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The Work of the Humanities: Critical Thinking in Life and Labor

Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, University of Florida

View archived recordings of the series.

General Objectives of the Series

Today’s workplace is a rapidly shifting environment. Growing applications of digital technologies, telecommunication platforms, and robotics are creating new forms of worker interaction. The rise of a global marketplace is demanding new skill sets of employees and administrators, who seek information from multiple generations, races, and perspectives. And innovation culture comes with an atmosphere of collaboration, excitement, and uncertainty that tomorrow’s leaders must manage creatively and thoughtfully. What do all of these changing conditions have in common? They engage the core topics and competencies in the humanities.

The various disciplines in the humanities show us how to listen, how to analyze, how to argue, and how to navigate our social world. What can they teach us about the way that we work? We spend the majority of our days and nights performing various tasks of mental and physical labor; sometimes this is solely for compensation, sometimes it is for enjoyment. Without even thinking, we apply the core work of the humanities—the use of critical thinking to identify, solve, and appreciate problems both small and immense—in our daily labors. How might a higher appreciation the lessons of literature, philosophy, history, or religion to our daily work enhance that experience? Would it improve the quality of that labor? Could it at least add value to it in ways that we never expected?

For its annual speaker series in 2014-2015, UF’s Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere at the University of Florida has organized a nine-month speaker series that will explore the changing workplace from the perspective of several humanities disciplines. As these presentations will demonstrate, an active engagement in the disciplines of the humanities not only allows us to understand and adapt to those changes; it offers a way to initiate them. In addition to the labor that we do for compensation, the humanities can inform the way that we “work” at life. Those disciplines enhance our understanding and appreciation for what it means to be human in a world that is becoming more and more digitalized every day. And we should work at that task hardest.

This series is made possible by the Rothman Endowment and Yavitz Fund at the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with co-sponsorship from the UF Informatics InstituteSmathers LibrariesHonors ProgramCollege of Public Health and Health ProfessionsDepartment of Political ScienceDepartment of English and Phillip Wegner (Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar Chair)Department of PhilosophyDepartment of ClassicsElizabeth B. and William F. Poe Center for Business Ethics Education and ResearchPamela Gilbert (Albert Brick Professor)Center for Women’s Studies and Gender ResearchUF Research Computing, and the Bob Graham Center for Public Service.

Fall 2014

Spring 2015