and worldview. It requires courage and self-confidence. Empathy is particularly vital when you find yourself unable to readily comprehend someone else’s ideas or opinions. To be empathetic is recognize that we all belong to at least one community – to seek out and grasp our shared humanity.
  • Reflection: thinking deeply about an experience, course of study, concept, or relationship, with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding. It often arises from the best discussions, particularly those where empathy prevails.
  • Critical Thinking: the analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of information to challenge assumptions, identify biases, consider alternative perspectives, and construct new paradigms.