What Are the Humanities and What is their Value?

Chief JosephThe Idaho Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities define “the humanities” to include history, literature, philosophy, jurisprudence, cultural anthropology, comparative religion, art history and criticism, music history and other interpretive disciplines that through study yield wisdom.

It is through the study of these disciplines that we gain knowledge and understanding—in a word, wisdom. In the founding legislation for the NEH in 1965, Congress stressed that “Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens.” The humanities are a vehicle to understanding the human experience—the diverse history, traditions, and cultures of the world. It is only through this quest for understanding that we cultivate the wisdom and vision that democracy demands.