RS Peters, professor emeritus, dies

04 January 2012

Emeritus Professor Richard Stanley Peters died on 30 December 2011, aged 92. He was Professor of Philosophy of Education at the IOE for more than 20 years, from 1962 until his retirement in 1983.

Previously, he had been a Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck and spent a year as visiting professor at Harvard University. He received his BA from Queen's College, Oxford in 1942.

Professor Peters was instrumental in establishing the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain and the Journal of Philosophy of Education, now widely-regarded as the leading journal in the field. He attracted such eminent collaborators as Paul Hirst and Robert Dearden, and his influence quickly spread – in the Institute, across the country and around the world.

His output of books and articles was prodigious, and although ill health cut short his career, his work remains highly influential. The formal end of his career was marked by Education, Values, and Mind: Essays for RS Peters (RKP, 1986), edited by David Cooper, but the continuing importance of his work has been recognised especially in Reading RS Peters Today Analysis, Ethics and the Aims of Education, edited by Stefaan E Cuypers and Christopher Martin (a special issue of the Journal of Philosophy of Education, 2009, 43.3). Ethics and Education, first published in 1958, is often considered his most important book.

Paul Standish, Professor of Philosophy of Education at the IOE, said: "It is no exaggeration to say that RS Peters had a revolutionary impact on the philosophical study of education. He brought new rigour to the study of education, applying the methods of conceptual analysis to key concepts in teaching and learning, and addressing such questions as the aims of education with unprecedented clarity and insight.

"While in some respects his death marks the end of an era, his work will remain a timeless inspiration for philosophical thinking about education."

IOE Director Chris Husbands said: "Richard Peters was one of the Institute's leading academic figures for almost a quarter of a century. His contribution to the philosophy of education cannot be overestimated, and many of his works on the aims of education still command a global readership almost fifty years after they were written."

Richard Stanley Peters, 31 October 1919 - 30 December 2011