John Laird (philosopher)

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John Laird (17 May 1887 – 5 August 1946) was a philosopher, in the school of New British Realism, who later turned to metaphysical idealism.

John Laird was born at Durris, Kincardineshire, a parish adjacent to the birthplace of famous Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid. He was the son of Rev. D.M.W. Laird, a Church of Scotland minister, and Margaret Laird (née Steward).

He attended the grammar school of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh, where in 1908 he graduated with a first class M.A. degree in philosophy. He spent a brief interval at Heidelberg before entering Trinity College, Cambridge, as a Scholar. He graduated from Cambridge with a B.A.,1st class in both parts of the Moral Sciences tripos. (He received his Cambridge M.A. in 1920.) He was an Assistant Lecturer at the University of St. Andrews in 1911 and took up a Professorship of Philosophy at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1912. In the following year he returned to the United Kingdom as Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at Queen's University, Belfast (1913–24). In 1924 he was appointed as Regius Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, a position which he held until his death. He was Mills Lecturer, University of California, 1923-4 and Gifford Lecturer, Glasgow University, 1939-40.

In 1913 he met Helen Ritchie. They married in 1919 and had one son, who died in childhood. After the move to Aberdeen the Lairds lived in Powis Lodge, Old Aberdeen.

Laird was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1929 to 1930. He was a prolific writer and public speaker.[1]


His books included:

  • Problems of the Self (1917)
  • A Study in Realism (1920)
  • The Idea of the Soul (1924)
  • Our Minds and Their Bodies (1925)
  • A Study in Moral Theory (1926)
  • Modern Problems in Philosophy (1928)
  • The Idea of Value (1929)
  • Knowledge, Belief, and Opinion (1930)
  • Morals and Western Religion (1931)
  • Hume's Philosophy of Human Nature (1932)
  • Hobbes (1934)
  • An Enquiry into Moral Notions (1935)
  • Recent Philosophy (1936)
  • S. Alexander's Philosophical and Literary Pieces (1939)
  • Theism and Cosmology (1940) Gifford Lectures 1938-1939
  • Mind and Deity (1941)Gifford Lectures 1939-1940
  • The Device of Government (1944)
  • On Human Freedom (1947)


  1. ^ Michael W. DeLashmutt (University of Glasgow), "Gifford Lecture Series Author Biography: John Laird," available at: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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