An Introduction to Philosophy of Education

An Introduction to Philosophy of Education

An Introduction to Philosophy of Education

An Introduction to Philosophy of Education


This introductory text, now in its fourth edition, is a classic in its field. It shows, first and foremost, the importance of philosophy in educational debate and as a background to any practical activity such as teaching. What is involved in the idea of educating a person or the idea of educational success? What are the criteria for establishing the optimum balance between formal and informal teaching techniques? How trustworthy is educational research? In addition to these questions, which strike to the heart of the rationale for the educative process as a whole, the authors explore such concepts as culture, creativity, autonomy, indoctrination, needs, interests and learning by discovery.

In this new updated edition, the authors draw on the latest research in genetics to argue that education is uniquely human and is essentially what develops us as humans. Resisting modern tendencies to equate knowledge with opinion, and value judgements with taste, this book leads the reader into the business of philosophising and champions the cause of reason in education.


Philosophers sometimes refer to a ship that needs repairs over the course of a long voyage, in order to illustrate certain problems or questions about identity. The wooden ship leaves harbour and, while at sea, certain planks have to be replaced. A short time later some others have to be replaced; a few days after that, some more; and so on, until by the journey’s end all the planks that went to make up the original ship have been replaced. Is this the ship that was originally put to sea or an entirely different one? Whatever the answer to that question, this book is beginning to resemble that ship.

Since the launching of the first edition in 1975 five completely new chapters have been added, one has been thrown overboard, and the remaining text has been subjected to repeated overhaul. Nonetheless, I hope it can be said that the book remains recognizably the same one that Ron Woods and I set out to write thirty years ago. That is to say, I hope that it still provides a helpful introduction to the business of philosophizing in the sense of engaging in conceptual analysis and coherent reasoning about education, while providing a plausible answer to some specific educational questions and establishing at any rate the groundwork of an argument for a particular view of what education is all about and what it therefore demands of us.

In this revision, three new chapters entitled, respectively, ‘Thinking about Education’, ‘What is it to be Human?’ and ‘The Postmodern Challenge’ have been added. ‘Thinking about Education’ attempts to set the stage by briefly examining the context in which philosophical thought about education operates, stressing in particular the rational tradition in Western thought to which philosophical analysis belongs, and the wider concerns of schooling of which education is merely a part, albeit, it will be argued, the major part. It seems important also to address the question ‘What is it to be Human?’ in view of much recent research, particularly in genetics, and in order to locate education as a peculiarly human activity. It seemed necessary to add the brief chapter on ‘The Postmodern Challenge’ not in order to address any theses associated with any particular individuals, but to combat the stultifying effect of certain propositions, such as that there is no truth or . . .

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