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Philosophy and Goals of the Humanities Undergraduate Core at Caltech

The mission of the humanities core is to offer Caltech students the conceptual tools required to tackle enduring questions that cross temporal, geopolitical, and disciplinary boundaries. Students will learn to engage with these questions in ways that are both critical and conversational: they will learn not only how to argue well but how to argue with–how to appreciate, respect, learn from, and respond to the ideas of others. These conversations engage not only the self and other people, but also the texts, art, societies, and traditions of the world.

Study in the humanities offers students a chance to reflect on the implications of scientific and other forms of knowledge over time and space, to challenge existing paradigms, and to understand the broader context in which they live and work. It involves unlearning assumptions about the individual, social structures, and human experience. 

Students in the humanities will learn to

  • Read actively, questioning and criticizing what they encounter
  • Fashion original and persuasive arguments, in writing and in conversation, based on the best evidence 
  • Challenge their assumptions about themselves and the world
  • Engage with archives and other source material
  • Express themselves in clear, compelling prose

With training in the humanities, tomorrow's citizens and scientists will be better able to communicate, critique, and innovate.

Learning to think like a humanist will also afford students the opportunity to understand better and thus experience more deeply the pleasures of visual, literary, intellectual, and cultural achievements from across the globe and across the centuries.

July 2020