The Best Books on the Philosophy of Education

Lennox Johnson Books

This page contains a list of the seven best books on the philosophy of education. Finding good introductory philosophy books can be difficult for two reasons. First, searching google for recommendations usually doesn’t bring up anything useful. Second, phrases like “best books on the philosophy of education” are ambiguous. One person may be looking for a short, beginner friendly introduction, someone else may want a comprehensive academic overview, a third person may be looking for classic works on the philosophy of education. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on the philosophy of education. This list was created by compiling recommendations from across the internet and is not a list of personal recommendations. More information about this process is at the end of the post. Here are the best books on the philosophy of education in no particular order:

The Philosophy of Education: An Introduction – Richard Bailey

Category: Short Introduction | Length: 192 pages | Published: 2014

Publisher description: The Philosophy of Education: An Introduction encourages the reader to actively engage with the philosophy of education and the carefully selected contributors bring the philosophy of education to life for the reader. Each chapter focuses on a particular area of debate and explains the main concepts includes extracts from philosophical writing, followed by questions that guide the reader to critically and actively engage with the text
guides the reader towards further reading and suggests next steps and more challenging sources or counter-pointed arguments.

The Philosophy of Education: An Introduction is essential reading for education students and for trainee teachers on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. It will also appeal to practicing teachers and educationalists who wish to engage with philosophical approaches to contemporary educational issues.

Philosophy of Education – Nel Noddings

Category: General Introduction | Length: 304 pages | Published: 2015

Publisher description: The first edition of Nel Noddings’ Philosophy of Education was acclaimed as the ‘best overview in the field’ by the journal Teaching Philosophy and predicted to ‘become the standard textbook in philosophy of education’ by Educational Theory. This classic text, originally designed to give the education student a comprehensive look at philosophical thought in relation to teaching, learning, research, and educational policy, has now been updated to reflect the most current thinking in the field. A revised chapter on Logic and Critical Thinking makes the topic more accessible to students and examines how critical thinking plays a role in light of the new Common Core standards.

Philosophy of Education introduces students to the evolution of educational thought, from the founding fathers to contemporary theorists, with consideration of both analytic and continental traditions. This is an essential text not only for teachers and future teachers, but also for anyone needing a survey of contemporary trends in philosophy of education.

The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education – Harvey Siegel

Category: Overview | Length: 564 pages | Published: 2012

Publisher description: Philosophy of education has an honored place in the history of Western philosophical thought. Its questions are as vital now, both philosophically and practically, as they have ever been. In recent decades, however, philosophical thinking about education has largely fallen off the philosophical radar screen. Philosophy of education has lost intimate contact with the parent discipline to a regrettably large extent–to the detriment of both.

The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education is intended to serve as a general introduction to key issues in the field, to further the philosophical pursuit of those issues, and to bring philosophy of education back into closer contact with general philosophy. Distinguished philosophers and philosophers of education, most of whom have made important contributions to core areas of philosophy, turn their attention in these 28 essays to a broad range of philosophical questions concerning education. The chapters are accessible to readers with no prior exposure to philosophy of education, and provide both surveys of the general domain they address, and advance the discussion in those domains in original and fruitful ways. Together their authors constitute a new wave of general philosophers taking up fundamental philosophical questions about education–the first such cohort of outstanding general philosophers to do so (in English) in a generation.

Classic and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Education – Steven M. Cahn

Category: Anthology | Length: 464 pages | Published: 2011 (2e)

Publisher description: Intended for philosophy of education courses, this anthology brings together classic writings on education by leading figures in the history of philosophy and notable contributions to the field by a variety of contemporary thinkers. The first section provides material from a sizable collection of classic writers, enabling students to read the original sources for themselves. The second section includes recent materials that reflect diverse approaches such as feminism, critical theory, and multiculturalism.

Emile: or, On Education – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Category: Classic | Length: 501 pages

Publisher description: Alan Bloom’s new translation of Emile, Rousseau’s masterpiece on the education and training of the young, is the first in more than seventy years. In it, Bloom, whose magnificent translation of Plato’s Republic has been universally hailed as a virtual rediscovery of that timeless text, again brings together the translator’s gift for journeying between two languages and cultures and the philosopher’s perception of the true meaning and significance of the issues being examined in the work. The result is a clear, readable, and highly engrossing text that at the same time offers a wholly new sense of the importance and relevance of Rousseau’s thought to us.In addition to his translation, Bloom provides a brilliant introduction that relates the structure and themes of the book to the vital preoccupation’s of our own age, particularly in the field of education, but also more generally to the current concerns about the limits and possibilities of human nature. Thus in this translation Emile, long a classic in the history of Western thought and educational theory, becomes something more: a prescription, fresh and dazzling, for the bringing up of autonomous, responsible—that is, truly democratic—human beings.

Democracy and Education – John Dewey

Category: Classic | Length: 384 pages

Publisher description: John Dewey’s Democracy and Education addresses the challenge of providing quality public education in a democratic society. In this classic work Dewey calls for the complete renewal of public education, arguing for the fusion of vocational and contemplative studies in education and for the necessity of universal education for the advancement of self and society. First published in 1916, Democracy and Education is regarded as the seminal work on public education by one of the most important scholars of the century.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Freire

Category: Classic | Length: 232 pages

Publisher description: First published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. Paulo Freire’s work has helped to empower countless people throughout the world and has taken on special urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is ongoing.

This 50th anniversary edition includes an updated introduction by Donaldo Macedo, a new afterword by Ira Shor and interviews with Marina Aparicio Barberán, Noam Chomsky, Ramón Flecha, Gustavo Fischman, Ronald David Glass, Valerie Kinloch, Peter Mayo, Peter McLaren and Margo Okazawa-Rey to inspire a new generation of educators, students, and general readers for years to come.


This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:

  • browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
  • searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
  • browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • searching for recommendations on philosophy forums

The following sources were used to build this list:

University Course Syllabi:

Bibliographies:

Other Recommendations:


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