The School of Philosophy and Literature has its colonial roots on the founding of the School of Arts of the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico in 1551,  first university founded during the old viceroyaltyof New Spain.

The National School of Major Studies, created in 1910, is considered the modern parent stem for the School of Philosophy and Literature. During the administration of President Porfirio Díaz,  a law which stated the university had to be reopened was promulgated wih the support of  Justo Sierra. According to this law, the university achieved the status of national institution. By that time, the School was divided into three areas: the humanities, the exact sciences and, social and legal studies.

In 1924, in compliance with a presidential decree, an area of the National School of  Major Studies became the School of Philosophy and Literature.

Many areas of knowledge, as well as many fields belonging to different disciplines have been bestowed with their own academic regulation in the School throughout its history, from the time when the Mascarones building was its headquarters, between 1938 and 1956, when, after twenty six years under planning and construction, it was relocated to Ciudad Universitaria, where it is nowadays. It is also remarkable that the School of Philosophy and Literature, to a certain extent, gave origin to the Institute of  Historical Research, the Institute of Aesthetics Research and the Institute of Philosophical Research, as well as the Institute of Geography, from whose members a considerable quantity are graduates from the School of Philosophy and Literature, in which they have also taught.

Nowadays, the School has kept up with its historically known role in the National Autonomous University of Mexico as an enhancer and supporter of the study of the humanities. In 2011 a new building, named after philosopher Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez, was inagurated.