Welcome to Discovering the Humanities!
This text and the course that it accompanies are designed to help students develop three crucial skills that are highly flexible and transferrable. No matter your chosen industry, career, or academic pursuit, these skills are a formidable resource in any situation. They are:
Deep comprehension comes through thoroughly understanding both surface-level detail and information that is subtle, hidden, or encoded. It requires deep engagement with, not only the object in front of you, but also the context surrounding its production and the meaning that societies, cultures, and communities assign to it.
Critical analysis moves beyond deep comprehension to personally and subjectively interact with an object. It requires us to employ our agency to put pressure on the objects we face to test their integrity and validity. In addition, it demands our active involvement in forming unique claims drawn from evidence based on logical reasoning.
Once we acquire the skills of deep comprehension and critical analysis, meaningful contribution invites us to communicate our own claims, reasoning, and learning to others effectively and efficiently. In order to contribute to the larger dialogues within our communities and cultures, we must understand how to organize our thoughts and discussions in ways that persuasively communicate the significance of our message.
To accomplish this lofty goal, this book and course explore a series of dialectical tensions humans must learn to navigate throughout their lives. A dialectical tension is the space created between opposing but necessary principles, such as security and risk, compliance and defiance, and so on. Generally, to completely avoid these tensions requires us to live at an unsustainable extreme; the challenges of living only by being compliant or defiant are readily obvious. Instead, part of our human existence is learning to negotiate and renegotiate these dynamic tensions throughout our lives. In this book, each chapter is dedicated to one of these tensions, with an introductory essay followed by a series of works from the various disciplines of the humanities that engage with or expound upon it. Neither essays nor the selected works are in any way exhaustive or expansive but rather merely invite you into a larger dialogue with the rest of humankind.