Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Humanities and Mental Health: The Value of Philosophy in Understanding and Securing Mental Health

Dr. Joan Whitman Hoff.

Philosophers, as well as other thinkers in what we call the Humanities, have long claimed that human engagement, community, and self-awareness are keys to finding happiness, contentment, and, essentially, achieving mental health. This view can be observed in the writing of thinkers cross-culturally, particularly those in Ancient Greek Philosophy, Native American Philosophy, Buddhism, and Feminism. Yet, with the increase in documented cases of depression and other "mental" illnesses, little, if any, attention is given to these ideas and writings.

In this paper, I examine some writings in these, and other, traditions, and argue for their value in the 21st century, by noting studies in psychology and education that help to demonstrate that the Humanities are essential to an understanding of the importance of community, human engagement, and self-awareness. They can help us achieve and sustain mental health. Moreover, humanities education can play an essential role in helping people to become more aware of themselves as well as realize the importance of engagement with others in the world. Further, they can help us to reflect upon the ways in which globalization and individualism can help or hinder the very things humans need to achieve mental health, and they can help us to gain insight into some of the ways in which people can empower themselves to achieve it.


Dr. Joan Whitman Hoff  (United States)
Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Lock Haven University Ethics Center, Coordinator of Women's Studies
Communications and Philosophy Department, College of Arts and Sciences
Lock Haven University of PA

Joan Whitman Hoff is Professor of Philosophy at Lock Haven University of PA. She received her Ph.D. from the American University in Washington, D. C. She is author of two books and over two dozen published essays.

  • Humanities
  • Philosophy
  • Mental health
  • Mental illness
  • Ethics
  • Community
  • Engagement
  • Happiness
  • Reflection
  • Self-awareness
  • Individualism
  • Globalization

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)