What Are the Humanities For? Now in print

What Are the Humanities For? Book cover

What Are the Humanities For? Now in print

Willem B. Drees, What Are the Humanities For?, has now been released by Cambridge University Press. The book offers a reflection on the nature of the humanities. I understand these as the effort to understand others, as well as ourselves, through responsible scholarship. The book also argues for the relevance of the humanities. Firstly, we always live with interpretations (e.g. in the sphere of law and of religious and non-religious identities). And, secondly, the humanities are deeply human. We are not only material beings, but cultural ones as wel, reshaping our world through culture and technology. The humanities have economic and cultural value. They also have value for their own sake, as a human effort to understand humanity.

What are the humanities for? The question has perhaps never seemed more urgent. While student numbers have grown in higher education, universities and colleges increasingly have encouraged students to opt for courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) or take programs in applied subjects like business and management. When tertiary learning has taken such a notably utilitarian turn, the humanities are judged to have lost their centrality. Willem B. Drees has no wish nostalgically to prioritize the humanities so as to retrieve some lost high culture. But he does urge us to adopt a clearer conception of the humanities as more than just practical vehicles for profit or education. He argues that these disciplines, while serving society, are also intrinsic to our humanity. His bold ideas about how to think with greater humanistic coherence mark this topical book out as unmissable reading for all those involved in academe, especially those in higher educational policy or leadership positions. What Are the Humanities For? envisages the humanities as a diverse but coherent domain of scholarship. The humanities offer insight into others and oneself. Examples from theology and religious studies make clear why they are challenging.

Willem B. Drees is a philosopher of the humanities and of religion. He is a former academic dean and an elected member of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (KHMW). He twice received a Fulbright Grant.

Table of contents

Canine, Alien and Human Humanities: An Introduction

Part I. What are the humanities?

Chapter 1. The Humanities

Chapter 2. Understanding Others

Chapter 3. Self-involving: Philosophy and Theology

Chapter 4. Responsible Scholarship

Part II. Who Needs the Humanities?

Chapter 5. Professionals: How to Live with Interpretations

Chapter 6. Humans

Chapter 7. The Value of the Humanities