He was born at Fürstenwalde. He studied theology and philosophy under Friedrich Adolf Trendelenburg at Berlin, and eventually became Professor of Philosophy in the new University of Strasbourg. In his Analogien der Erfahrung (1876) he keenly criticized Immanuel Kant's transcendentalism, and in his chief work Idealismus und Positivismus (1878-1884), he drew a clear contrast between Platonism, from which he derived transcendentalism, and positivism, of which he considered Protagoras the founder. Laas in reality was a disciple of David Hume. Throughout his philosophy he endeavours to connect metaphysics with ethics and the theory of education.
His chief educational works were Der deutsche Aufsatz in den obern Gymnasialklassen (1868), and Der deutsche Unterricht auf höhern Lehranstalten (1872; 2nd ed. 1886). He contributed largely to the Vierteljahrsschr. f. wiss. Philos. (1880-1882); the Litterarischer Nachlass, a posthumous collection, was published at Vienna (1887).
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Laas, Ernst". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press This work in turn cites:
- Hanisch, Der Positivismus von Ernst Laas (1902)
- Gjurits, Die Erkenntnistheorie des Ernst Laas (1903)
- Falckenberg, Hist. of Mod. Philos. (Eng. trans., 1895)
- Works by or about Ernst Laas in libraries (WorldCat catalog)