PHILOSOPHY and EDUCATION –The View and Way of Life

Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal

K.L.D.A.V(P.G) College, Roorkee, India.

“Study the past if you would define the future.I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there. Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.” (Confucius, Analects)

Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it? But in truth I know nothing about the philosophy of education except this: that the greatest and the most important difficulty known to human learning seems to lie in that area which treats how to bring up children and how to educate them. – (de Montaigne, on teaching Philosophy of Education)

Before analyzing the educational implications of general philosophy, we should know the concept of “Philosophy” and “Education”. Each one of us has a personal philosophy which we apply consciously and unconsciously in our daily life

The literal meaning of philosophy is the love of wisdom which is derived from the Greek word “Philos” (Love) and Sophia (Wisdom). Wisdom does not merely mean knowledge. It is a continuous seeking of insight into basic realities – the physical world, life, mind, society, knowledge and values.

When we speak of philosophy we use a term which may be viewed in two senses. The first of these is that of  the word itself which literally means  “ love of wisdom”. But to love wisdom does not necessarily make one a philosopher. It is this second sense of the word which makes the philosopher an active person; one who seeks answers, rather than one who simply sits around engaging in idle and frivolous speculation.

Today, most philosophers are actively concerned with life. THEY SEEK ANSWERS TO BASIC PROBLEMS. Thus we find that philosophers are doing as well as thinking, and it is their thinking which guides their doing. What they do is rooted in the search for answers to certain types of problems and the tentative answers they have formulated.

The three great problems of philosophy are the problems of reality, knowledge, and value-Philosophy deals with these in three aspects-

What Aspects- deals with Meta-physics

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that goes beyond the realms of science. It is concerned with answering the questions about identity and the world. The name is derived from the Greek words, Meta which means beyond or after, and Physika which means physics. Aristotle, one of the most well-known philosophers, acknowledged Thales as the first known meta physician. The main branches of metaphysics are ontology, natural theology and universal science

How Aspects- deals with Epistemology


Epistemology, from the Greek words episteme (knowledge) and logos (word/speech) is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge.

A branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of knowledge. Theory of knowledge: the inquiry into what knowledge is, what can be known, and what lies beyond our understanding; the investigation into the origin, structure, methods, and validity of justification and knowledge; the study of the interrelation of reason, truth, and experience. Epistemology investigates the origin, structure, methods, and integrity of knowledge. The study of knowledge. In particular, epistemology is the study of the nature, scope, and limits of human knowledge


Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος (logos), originally meaning the word, or what is spoken, but coming to mean thought or reason) is most often said to be the study of arguments,

Logic is the science of exact thought. The systematic treatment of the relation of ideas. A study of methods distinguishing valid thinking   which is fallacious:  The study of the proper methods of thinking and reasoning among the branches of philosophy, logic is concerned with the various forms of reasoning and arriving at genuine conclusions. It includes the system of statements and arguments. It is now divided into mathematical logic and philosophical logic. It tries to avoid the imaginary or assumptions without real logical proof.

What ought to be aspects -deals with Axiology:

The Study of Value: the study of value; the investigation of its nature, criteria, and metaphysical status. More often than not, the term “value theory” is used instead of “axiology” in contemporary discussions even though the term “theory of value” is used with respect to the value or price of goods and services in economics. .  It’s the general theory of value, the nature of values, the different kinds of value, specific values worthy of possession, the inquiry into the nature, criteria, and metaphysical status of value. Axiology, in turn, is divided into two main parts: ethics and esthetics.


Ethics is a general term for what is often described as the “science (study) of morality”. It is concerned with questions on morality and values and how they apply to various situations. It can be divided into the branches of meta-ethics, normative and applied ethics. Ethics seeks to understand the basis of morals, how they develop and how they are and should be followed


The philosophy of art. Aesthetics deals with sense, perception and appreciation of beauty Concerned with questions like why we find certain things beautiful, what makes things great art, so on. The study of value in the arts or the inquiry into feelings, judgments, or standards of beauty and related concepts. Philosophy of art is concerned with judgments of sense, taste, and emotion. It broadly includes everything to do with appreciating of art, culture and nature. The practice of defining, criticizing and appreciating art and art forms is based on aesthetics.



Idealism is a philosophical approach that has as its central tenet that ideas are the only true reality, the only thing worth knowing. In a search for truth, beauty, and justice that is enduring and everlasting; the focus is on conscious reasoning in the mind.

