The humanities are vital for humanity 2

February 21, 2008

Some of the gloomy perspectives outlined in your article on the state of the humanities were not ones I recognise from the frequent visits I make to higher education institutions. This is an exciting and vibrant time to be a researcher or to teach in fields as diverse as history, philosophy, classics, literature or languages. For it is these disciplines that are helping us to explore the big questions of our time: issues of our identity, our values, our relationship to the rest of the world, how and why we believe, how we relate to new cultural forms and expressions, how we understand our past. Indeed, I would go so far as to say it is those very subject areas that help us to define what it is to be human.

The importance of these questions resonates far beyond the academy; people trained in the humanities are taking their skills and insights to policymaking, creative industries and all levels of education. Rich perspectives on this process will emerge in our 2008 task force on the impact of arts and humanities research.

Far from being "tangential" to modern life, the humanities are actually helping to shape it.

Philip Esler, Chief executive, Arts and Humanities Research Council

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