By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Humanitas

What a great Latin term! You can certainly translate it with the obvious English cognate (a fancy term for a related word): humanity.

Again, the dictionary gives us material for thought:

"Humane or gentle conduct towards others, humanity, philanthropy, gentleness, kindness, politeness (syn.: comitas, facilitas, mansuetudo, clementia, opp. severitas; very freq. and class.)"

From the Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary, available free on online.

Catholics love to debate how to evangelize or how to engage the culture. Humanitas.
Republicans are analyzing why they lost the last election (of course, if they had won, there would be no self-examination). Humanitas.
People want to be loved and have real friends (I do not count the virtual kind--I get the strong impression that some people with hundreds and hundreds of Facebook friends really have few or no real friends). Humanitas.

It's very easy. The dictionary entry quoted above lists some synonyms for humanitas:
comitas/friendliness, facilitas/ease, mansuetudo/gentleness, clementia/mercy or compassion. The opposite to humanitas is severitas/harshness.

You were not made for severitas--either to impose it or receive it. So try humanitas!

By the way, this exercise is one of the unspoken benefits of studying a great language: the terms from another and, better yet, ancient culture force you to think. In the end, that is the end of all study: to think about life because the most important job that you'll ever have is simply to live.

(The charming public domain image below: "The Young Cicero Reading")