The main tenant of idealism is that ideas and knowledge are the truest reality.  Many things in the world change, but ideas and knowledge are enduring.  Idealism was often referred to as “idea-ism”. Idealists believe that ideas can change lives.  The most important part of a person is the mind. It is to be nourished and developed.

From this very general philosophical position, the Idealist would tend to view the Learner as a microscopic mind, the Teacher as a paradigmatic self, the Curriculum as the subject matter of symbol and idea (emphasizing literature, history, etc.) The educational approach of this philosophy is of a holistic nature.  In which self-realization and character development is strongly supported.  The idealist feels that with the growth of a fine moral character as well as personal reflection, wisdom is gained.  Information across curriculum


Pragmatism in education came into prominence to fulfill an obvious need in the educational thought of America. With education becoming available to all men rather than to a select few, the country was searching for a way of viewing the educational process other than through the framework provided by the older “elitist” philosophies of You see by his what I meant when I called pragmatism a mediator and reconciler……. She has in fact no prejudices whatever, no obstructive dogmas, and no rigid canons of what shall count as proof. She is completely genial. She will entertain any hypothesis, she will consider any evidence. It follows that in the religious field she is at a great advantage over both positivistic empiricism, with its anti-theological bias, and over religious rationalism, with its exclusive interest in the remote, the noble, the simple, and the abstract in the way of conception.— William James


A system of thought that centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth.

The word “humanism” has a number of meanings, and because authors and speakers often don’t clarify which meaning they intend, those trying to explain humanism can easily become a source of confusion. Fortunately, each meaning of the word constitutes a different type of humanism — the different types being easily separated and defined by the use of appropriate adjectives.

Literary Humanism is a devotion to the humanities or literary culture.

Renaissance Humanism is the spirit of learning that developed at the end of the Middle Ages with the revival of classical letters and a renewed confidence in the ability of human beings to determine for themselves truth and falsehood.

Cultural Humanism is the rational and empirical tradition that originated largely in ancient Greece and Rome, evolved throughout European history, and now constitutes a basic part of the Western approach to science, political theory, ethics, and law.

Philosophical Humanism is any outlook or way of life centered on human need and interest. Sub-categories of this type include Christian Humanism and Modern Humanism.

Modern Humanism, also called Naturalistic Humanism, Scientific Humanism, Ethical Humanism and Democratic Humanism is defined by one of its leading proponents, Corliss Lamont, as “a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion.” Modern Humanism has a dual origin, both secular and religious, and these constitute its sub-categories.

Secular Humanism is an outgrowth of 18th century enlightenment rationalism and 19th century free thought. Many secular groups, , advocate this philosophy.

Religious Humanism emerged out of Ethical Culture, Unitarianism, and Universalism. Today, many Unitarian- Universalist congregations and all Ethical Culture societies describe themselves as humanist in the modern sense.


Just as its namesake sprang from a strong rejection of traditional philosophy, educational existentialism sprang from a strong rejection of the traditional, essentialist approach to education. Existentialism rejects the existence of any source of objective, authoritative truth about metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Instead, individuals are responsible for determining for themselves what is “true” or “false,” “right” or “wrong,” “beautiful” or “ugly.” For the existentialist, there exists no universal form of human nature; each of us has the free will to develop as we see fit.

Existentialism is the most individualistic of all modern philosophies. Its overriding concern is with the individual and its primary value is the absolute freedom of the person, who is only what he makes himself to be, and who is the final and exclusive arbiter of the values he freely determines for himself. Great emphasis is placed on art, on literature, and the humanistic studies, for it is in these areas that man finds himself and discovers what values he will seek to attain.

Existentialism represents a protest against the rationalism of traditional philosophy, against misleading notions of the bourgeois culture, and the dehumanizing values of industrial civilization. Since alienation, loneliness and self-estrangement constitute threats to human personality in the modern world, existential thought has viewed as its cardinal concerns a quest for subjective truth, a reaction against the ‘negation of Being’ and a perennial search for freedom..


