The Humanities can be defined as the study of the human experience, which encompasses human thought and its products, and how it informs the present. One of the goals of this course is to define the humanities through studying the products of humans- whether it be the scientific contributions of Kant or the poetics of Paul Celan. In this study, we are instructed to analyze the works of those before us and compare them to the other historical pieces and to the present in order to gain insight on the human experience. We do so with an appreciation to past experiences and how they impact the present.
We study products of humanity in order to gain insight on what makes us human. When we lose sight of what makes us human, we revert to the “thoughtless evil.” One purpose of studying the humanities is to protect us against this banal evil through creating empathy with past human experiences.
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (New York, NY: Viking Press, 1963), quoted in Valerie Hartouni, Visualizing Atrocity: Arendt, Evil, and the Optics of Thoughtlessness, (New York and London: New York University Press, 2012)