humanities, those branches of knowledge that concern themselves with human beings and their culture or with analytic and critical methods of inquiry derived from an appreciation of human values and of the unique ability of the human spirit to express itself. As a group of educational disciplines, the humanities are distinguished in content and method from the physical and biological sciences and, somewhat less decisively, from the social sciences. The humanities include the study of all languages and literatures, the arts, history, and philosophy. The humanities are sometimes organized as a school or administrative division in many colleges and universities in the United States.
The modern conception of the humanities has its origin in the Classical Greek paideia, a course of general education dating from the Sophists in the mid-5th century BCE, which prepared young men for active citizenship in the polis, or city-state; and in Cicero’s humanitas (literally, “human nature”), a program of training proper for orators, first set forth in De oratore (Of the Orator) in 55 BCE. In the early Middle Ages the Church Fathers, including St. Augustine, himself a rhetorician, adapted paideia and humanitas—or the bonae (“good”), or liberales (“liberal”), arts, as they were also called—to a program of basic Christian education; mathematics, linguistic and philological studies, and some history, philosophy, and science were included.Humanities