“ The humanities also ask several sorts of ‘so what’ questions:
So what does it matter?
So what is it worth?
So what good does it do?
So what do we do about it?
In essence these questions add up to the central question asked by the humanities: So, in the largest possible sense, what does it mean ?” (Kirscht and Schlenz 324).
Subjectivity and Interpretation “ Our arguments over our answers to such questions will involve our personal , collective , and subjective conceptions of the good (ethics) and the beautiful (aesthetics) as much as they do any objective truth” (Kirscht and Schlenz 324). “ Interpreting data gained by observation and experimentation is a critical element of research in science and social science disciplines; however, the quest for meaning in humanities disciplines frequently involves interpreting data not necessarily generated by scientific methods ….any and all artifacts and events produced by human individuals, societies, and cultures— including those of science —may potentially become objects of study in various humanities disciplines” (Kirscht and Schlenz 326).
Questions of Meaning “ Questions of meaning are complex and usually resist single, absolute answers. The same thing—a fact about the feeding behaviors of mollusks, an historic example of racial prejudice, or a poem by a famous author—may mean different things in different cultures and to different individuals within a culture. It may even mean different things to the same person at different times or in different situations . The meanings we find in facts, situations, and expressions are products of our interpretations and they may change as we change. Every interpretation of a thing is in some way only a part of the larger picture, a part perceived from a particular perspective” (Kirscht and Schlenz 328-9).
Broadening Awareness/Perspective “ We must learn to broaden our interpretive skills to include the fullest range of perspectives possible… Broadening our awareness and skills of interpretation —and thus expanding and enriching our understanding of our place in the broader human experience—is a primary pursuit of inquiry in the humanities.” “ As a knowledgeable interpreter with such increased awareness, you may also serve a critical function for others by translating your special knowledge into terms more readily understood by wider audiences ” (Kirscht and Schlenz 328).
Context Is Important Vincent Van Gogh. “Wheatfield with Crows.” 1890.