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

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Introductory Works
  • Journals
  • Philosophy and Education Research
  • Political Philosophy and Education
  • Ethics
  • Philosophy with Children

Education Philosophy of Education
Chad Lykins
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0028


Philosophy of education includes the investigation of the ethical, political, social, epistemological, metaphysical, and ontological dimensions of education. Philosophy of education is certainly the oldest of the educational subfields, dating at least as far back as ancient Athens with its Sophists and their greatest critics, Socrates and Plato. The central challenge in philosophy of education is to produce insights that are relevant both to educational practice and philosophical theory. In some cases, philosophical theories are examined in light of their educational implications. In other cases, educational practices are examined in terms of their philosophical assumptions and implications. The challenge for philosophy of education is to contribute both into educational practice and philosophical theory. The pressure to balance these two demands continues to influence the professionalization of philosophy of education, its self-exile from mainstream philosophy, and its tenuous relationship with educational practice. The following bibliography serves as a portal through which readers can access some important figures and problems in philosophy of education. It focuses on Western philosophy, specifically philosophy written or translated into English. While this bibliography does not cover all work in philosophy of education, it does a good job providing interested readers and students with extensive guidance to many of the most influential thinkers and traditions in the field.

General Overviews

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Phillips 2008) and the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Siegel 2010) have terrific overviews of philosophy of education. Readers looking for a broad sampling of educational “thinkers,” many of whom count as philosophers, should turn to the two volumes Palmer, et al. 2003 and Palmer, et al. 2001. For a volume that gives overviews not just of figures but also of major concepts, readers should consult Chambliss 1996. Though the breadth of the 228 entries may overwhelm the novice reader while leaving the expert reader yearning for more depth, it successfully conveys the diversity of the field and includes many overlooked historical sources of philosophical insight.

  • Chambliss, J. J., ed. 1996. Philosophy of education: An encyclopedia. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 1671. New York: Garland.

    This hefty volume contains dense but readable coverage of an incredible range of thinkers and concepts. It is best used to answer casual questions and to stimulate further inquiry rather than for definitive statements on any given issue.

  • Palmer, J., L. Bresler, and D. E. Cooper, eds. 2003. Fifty major thinkers on education: From Confucius to Dewey. Routledge Key Guides. London: Routledge.

    The editors provide a series of entries on major “thinkers,” many of whom count as philosophers and philosophers of education. The juxtaposition next to religious figures, psychologists, and others makes for interesting reading.

  • Palmer, J., D. E. Cooper, and L. Bresler, eds. 2001. Fifty modern thinkers on education: From Piaget to the present day. Routledge Key Guides. London: Routledge.

    See also Palmer, et al. 2003, which contains many more entries on empirical researchers.

  • Phillips, D. C., ed. 2008. Philosophy of education. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta.

    Phillips gives a brief overview of the recent history and current directions of philosophy of education. He also gives a rather extensive bibliography of major works.

  • Siegel, H. 2010. Philosophy of education. In Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.

    Siegel’s introduction also includes a helpful bibliography and a useful narrative about the main problems in the field.

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