What are the Humanities?

The humanities are disciplines that study and curate the various expressions of the human mind and spirit. They tend to collect, investigate, and display the many creations of humanity, whether in the form of musical pieces, sculptures of brass and marble, styles of buildings and monuments, or the ideas that give the inner life purpose and meaning. Separate disciplines of the humanities include art history and musicology, language and linguistics -- including the study of foreign languages such as Spanish -- literary studies, philosophy and ethics, and religious studies. Many of these fields of study date back to antiquity. In many understandings, the Classics and the related disciplines of archaeology and history are also considered humanities.

The main purpose of the humanities is to further the research and interpretation of their respective foci, whether through the study of a language or an ancient religious sect. The cultural element of these studies makes the humanities appear similar to the social sciences, especially anthropology and sociology, though they differ in method and practice. Some would describe the difference between the social sciences and the humanities as the difference between explaining human phenomena versus understanding them. In any case, while the humanities may be more rooted in the method of literary analysis rather than the scientific method, they are undergirded by thoughtful principles that assist the search for patterns in the products of humanity across space and time. Thus, these fields are referred to as the humanities; they deal with all of the unique creations of human beings.

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Humanities Topics

Humanities Resources

There are thousands of resources available to those interested in the humanities. These courses range from high school level foreign language courses to college credit-awarding classes on philosophy, religion, and more. The resources provided by Study.com include not only courses for students studying the humanities, but lesson plans for teachers and tutoring services for students.

Humanities Subjects and Courses

Study.com offers many courses in many different branches of the humanities. These full-sized courses are made up of dozens of chapters that delve into every aspect of the chosen subject. Whether a student is looking to sharpen their English or foreign language skills, get into music or art history, or gain a greater understanding of philosophy and world religions, there are hundreds of lessons available for study today.

Humanities 101: Intro to the Humanities

This is an introductory course to the study of the humanities, offering a broad view of the disciplines that compose the field. The chapters inspect subjects from historical literature and music to architecture and contemporary novelists, giving a feel for the scope of research possible in the humanities.

Philosophy 101: Intro to Philosophy

This course is a college-level introduction to the field of philosophy, which poses and seeks to answer the fundamental questions of life. Through learning about the love of wisdom, students will build an appreciation for asking big questions and find the tools to think about them critically and logically.

Religion 101: Intro to World Religions

This is a college-level comparative study of religions from their origins and evolutions to their establishment as major worldviews. From the belief systems of Shinto and paganism to the major Eastern and Abrahamic religions, these lessons will serve as a foundation for further research in this field.

Spanish 101: Beginning Spanish

The Beginning Spanish course is the best place to start if one is looking to learn the language. The chapters cover the basics of Spanish conversation, from vocabulary and grammar to tenses and phrases, including the cultural context, and lessons with audio examples to guide pronunciation.

Spanish 102: Intermediate Spanish

Once one has a grasp of the Spanish language, these lessons will lead to greater fluency. This intermediate course focuses on the ability to carry on discussions in various situations, including conversations on politics, academics, daily life, the environment, and more, all in Spanish.

Humanities Test Prep for Teachers and Students

Humanities Test Prep

Study.com's study guides for humanities exams can help students seeking college credit and prospective teachers prepare for these important tests. These courses cover art, music, history, literature, philosophy, and politics in engaging ways to help promote learning and retention. Test-takers who take advantage of these materials will have a good understanding of what will be covered in the exams and be ready to succeed.


For teachers and parents

Humanities Lesson Plans for Teachers

Students are not the only ones looking to learn about the humanities. Study.com has created extensive lesson plans to aid teachers in incorporating this field into classes related to social studies and history. These plans and resources are centered on disciplines in the humanities and are designed to help teachers bring their students into the study of human arts, beliefs, and creations throughout time.

Lesson plans
  • Art History Lesson Plans & Projects

    Supplement your history course with these lesson plans on art history. Quizzes and project ideas are ready to help students learn about the great artistic movements of history, the great works of art, and the iconic artists responsible for them.

  • World Religions Lesson Plans & Resources

    Existing lesson plans for social studies or history classes can benefit from including a study of world religions. Quizzes and writing prompts keep students engaged as they encounter eastern and western religious beliefs and cultures through time.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the meaning of the humanities?

    The humanities refer to the various disciplines that study the expressions of the human heart and mind. These may be more utilitarian, like language studies, or more poetic, like art history.

  • What are the five humanities?

    The five humanities are linguistics and language studies, literary studies, religious studies, philosophy and ethics, and the arts, including art history. Each field studies the material and conceptual expressions of the human spirit.

  • What is the main purpose of humanities?

    The main purpose of the humanities is to further the study and interpretation of the creations of the human mind. These include ideas (philosophy), physical art (art history), the written word (literary studies), belief systems (religious studies), and more.