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Characteristics of Humanities

Learn about applying the characteristics of humanities that particularly lie among the diverse heritage, history, culture, and traditions.

Humanities include studying and interpreting languages, literature, history, philosophy, ethics, and arts. It is the exploration of the human mind and its various expressions. 

Social sciences are studied alongside the humanities. These sciences comprise humanistic content and thus employ more humanistic methods in their research. Humanities aim to illustrate the prevalent diversity amongst our heritage, history, culture, and traditions. These disciplines, where imagination and memory are explored, inform us of the past and the path our future may be headed towards. 

Compared to the natural sciences, the empirical approach (research-based) is not employed in their research. Instead, speculative or critical methods – and also have an important historical element – are used.

Humanities study modern and ancient languages, literature, philosophy, archaeology, anthropology, human geography, history, law, religion, and art. Those who study the characteristics of humanities are called humanists. 

Characteristics of Humanities and its fields


The study of the “science of humans” is termed anthropology. Different aspects of the social and natural sciences are dealt with in anthropology studies. Where humanities focus on the local traditions through history, literature, music, and arts, anthropology provides a holistic account of humans and human nature. 


The study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of the cultural material is called archaeology. Artefacts, architectural, ecofacts, and cultural landscape records are included in archaeology studies. In simpler terms, archaeology is a branch of humanities that deals with social sciences. Various goals are included in this field, ranging from understanding culture and history to reconstructing civilizations. Studying this documentation of human societies informs our knowledge of the world. 


Classical study has had a great and strong influence on history, philosophy, and literature studies. The cultural and traditional study of classical antiquity, majorly ancient Greek, Latin or Roman cultures, are known as classics. 

Linguistics and literature

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Although it is generally considered a social science, it more accurately lies at the crossroads of social sciences and humanities. This is why it is often studied as a part of humanities. Language is used to create various forms of prose, novel, poetry, and drama, all covered in literature studies. 

Law and politics

Law is the discipline that involves practices, customs, and rules of conduct of a community. These rules are enforced by a government institution and are adhered to by the community. Laws dictate our behaviour and play a pivotal role in addressing the problems between various members of society. 

Politicians are the ones that create the laws that govern us. Thus, it can be said that laws and politics are closely linked together.  


Philosophy, meaning “love of wisdom,” is the study of fundamental questions, particularly those involving reality, nature, and existence; it is the study of the problem concerning thoughts, ideas, knowledge, beauty, validity, right and wrong, mind and language. The main fields of philosophy are logic, ethics, and metaphysics. 


History is the documentation and study of the past. By carrying out a criminal examination of the past and referencing several source materials (including artefacts, written documents, oral accounts), we can analyse the causes of many historical events and their subsequent effects. 


Theatre is a part of performing arts, mostly concerned with acting, but it also uses combinations of gesture, music, dance, sound, and spectacle. Compared to visual arts, where the presentation is done later, performing arts is very much in the moment and involves active participation. It’s a social-communicative art where the artist’s body, face, and presence of mind evoke certain feelings and emotions within its audience. 

What makes humans different 

Human characteristics and behavioural traits that make them different from plants and animals include: 

  • Humans are the only organisms that can grow and develop from their existing personalities and situations. They can improve upon their past selves for a better future self through their actions.  
  • Humans are also the only species that have been able to develop and train their brains according to evolution. 
  • Humans have a strong sense of belonging, i.e., they are social animals. This isn’t a trait common to all animal species (only some possess it), and no plant species possess it either. 
  • Humans are bipedal creatures. They have possessed the ability to walk on two feet for thousands of years. Plants can’t walk at all, and the number of animals that can do so is quite limited. 
  • Finally, humans can make use of tools for a wide variety of tasks. They fashion these tools themselves and employ them in their daily usage. Animals and plants cannot do the same. 


To conclude, humanities students study modern and ancient languages, literature, philosophy, archaeology, anthropology, human geography, history, law, religion, and art. The study of languages, literature, history, philosophy, ethics, and the arts are the social science aspects that have humanistic content. The application of the humanities lies among the diverse heritage, history, culture, and traditions. This article also discusses different studies such as anthropology, history, linguistics, etc.


Frequently asked questions

Get answers to the most common queries related to the UPSC Examination Preparation.

What is anthropology?

Ans. Anthropology is termed as the study of the “science of humans.” Both ...Read full

Concept of history in the characteristic of humanities?

Ans. History is the documentation and study of the past. Many historical events are looked at, their causes, and the...Read full

What are humanities?

Ans. Humanities study and interpret languages, literature, history, philosophy...Read full

What is theatre?

Ans. Theatre is a part of performing arts that are primarily concerned with ac...Read full

What is linguistics?

Ans. Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Although it is categorised as social science, separating it fr...Read full