In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Epistemology of Education

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies
  • Epistemic Aims of Education
  • Intellectual Virtues And Education
  • Rationality, Critical Thinking, and Education
  • Understanding and Education
  • Knowledge, Epistemic Value, and Education
  • Knowledge-How, Expertise, and Education

Philosophy Epistemology of Education
J. Adam Carter, Ben Kotzee
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0292


During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, increasing overlap has emerged between projects in mainstream epistemology and corresponding projects in the philosophy of education. This is no doubt in part because epistemology’s focus has broadened far beyond the post-Gettier project of analyzing propositional knowledge; front and center on the contemporary epistemological agenda are philosophical problems associated with, for instance, epistemic value, understanding, knowledge-how, testimony, and intellectual virtue. Unsurprisingly, many of the epistemological problems associated with these notions have counterparts in educational theory. For example, just as epistemologists ask about our epistemic aims (aims we have from a purely epistemic point of view) so philosophers of education ask what kinds of cognitive goods and traits an education should aim at inculcating. Thus, the matter of what makes knowledge valuable to possess—just to take one example of many—is a matter that falls squarely within the purview of both epistemological and educational disciplines. This article aims to categorize and briefly summarize a range of such overlapping projects under the description of the epistemology of education. While textbooks and anthologies on the specific matter of intersections between education and epistemology are relatively scarce (though we have noted some examples), the literature in mainstream philosophy, epistemology, and education journals on the epistemological dimensions of education is flourishing.

General Overviews

Although there are to date no monograph overviews of the epistemology of education, there are several accessible papers that outline and engage with core issues at the intersection of epistemology and the philosophy of education. Robertson 2009 and Schmitt 2005, for instance, offer accessible perspectives on the epistemic aims of education, and Elgin 1999 argues that (contrary to one widely assumed picture) the epistemic aims of education should be framed in terms of the epistemic state of understanding as opposed to knowledge. Siegel 2004 outlines, in particular, some of the central epistemically relevant issues in the epistemology of education and connects these problems to recent work in social epistemology.

  • Elgin, C. Z. “Epistemology’s Ends, Pedagogy’s Prospects.” Facta Philosophica 1 (1999): 39–54.

    Outlines and challenges as implausibly demanding the received picture of teaching and learning captured by Plato’s Teaching Assumption, the thesis that since teaching consists in conveying knowledge, you cannot teach what you do not know.

  • Robertson, E. “The Epistemic Aims of Education.” In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Edited by H. Siegel, 11–34. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195312881.001.0001

    Argues that an understanding of the social conditions of knowledge production is crucial to facilitating the educational aim of fostering independent thinking.

  • Schmitt, F. “What are the Aims of Education?” Episteme 1.3 (2005): 223–233.

    DOI: 10.3366/epi.2004.1.3.223

    Argues that the aim of a liberal arts education is best understood as justified belief.

  • Siegel, H. “Epistemology and Education: An Incomplete Guide to the Social-Epistemological Issues.” Episteme 1 (2004): 129–137.

    DOI: 10.3366/epi.2004.1.2.129

    Attempts to connect social epistemology and the philosophy of education by arguing that many or most of the epistemological issues concerning education are or should be of great interest to social epistemologists.

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