Humanism and the Humanities

  • Georg Henrik von Wright
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 143)


It seems appropriate to start my talk with a few remarks about the two terms which occur in its title. Although both words, ‘humanism’ and ‘humanities’, have Latin roots, neither of them has a straightforward equivalent in classical Latin. Cicero uses studia humanitatis as a name for the intellectual pursuits best fitted for a gentlemanly education, or for developing what he calls a man’s humanitas. Reading the historians and the poets was a main ingredient of such studies. In 19th century Germany humanistische Wissenschaften established itself as a common name for the historical and philological disciplines. One also speaks of the humaniora, in English the Humanities. I think this a useful term. It has, it seems, no very firmly established connotation. Here I propose to use it for the totality of disciplines which study human nature and the achievements of man as a being capable of culture. Then it covers also the social sciences and the broad field of cultural anthropology.


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© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1980

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  • Georg Henrik von Wright

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