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James Dunbar

(1742—1798) university teacher and writer on moral philosophy


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James Dunbar, second son of the laird of Boath (at Auldearn, near Nairn, Soctland), died on 28 May 1798 in his rooms at King's College, Aberdeen, where he was educated (MA, 1761) and then spent his career. In 1765 he was appointed joint-regent (full regent a year later) at King's, where he remained until his retirement caused by ill health in 1794. In 1780 Marischal College, Aberdeen awarded him an LL.D. His major work was Essays on the History of Mankind in Rude and Cultivated Ages, published in 1780. A second edition followed a year later and a German translation of the first edition appeared in 1781 in Leipzig. The essay format reflects the book's origin (in part at least) in discussion papers read to the Aberdeen ‘Wise Club’. Upon publication, according to Dunbar's most famous pupil, Sir James Mackintosh, they were commended by Dr Samuel Johnson, with whom Dunbar was personally acquainted. Both the Monthly Review and Critical Review afforded the book a sympathetic reception. Dunbar's only other publication was a brief pamphlet in Latin occasioned by the American War published in 1779.

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From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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