Richard Stanley Peters

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Richard Stanley Peters (31 October 1919 – 30 December 2011) was an English philosopher.[1] His work belongs mainly to the areas of political theory, philosophical psychology, and philosophy of education.


Peters was born in 1919 in Mussoorie, India. He spent his childhood with his grandmother in England. He was a pupil at Sidcot School, Winscombe, Somerset, 1933–1938. As a young man, his private tutor was Eric Blair (the writer George Orwell). In the Second World War, as a conscientious objector, he served in the Friends Ambulance Unit and with Friends Relief Service from 1940 to 1944. From his marriage (1942) there were one son and two daughters.[2]

Academic career[edit]

Peters studied at The Queen's College, Oxford, and received the Bachelor of Arts in 1942. In 1944 he began teaching at Sidcot Grammar School. He became a part-time lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he also studied philosophy and psychology, receiving his PhD in 1949. From then to 1958 he was a full-time lecturer, moving on to be a reader in philosophy until 1962. In 1961 he had a one-year guest professorship for education at Harvard University. In the following year he went to Australian National University. From 1962 until retirement in 1983 Peters was Professor of the Philosophy of Education at the Institute of Education (founded 1947) University of London. In 1971 he was Dean of the Institute. Under his guidance the Institute grew fast and considerably influenced the development of the philosophy of education in England. At the Institute Peters collaborated with Paul H. Hirst, who later became Professor of Education at King's College, London, and then professor at University of Cambridge.[3]

Influence on the philosophy of education[edit]

Peters is known particularly for his work in the philosophy of education. However, his early writings were occupied with psychology, more exactly with a philosophical view of psychological issues. Thus his research was in the areas motivation, emotions, personality as well as social behaviour and the relationship between reason and longing.[4] Perhaps the most important work by Peters is Ethics and Education.[5] With this and his subsequent publications he significantly influenced the development of the philosophy of education in Britain and world-wide. The influence was a result of his examination of the concept of education in the sense of analytic philosophy, a central tool being term analysis. Peters explored two substantial aspects of the philosophy of education: the normative and the cognitive.


  • R.S. Peters: The Concept of Motivation. Routledge & Keegan Paul, London, 1958.
  • R. S. Peters: Education as initiation, 1964, in: R. D. Archambault (Ed.): Philosophical analysis and education. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1965, pp. 87–111.
  • R. S. Peters: Ethics and education. 5th edn, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London 1968. In German translation: R. S. Peters: Ethik und Erziehung. In: W. Loch, H. Paschen, G. Priesemann (Hrsg.): Sprache und Lernen. Internationale Studien zur pädagogischen Anthropologie, Band 19, Düsseldorf 1972.
  • R. S. Peters: The philosophy of education. 1966, in: J. W. Tibble (Ed.): The study of education. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1966, pp. 59–89.
  • R. S. Peters: What is an educational process?. 1967, in: R. S. Peters (Ed.): The concept of education. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1967, pp. 1–23.
  • R. S. Peters: Michael Oakeshott's philosophy of education. 1968, in: R. S. Peters: Essays on educators. George Allen & Unwin, London 1981, pp. 89–109.
  • R. S. Peters, P.H. Hirst: The logic of education. 2nd edn, Routledge&Kegan Paul, London 1971, In German translation: P. H. Hirst, R. S. Peters: Die Begründung der Erziehung durch die Vernunft. In: W. Loch, H. Paschen, G. Priesemann (Hrsg.): Sprache und Lernen. Internationale Studien zur pädagogischen Anthropologie, Band 18, Düsseldorf 1972.
  • R. F. Dearden, P. H. Hirst, R. S. Peters (Eds.): Education and the development of reason. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1972.
  • R. S. Peters (Ed.): The philosophy of education. Oxford University Press, London 1973.
  • R. S. Peters: Psychology and ethical development. A collection of articles on psychological theories, ethical delopment and human understanding. George Allen & Unwin, London 1974.
  • R. S. Peters: Education and the education of teachers. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1977.
  • R. S. Peters: Moral development and moral education. George Allen & Unwin, London 1981.
  • R. S. Peters: Philosophy of education. In: P. H. Hirst (Ed.): Educational theory and its foundation disciplines. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1983, pp. 30–61.


  • D. E. Cooper (Ed.): Education, values and mind. Essays for R. S. Peters. London/Boston/Henley 1986.
  • J. Earwaker: R. S. Peters and the Concept of Education. In: Journal of Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. Vol. 7, 1973, pp. 239–259.
  • P. Enslin: Are Hirst and Peters Liberal Philosophers of Education?. In: Journal of Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. Vol. 19, 1985, pp. 211–222.
  • J. W. Steutel: Konzepte und Konzeptionen. Zum Problem einer analytischen Erziehungsphilosophie. In: Zeitschrift für Pädagogik. Band 37, 1991, S.81–96.
  • J. Steutel, B. Spiecker: R. S. Peters' und P. H. Hirsts Analyse von‚ education' im Hinblick auf eine Bildungstheorie. In: O. Hansmann (Hrsg.): Diskurs Bildungstheorie II. Problemgeschichtliche Orientierungen. Weinheim 1989, S. 508–536.


  1. ^ "Richard Stanley Peters Obituary: View Richard Peters's Obituary by The Times". 30 December 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  2. ^ "PE – Richard Stanley Peters – Institute of Education, University of London". 19 January 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  3. ^ Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Hirst, P.H.: Richard Peters' contribution to the philosophy of education. In: D.E. Cooper (Ed.): Education, values and mind. Essays for R.S. Peters. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1986, pp. 8–43.
  5. ^ R.S. Peters: Ethics and Education. 5th Edition, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London 1968.