Simon Somerville Laurie

Professor of Education, University of Edinburgh

Synthetica: Being Meditations Epistemological and Ontological

Laurie’s two series of lectures aim to find the ‘ultimate explanation of experience which we call by the name God’. He explores why it is that amid evil and pain, and in the chaos of morality and suffering, we are inclined to go on living. For Laurie, life is a mystery to be celebrated, not lamented, and he asserts that without the unknown, we would never seek knowledge, toil, or struggle, and we would never have hope.


Simon Somerville Laurie was born on 13 November 1829 in Edinburgh. A Scottish educator and Bell Professor of Education at the University of Edinburgh, he campaigned for better teacher training in Scotland and wrote extensively on philosophy. In 1855, he began his pedagogical career as the secretary of the Church of Scotland’s Education Committee, eventually becoming a secretary and inspector with the Dick bequest. In 1876, Laurie was appointed to one of two university chairs of education in Edinburgh, and he retired as Emeritus Professor.

Honoured with doctorates from several Scottish universities, Laurie became a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1870. While most known for his educational writings, the academic journal Mind considered him ‘a writer of rare intellectual courage, shrewd independence of judgement and great speculative insight’. Laurie’s major publications include On Primary Instruction in Relation to Education (1867), Metaphysica nova et vetusta: A Return to Dualism (pseud. Scotus Novanticus, 1884), Occasional Addresses on Educational Subjects (1888), Institutes of Education: Compromising an Introduction to Rational Psychology (1892), and On the Educational Wants of Scotland (1881).