AC Grayling on studying the humanities

Professor A C Grayling | February 2, 2016

There are three great benefits in studying the humanities.

One is the intrinsic fascination of what the humanities teach us about the world, about ourselves, and about society. Understanding the hopes and endeavours of our forebears illuminates our present: that is the gift of history. Learning from the stories we tell one another about love and grief, aspiration, the experience and passions of others, life’s complexities and promises: that is the gift of literature.

Exploring, clarifying and evaluating our assumptions and beliefs, the ideas that shape our view of the world, and the systems of thought by which we live: that is the gift of philosophy. These studies throw light on our world, giving us both a wide horizon of view and a deeper and richer grasp of what matters in it.

_84A2749The second is that these studies constitute an unparalleled training of the mind, which happens almost effortlessly as one goes through the intellectual adventure itself.

To think with clarity, acuity and versatility, to acquire understanding with wide scope, to combine a breadth of knowledge with an ability to be precise and penetrating – these are the outcomes of an advanced education in the humanities, especially in the way that students and faculty here at NCH study them together, as colleagues in the enterprise, with the one-to-one essay-based tutorial as the gold standard for honing and deepening the powers of intellect.

The third is the platform that the humanities give us for life. A good degree in the humanities is a platform for setting out on successful careers in a wide range of fields, where the humanities-fostered qualities of mind are in high demand. But we are not just our careers: we are also friends and parents, lovers and travellers, voters, socialisers, holidaymakers, participants and contributors to much besides; and above all we are life-long learners facing constantly changing challenges – and opportunities – in a constantly changing world.

Studying the humanities is a platform to be good at all these things in all these ways, and thereby to be a true citizen of the world and its future.

Professor A C Grayling

Master of New College of the Humanities