humanities vs. Humanities
The humanities require a foundational understanding of the laws that of which make us human, and therefore we must abide by to preserve a common moral fabric. John Locke had an understanding of what makes us human, and the rights we therefore possess (e.g. the right to own the product of our labor). These rights, as John Locke outlines, are predetermined by the idea that we are all human. The Humanities study the formulation of these ideas and their effect on the people (the humans in humanities).
The Humanities is based off of a collective conceptual scheme, based on a set of established facts about what it means to be human and what that entitles one to. To understand the humanities, we have to understand the pervasiveness of the opposite of humanity. Personhood remains an essential part of understanding the humanities, and how one can still be human with humanity. Through exploring this concept, we gain understanding from antonyms, as they provide new meaning via relativity.
The implicit lines we draw regarding who is and isn’t human must be included in the definition of the humanities. The Humanities are exclusionary as much as they are inclusive.
The human body is unique and serves a greater purpose in our definition of the h/Humanities. Does our body define us as humans? Scientifically yes. Science has also been used to exclude people from the definition of a whole human (scientific racism). In Professor Tamura’s lecture on the importance of the body (11-7-19), she discussed the body’s role in uniting and simultaneously dividing us on the human experience. Scientific definitions prove limitary. How does our definition of the corporeal body validate the denial of rights to groups of people? The Humanities aims to answer this question. Relatedly, the subject of torture and the role of the body in division and unity is explored here.
And with the body comes its own non-verbal expression. Language is a barrier, and through Professor Bory’s unit regarding performance as a conduit for historical and political action, we overcome that barrier. “The archive,” I learned, was exclusionary as well, only acknowledging that with which was deemed valid and meaningful. An entire history has been shaped by nonfactuals, or the things that are excluded from the archive, so that the definition of humanities is not only what it is, but what it is not. The corporeal and temporal body has been excluded from traditional history, and with it, vast interpretations of a multitude of topics, stifiling a conversation before it can happen. How do the humanities try to incorporate these studies and right these wrongs?
What if we eliminate the person from our definition of humanities? What if we were to define humanities/the Humanities through its creations, its own undefinable ideas and thoughts? In reductionist and abstractionist art, what is tangible and knowable becomes unclear, and we are deduced to simple objects in a particular pattern on a particular surface, and meant to grapple with the meaning created by non-sentient objects whose only meaning comes from its human derivation. Professor asked us these questions and to explore the manmade divisions in the humanities and sciences, and how they overlap. The established idea that a human face must be comprised of a minimum amount of features to illicit an emotional response causes us to wonder how conceptual schemes of what a human is can easily be manipulated. A picture of a person can illicit an emotional response, but how is it a corporeal body cannot given certain circumstances? We must not shy away from these discussions.
Human suffering at the hands of a majority-lead revolution confounds our conceptions of right and wrong. During Stalin’s Terror, humans were seen as inherently deceitful, untrustworthy, and conspiring. This shift towards a negative, disposable understanding of people must be included in our definition of humanity, and therefore the Humanities. We must search for signs of personhood when the government fails to do so and reduce people to less so. Our ideas of humanity are malleable, as the Soviet Union party initially stood for the people, then slowly antagonized the very people they once served.
Finally, we define humanities vs. Humanities in a framework of public perception. In Professor Denham’s unit, we explore the extremist groups in a post- WWII leftist wing. Journalism and news media were able to shape our views of people, and so how they define groups and impart this information to the people is crucial. The humanities includes differentiating tactics from philosophy. Failure to do so leads to myriad misinformation and misconceptions.
For more on the multiplicity and limitations of definitions, visit Dr. Robb’s definition primer: here