Why study Humanities?

Some people regard university education as a tool to improve their vocational skills and ease the way to a prosperous career, some as a guide to shape their personalities and help them discover who they really are, and still some as a source to provide them with useful knowledge and transferable skills. University, in essence, proves to be the place to think. It offers students the ultimate freedom and time to think, and thus induces the power of thought. It is precisely for this reason that Humanities has been a crucial element of many university curricula for centuries.

Tracing back the changes in the definition, classification and scope of knowledge; one can observe that Humanities has negotiated its place among other disciplines with regard to whether cultural studies could go hand in hand with science. Yet today, we know that science and all disciplines with practical purposes outcomes exist as a result of human culture and its progress throughout history. Hence, understanding any discipline to the fullest correlates with how well-educated one is in the field of Humanities.


Outdoor Class with Dr. Nuri Eren

Humanities presents students with questions. So does science, which introduces students to the significant role of doubt and uncertainty in scientific inquiry. Thus science is a part of the broad cultural spectrum that we understand as humanities. In this regard, humanities encourages students to develop a sense of questioning, criticizing and seeking alternatives.  Humanities offers students the perspective to deal with multiple facets of an issue and while introducing a possibility of alternatives.  Instead of attempting to reach what is assumed to be true knowledge; Humanities offers a well-rounded understanding on texts that transformed, shaped and impacted the common cultural experience of humanity.

Historicizing what is believed to be novel, it brings forth an integrity beyond geography and chronology and thus poses the question of to what extent it is possible to divide knowledge into separate and distinctive units. Portraying how interdisciplinary and transcultural approaches can yield a common ground among people from different cultural backgrounds; Humanities enables students to connect the dots to see the overall picture, that is, the human existence and the experience of being human together.

Moreover, Humanities provides the students with the necessary skills to comprehend various subjects and concepts at any given situation, and further develop their analytical thinking abilities for both academic and practical purposes. It flourishes their communication skills, giving them the foundation to relate to complex social situations and empathize with the experience and sentiments of others. It teaches them to reason and make value judgments of their own, formulate an argument and defend it, disagree with each other when they are not in the same opinion and eventually agree to disagree.

The Humanities program at Boğaziçi is, therefore, designed to provide students with the tools to think for themselves, give them a fair amount of knowledge of the past and modern works so that they can assess the present, and instigate an open mind with which they can relate to other cultures and people before creating a value judgement. Prof. Geoffrey Lewis –a scholar of Turkish language from Oxford University as well as a former professor who taught at Boğaziçi University between 1959-1971– in a lecture said “a person may legitimately be described as educated when he or she knows whether or not to accept a given statement, when he or she does not automatically believe someone else’s opinions or what they read in print.” Ultimately, Humanities introduces a different kind of education that goes beyond the skills that any vocational training could provide: the seminal experience of lifelong learning.