Ramos was born in Zitácuaro, Michoacán, and in 1909 entered the Colegio de San Nicolás in Hidalgo. He published his first works in the school's student publication Flor de Loto. In 1915 he began to study philosophy under the tutelage of his mentor, José Torres Orozco.
He spent 1915, his first year of medical school in Morelia, and his second and third years at the Military Medical School in Mexico City. In 1919 he became part of the faculty of higher learning and taught introductory philosophy at the National Preparatory School and logic and ethics at the National Teachers School.
In 1944 he earned his doctorate in philosophy from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and became head of the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature there. On July 8, 1952 he began a lifelong term as a member of the prestigious Colegio Nacional.
His work concerns itself with the ontology of the Mexican nation. He sees the pelado, the "urban bum" of the 1920s and 1930s, as "the most elemental and clearly defined expression of national character". The machismo of the pelado, he argues, is the result of an inferiority complex (based on Alfred Adler's concept) and, since the pelado represents the entire country, the "character study" is extended to all of Mexico, and was one of the first post-Revolutionary attempts to define and assess the national character.
- Henry C. Schmidt, "Antecedents to Samuel Ramos: Mexicanist Thought in the 1920s,: Journal of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 18 (May 1976), pp. 179–202.
- Filosofía de la vida artística. Buenos Aires: Espasa-Calpe Argentina, 1950.
- Hacia un nuevo humanismo. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1962 (second edition).
- El perfil del hombre y la cultura en México. Buenos Aires: Espasa-Calpe Argentina, 1952 (second edition). Translated by Earle, Peter G. as Profile of man and culture in Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962.
- Samuel Ramos; trayectoria filosófica y antología de textos. Monterrey: Centro de Estudios Humanísticos de la Universidad de Nuevo León, 1965.
- (Spanish) Philosophy of Samuel Ramos