From the Report of the Commission on the Humanities, 1980:
"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."
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
- Area 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: