What is philosophy of education?

School of Athens

School of Athens

What is the philosophy of education? It is the philosophical study of education and the problems surrounding it. Since the time of Socrates, philosophers and educators have discussed many issues which are trouble contemporary philosophers of education. What is the aim or purposes of education? Who should be educated? Should education depend on natural interests and abilities? What role should the state play in education?

Greek philosophers Plato, Socrates and Aristotle are among the major figures who laid the foundations of educational philosophy. They debated on different subjects in the past that are important for philosophy of education even now.

While teaching, Socrates engaged the others in dialogue. His method excluded writing, but focused on dialogues where series of questions are discussed by the teacher and the student until the analysis goes as far as both can take it. This way of teaching is known now as the “Socratic method.”

Plato’s way of teaching was tailored to create competent adults to meet the needs of the state. Through this functionalist model Plato developed his image of education in the context of the ideal state. His ideas suggest that there is no inherent conflict between the individual and the state. In Plato’s view educators could work to develop people who are useful to the state.

In Aristotle’s view, people had to be trained or educated according to their place in life. They should excel in their tasks and in line with their function. Aristotle believed that no matter if one is a leader, an artist or a housewife, they have their talents and virtues, but these features differ in every one of them.

Aristotle’s work is also interesting for modern educators due to his moral thought. Aristotle taught that children should be trained in morally appropriate modes of conduct. The model of moral education he established is widely popular today.

The ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 to 1778) are also attractive for present-day philosophers. He believed strongly in the freedom of the human spirit.

John Dewey (1859 to 1952) is also among the most influential names in the area of educational philosophy. Throughout his lifetime Dewey wrote many books and articles in nearly all branches of philosophy, including logic, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, ontology aesthetics, political and social philosophy and ethics.

For Dewey, philosophy of education was the most fundamental and crucial branch of philosophy, and all other branches were dependent on it. He perceived philosophy of education as philosophy of life. Dewey often put education as a synonymous of growth, though this view met a lot of opposition. He insisted that growth was the ultimate aim of education.

Others who devoted part of their work to philosophy of education include Avicenna, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Milton and Maria Montessori.

If you are writing a paper on this topic, you can find and cite high-quality, scholarly research in the Questia library, which contains the books and journal articles as well as magazine and newspaper articles needed to complete most college-level, core-curriculum course assignments.

Selected books and articles on Philosophy of Education

From Fallacy to Integrity: Dewey’s Call for a Philosophy of Experience
O’Neill, Linda. Journal of Thought, Vol. 41, No. 3, Fall 2006

Non-Western Educational Traditions: Indigenous Approaches to Educational Thought and Practice
Timothy Reagan. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005 (3rd edition)

An Educational Philosophy Guides the Pedagogical Process
Petress, Kenneth C. College Student Journal, Vol. 37, No. 1, March 2003

Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey
Joy A. Palmer; Liora Bresler; David E. Cooper. Routledge, 2001

Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education
John Dewey. Macmillan, 1921

Visit Questia’s topic page on the philosophy of education for more information. If not already a member, you can try Questia free for one day and conduct research into philosophy and education in our more than 75,000 books and 9 million articles.

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