Perennialism philosophy of education is a very conservative and inflexible philosophy of education. Students are taught to reason through structured lessons and drills. They are stressing reading, writing and arithmetic in education but the decline of the music and art. Perennialism philosophy of education is what helps in educators is to equip them with “universal knowledge

Perennialists believe in acquiring understandings about the great ideas of civilization. These ideas have the potential for solving problems in any era. The focus is to teach ideas that are everlasting, to seek enduring truths which are constant, not changing, as the natural and human worlds at their most essential level, do not change. Teaching these unchanging principles is critical. Humans are rational beings, and their minds need to be developed. Thus, cultivation of the intellect is the highest priority in a worthwhile education. The demanding curriculum focuses on attaining cultural literacy, stressing students’ growth in enduring disciplines. The loftiest accomplishments of humankind are emphasized– the great works of literature and art, the laws or principles of science


From this very general philosophical position, the Realist would tend to view the Learner as a sense mechanism, the Teacher as a demonstrator, the Curriculum as the subject matter of the physical world (emphasizing mathematics, science, etc.), the Teaching Method as mastering facts and information, and the Social Policy of the school as transmitting the settled knowledge of Western civilization. The realist would favor a school dominated by subjects of the here-and-now world, such as math and science. Students would be taught factual information for mastery. The teacher would impart knowledge of this reality to students or display such reality for observation and study. Classrooms would be highly ordered and disciplined, like nature, and the students would be passive participants in the study of things. Changes in school would be perceived as a natural evolution toward a perfection of order.

For the realist, the world is as it is, and the job of schools would be to teach students about the world. Goodness, for the realist, would be found in the laws of nature and the order of the physical world. Truth would be the simple correspondences of observation. The Realist believes in a world of Things or Beings (metaphysics) and in truth as an Observable Fact. Furthermore, ethics is the law of nature or Natural Law and aesthetics is the reflection of Nature


Naturalism is a concept that firmly believes that ultimate reality lies in the nature of the matter. Matter is considered to be supreme and mind is the functioning of the brain that is made up of matter. The whole universe is governed by laws of nature and they are changeable. It’s through our sense that we are able to get the real knowledge. The senses works like real gateways of knowledge and exploration is the method that helps in studying nature. Naturalism is a term loosely applied in educational theory to systems of training that are not dependent on schools and books but on manipulation of the actual life of student. Naturalism is an artistic movement advocating realistic description: in art or literature, a movement or school advocating factual or realistic description of life, including its less pleasant aspects. In literature, the doctrine rejecting spiritual explanations of world: a system of thought that rejects all spiritual and supernatural explanations of the world and holds that science is the sole basis of what can be known. a belief that all religious truth is derived from nature and natural causes, and not from revelation


Communist educators are in perfect accord that the ultimate purpose of education is “strengthening the communistic state and the building of a Classless society.” All other objectives are subsidiary. This central aim supplies the rationale for the curriculum, teaching methods, teacher-pupil freedom and discipline in the schools, which agency shall have responsibility for education, and who shall be educated

In the Marxist system, discipline is conceived as a virtue essential to achieve the goals of Communism. The school must insist on discipline not only because it is necessary for successful study and learning but also because it is necessary for life.

The equalization of educational opportunity is one aspect of the Communist program which has been most successful All citizens have the “guaranteed” right to free, universal, compulsory primary and secondary education

In Communist countries the state is regarded as the sole educational agency. The leaders of the revolution recognized that education was the most powerful weapon at their disposal in their efforts to effect the radical change in society. In fact, they viewed education as the only means of transforming an individualistic capitalistic society to a socialistic, classless one. The ultimate aim of education was bluntly stated as “strengthening the state and the building of a classless society.” All other goals are subsidiary to this final one


Etymologically, ‘educahon’ is derived from “educare” which means ‘to lead out’ or “to drawout’. In a broad sense, education refers to an act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. Education in this sense never ends, we truly learn from experience throughout our lives.

Webster defines education as the process of educating or teaching (now that’s really useful, isn’t it?) Educate is further defined as “to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of…” Thus, from these definitions, we might assume that the purpose of education is to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of students. Unfortunately, this definition offers little unless we further define words such as developknowledge, and character. .

This is hardly a new argument. In ancient Greece, Socrates argued that education was about drawing out what was already within the student. (As many of you know, the word education comes from the Latin e-ducere meaning “to lead out.”) At the same time, the Sophists, a group of itinerant teachers, promised to give students the necessary knowledge and skills to gain positions with the city-state.

The definition of education in common usage, that education is merely the delivery of knowledge, skills and information from teachers to students, is inadequate to capture what is really important about being and becoming educated.

