James Balfour was born in Pilrig, Scotland, and died in Edinburgh. He was descended from an ancient Scottish family, said by the family historian to be ‘ungodly’. He was educated initially in Scotland; in 1729, his father sent him to study at Leiden, with a career in the law as his destiny. He was made advocate on 17 November 1730. He served for many years as Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates and was appointed Sheriff-Substitute of Midlothian in 1748. In 1754 he was elected to the chair of moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, succeeding William Cleghorn (d. 1754), who, in 1745, had been chosen over Hume. He held the post until 1764. Appointments to this chair involved a good deal of influence with the great and the good in Edinburgh, and Balfour did not take his duties too seriously, except when he had the opportunity to lecture against Hume. In 1764, he was appointed to the chair of laws of nature and nations, which he held until his death.
From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.