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Humanities Today

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The collection of disciplines referred to as the Humanities are a broad set of academic principles essentially defined as “anything that isn’t an empirical science.” This includes the classics, languages, law, history, performing arts, literature, religion, philosophy, and visual arts. Some disciplines, such as anthropology and linguistics, are considered to be a part of both the humanities and the sciences (Anissimov, 2010). On September 29, 1965, the Senate and House of Representatives enacted the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965 to promote progress and scholarship in the humanities and the arts in the United States as well as for other purposes (National Endowment for the Humanities, 2010). The purpose of this paper is to define the term humanities, distinguish the humanities from other modes of human inquiry and expression, and give an example of some of the humanities and explain why each example reflects current developments in politics, socioeconomics, and technology. In the Middle Ages, studies not centered on God were referred to as part of the humanities; therefore, early sciences and mathematics were part of the humanities. Today the sciences are completely separate and are divided into two main categories: Social sciences and natural sciences. Humanities differentiates itself from present-day sciences by following a non- scientific approach in that the scientific mode of inquiry, where the goal is to establish validated theories and scientific laws, does not apply. Within a historic and cultural context works of art, documents, text, or traditions are critically interpreted by experts in the field of humanities. Written texts are analyzed and validated by comparing them with other sources and then relate the materials that are presented. Materials from other disciplines have cultural, philosophical, historical, and social context; therefore, other disciplines are used to study a particular subject matter. The purpose of this critical study in humanities is to present details, to understand the subject, and to expose to society the importance of the subject. This differs from the goal of scientific study, which establishes a theory, by finding the relationship and shared values of a particular subject through critical investigation. By cultural exploration the humanities investigate the human experience through its disciplines. Art, music, architecture, philosophy, and literature are sub-fields of the humanities and reflective in current developments in politics, socioeconomics, and technology. Politics will always be reflected in the humanities. Political cartoons are always in existence, relating and catering to all political parties. In music, songs reflecting the dislike of war or a need for peace or justice are popular. An example would be Otep’s song Warhead that reflects the singers’ view on the Bush Administration (Jawanza, 2010). During World War II songs ranged from poking fun at Hitler to celebrating the Greek resistance to Mussolini’s troops. Fast forward to the Vietnam Conflict and the message reflected in the lyrics in a number of songs was one of protest. An example of how architecture is reflective in current developments in politics is the Ground Zero Memorial Building. The building, which would reflect the 9/11 tragedy and honor those who lost their lives in the event, is currently in a holding pattern because of individual political views. Linda Seger’s book, Jesus Rode a Donkey, is full of facts and philosophical ideas on the subject of Christ and in her view, why Republicans do not have the corner on Christ (Seger, 2006). Literature is host to the political novel, an example of which is Vineland by Thomas Pynchon. Vineland is a work of fiction reflecting the lives of the cast of political players during President Regan’s reelection. The socioeconomic status is another aspect of life that will forever be reflected in the humanities in a variety of ways. The design of one’s car to the newest model of cell phone is a reflection of how art affects the socioeconomic status. The slang and terms present in musical lyrics such as Paper Planes by M.I.A. reflect the ideas of a collective group as does the profoundness of personal lyrics present in the music (Lamb, 2009). In architecture, the size and design of homes continually changes to better suit recession and global concern. Philosophy is reflected in the discussions on race and culture to address the need of acceptance in an ever- changing society. Technology reflects the socioeconomic status by continually downsizing the appliances from a previous decade. Slimmer, more compact, and environmentally friendly are the trends of today. Because of technology art is no longer a paint and canvas or pencil and paper field. Art has become a world of high speed cameras, digital computer programs, and various devices that speed art up and make the process not only easier but also faster. In music, companies such as iTunes make it possible to download a song with the stoke of a computer key. Voice synthesizers add vocal cleanup as well as add a touch of flavor when applied to a song. Architecturally speaking, technology has improved the way designs are created and simplified the way most design work is completed (Stern, 2008). With technology, intellectual thinkers converge to discuss concepts of today’s society, making philosophical thought that much more enriching and encompassing. Literature has given way to the digital age using such devices as PDA’s and the Amazon Kindle to carry a multitude of books wherever one goes (Weisberg, 2008). From every period of history to every corner of the globe, humanities can be defined as the process and documentation of the human experience. Humans have used art, music, architecture, philosophy, and literature to understand and record how the world has evolved from the past to the present. Understanding the human experience allows individuals an opportunity to connect with those who have come before and guide those who will follow. Through the humanities one can have a view of the past and envision what the future has to hold.

References
Anissimov, M. (2010). What are the Humanities? wiseGEEK. Retrieved October 29, 2010, from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-humanities.htm
Jawanza. (2010). A Voice of Modern Revolution: Otep 66. HubPages. Retrieved October 29, 2010, from http://hubpages.com/hub/A-Voice-of-Modern-Revolution-Otep
Lamb, B. (n.d.). M.I.A. – Paper Planes. About.com. Retrieved October 29, 2010, from http://top40.about.com/od/singles/gr/miapaperplanes.htm
National Endowment for the Humanities. (2010). NEH’s Founding. NEH. Retrieved October 29, 2010, from http://www.neh.gov/nehat40/founding/legislation.html
Seger, L. (2006). Jesus Rode a Donkey. Adams Media.
Stern, R. (2008). How is technology changing architecture? bigthink. Retrieved October 29, 2010, from http://bigthink.com/ideas/2581
Weisberg, J. (2008). How the Kindle will change the world. Washington Post. Retrieved October 29, 2010, from http://www.slate.com/id/2214243/

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