The proper definition of education is the process of becoming an educated person. Being an educated person means you have access to optimal states of mind regardless of the situation you are in. You are able to perceive accurately, think clearly and act effectively to achieve self-selected goals and aspirations.

Education is a process of cognitive cartography, mapping your experiences and finding a variety of reliable routes to optimal states when you find yourself in non-optimal states.

The idea that the definition of education is the delivery of knowledge, skills and information from teachers to students is misguided. Education does not mean mere schooling. Education refers not only to a process in and out of classroom. To become educated is to learn to become a person.

The common definition of education is simply wrong when you consider how education actually occurs. A proper definition of education will have to cover these four important aspects of how we become educated:

  • The necessity of having and manipulating knowledge, skills and information
  • The helpfulness of teachers, without requiring them
  • The constant need to see through the inherent illusions that arise from our unconscious thought processes, and
  • Our ability to influence our states of mind

It is difficult to define education without implying an educational philosophy, and evidence of the intimate relation between philosophy and education.


Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it? .. But in truth I know nothing about the philosophy of education except this: that the greatest and the most important difficulty known to human learning seems to lie in that area which treats how to bring up children and how to educate them.
(de Montaigne, On teaching Philosophy of Education)

Interdependence of philosophy and education is an essentiality for human development .both represents two side of a coin, both are equally important. PHILOSOPHY DETEMINES THE VIEW OF LIFE WHILE EDUCATION DETERMINES THE WAY OF LIFE.. They are so interlocked that without the one the existence of the other is beyond comprehension.

The inter-dependence of philosophy and education is clearly seen from the fact that the great philosophers of all times have also been great educators and their philosophy is reflected in their educational systems.

This inter-dependence can be better understood by analyzing the implications of philosophical principles in the field of education.

It is interesting to note in this connection that John Dewey defines philosophy simply as a general theory of education. But many other philosophers feel that it is more than this

If described so generally as to make room for most varieties of educational theory, education would have to be defined somewhat as follows: and activity or endeavor in which the more mature of human society deal with the less mature, in order to achieve a greater maturity in them and contribute thereby to the improvement of human life.

The close relationship between philosophy and education led to the emergence of a new branch of knowledge ,Philosophy of education which traditionally assumed the burden of formulating goals , norms ,and  standards by which to conduct the educative process,. It assures the “educator not only of the substance of the programmed of the schools but of its formal validity”.

In spite of variance amongst diverse philosophies of education-empirical-non empirical, speculative-normative, commonsense-critical and a host of other combinations-all seem to be recognizing “the importance of interest and individual differences”.

Philosophy is theoretical and speculative; education is practical. Philosophy asks questions, examining factors of reality and experience, many of which are involved in the educative process; whereas the actual process of education is a matter of actively dealing with these factors, i.e., teaching, organizing programs, administering organizations, building curricula, etc.

In the words of Ross “philosophy is the contemplative side while education is the active side”. Philosophy deals with the ends while education deals with the means and techniques of achieving those means.

Philosophy of education is the application of philosophical ideas to educational problems. It is not only a way of looking at ideas but also of how to use them in the best way. Therefore, it can be said that philosophy is the theory while education is the practice. Practice unguided by theory is aimless, inconsistent and inefficient just as theory which is not ultimately translatable into practice is useless and confusing.

Educational philosophy depends on formal philosophy because most of the major problems of education are in fact philosophical problems. Like general philosophy, educational philosophy is speculative, prescriptive critical or analytic.

There are two chief ways in which philosophy and education are relate.

(1) Philosophy yields a comprehensive understanding of reality, a world view, which when applied to educational practice lends direction and methodology which are likely to be lacking otherwise. By way of reciprocation,

(2) the experience of the educator in nurturing the young places him in touch with phases of reality which are considered in making philosophic judgments. Because of this, those who are actively engaged in educating can advise philosophers abut certain matters of facts. That is to say, that while philosophy is a guide to educational practice, education as a field of investigation yields certain data as a basis for philosophic judgments.

All philosophies are concerned with the nature of the self. As has been inquired just above, they ask, is the self a physical, social, or spiritual unit? Whatever answer is given will go far in determining a person’s attitude toward the pupil, in case education in one of his major interests. If the self is a physical unit, then pupils are biological organisms. If the self is a physical unit, then pupils are biological organisms. If it is a social unit, then pupils are little pieces of society. If it is a spiritual unit, then pupils are soul’s wit destinies which outreach both biological and social processes.

