As defined by the Ohio Humanities Council:
What Are The Humanities?
In its definition of the humanities, Congress includes:
Languages & Linguistics
History, Theory, and Criticism of the Arts
Aspects of the Social Sciences Which Use Historical or Philosophical Approach
Humanities, General and Interdisciplinary
The humanities are the stories, the ideas, and the words that help us make sense of our lives and our world. The humanities introduce us to people we have never met, places we have never visited, and ideas that may have never crossed our minds. By showing how others have lived and thought about life, the humanities help us decide what is important in our own lives and what we can do to make them better. By connecting us with other people, they point the way to answers about what is right or wrong, or what is true to our heritage and our history. The humanities help us address the challenges we face together in our families, our communities, and as a nation.
The humanities should not be confused with "humanism," a specific philosophical belief, nor with "humanitarianism," the concern for charitable works and social reform.
As fields of study, the humanities emphasize analysis and exchange of ideas rather than the creative expression of the arts or the quantitative explanation of the sciences.
History, Anthropology, and Archaeology study human social, political, and cultural development.
Literature, Languages, and Linguistics explore how we communicate with each other, and how our ideas and thoughts on the human experience are expressed and interpreted.
Philosophy, Ethics, and Comparative Religion consider ideas about the meaning of life and the reasons for our thoughts and actions.
Jurisprudence examines the values and principles which inform our laws.
Historical, Critical, and Theoretical Approaches to the Arts reflect upon and analyze the creative process.
As defined by Lyn Maxwell White, "The Humanities," in Handbook of the Undergraduate Curriculum: A Comprehensive Guide to Purposes, Structures, Practices, and Change, eds. Jerry G. Gaff, James L. Ratcliff, et. al. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997), 262-279.
Disciplines of the humanities such as philosophy, history, and literary studies offer models and methods for addressing dilemmas and acknolwedging ambiguity and paradox. They can help us face the tension between the concerns of individuals and those of groups and promote civil and informed discussion of conflicts, placing current issues in historical perspective. They also give voice to feeling and artistic shape to experience, balancing passion and rationality and exploring issues of morality and value. The study of the humanities provides a venue in which the expression of diddering interpretations and experiences can be recognized and areas of common interest explored. (263)