Philosophy is concerned, among other things, with value; education also must necessarily deal with value, more than most other social institutions. How does man possess or realize value? Or do values come to us without effort, like an inheritance? Such questions as these are most relevant to education. Value thinking in philosophy is thus related to education in another important way.

Educations must have objectives if it is to be effective; otherwise it descends to the level of aimless activity which is the antithesis of educative experiences. But how can education have valid objectives unless these are formulated within the context of responsible philosophy.

The education will scarcely stop before determining what his philosophizing implies for the educational process itself. It the pupil is a biological unit only, and the context within which objectives are set is purely naturalistic, then the process of educating will be a purely natural process, in no sense transcending the natural order. But if the pupil is a spiritual being and the objectives of education are anchored in immortality and an ultimate divine society, then  the process by which man is educated must be consistently and carefully refined so that personality is always treated as personality, never as mechanism or near-personality, and so that ceilings are not placed above individuals or societies inhibiting them in reaching out toward the ultimate.

Of course in all of the connections between philosophy and education the certainty of transfer is by no means assured. One educator may enjoy theorizing and be poor in performance of effective practice which grows out of his theory. Another may be at home only in concrete practice, confirmed in the practice. Both of these attitudes as inadequate and make the student shun equally the possibilities of becoming a theorist who cannot practice his theory or a practitioner who assumes that he can practice without any theory. For there can be no clear and sharp separation between theory and practice. No teacher however effective in practice can avoid assumptions, conscious or unconscious, as to what it is that he is about. These assumptions, it should be pointed out, are the material of theory, not of practice, and they need both to be examined critically and to be related to other assumptions in the largest context of belief, in order to be adequate as a basis for practice. Furthermore no theory is fully expressed until it is expressed in practice. Not being an end in itself, theory becomes the evident enjoyment of the dilettante when pursued without responsible reference to practice. It might be said that there can be no practice with out thinking ,  practice always merges into action and action emerges out of thought.

Education and philosophy are inseparable because the ends of education are the ends of philosophy i.e., wisdom; and the means of philosophy is the means of education i.e. inquiry, which alone can lead to wisdom. Any separation of philosophy and education inhibits inquiry and frustrates wisdom.

Education involves both the world of ideas and the world of practical activity; good ideas can lead to good practice and good practices reinforce good ideas. In order to behave intelligently in the educational process, education needs direction and guidance which philosophy can provide. Hence philosophy is not only a professional tool for the educator but also a way of improving the quality of life because it helps us to gain a wider and deeper perspective on human existence and the world around us.

The chief task of philosophy is to determine what constitutes good life whereas the main task of education is how to make life worth living. So philosophy and education are mutually re-constructive. They give and take from each other. Philosophy deals with the goals and essentials of good life while education provides the means to achieve those goals of good life. In this sense philosophy of education is a distinct but not a separate discipline. It takes its contents from education and its methods from philosophy.

Instructional pedagogy , depends quite directly upon the  nature of knowledge, which depends quite directly upon the nature of man. The aims of education, the role of teacher, The concept of student, the curriculum, the concept of discipline, importance and involvement of social agencies ,etc have determining influence of Philosophy .

If different areas of education are observed In relation to philosophy we will conclude that philosophy is an essentiality for a productive and progressive outlook on education Rusk had rightly commented’ from every angle of educational problem comes thus the demand for a philosophical basis of the subject….There is no escape from a philosophy of life and of education.


Brameld, Theodore-,Toward a Reconstructed Philosophy of Education. Newyork; Dryden Press.

Broundy, Harry S., Building a Philosophy of Education. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1961..

Butler, J. Donald, Four Philosophies and Their……… Education and Religion. New York : Harper & Row.

Herbart, J.F., The Science of Education. Boston : D.C.Heath & Company, 1902.

Wild, John, “Education and human Society : A Realistic View,” Modern Philosophies and Education. National Society for the study of Education, Fifty-fourth Yearbook, Part I. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1955.

Broudy, Harry S., Building a Philosophy of Education. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1961..

Frank Thilly, “A History of philosophy”, Central Publishing House, Allahabad.

John Dewey, “Reconstruction in Philosophy,” p-38. London, University of London Press Ltd. 1921.

Rusk, R.R., “Philosophical Basis of Education” p-68, footnote, London, University of London Press, 1956.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.