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John Miller Dow Meiklejohn

(1836—1902) writer of school books


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John Miller Dow Meiklejohn was born in Edinburgh on 11 July 1836 and died in Ashford, Kent on 5 April 1902. He studied at the University of Edinburgh, where he obtained an MA in 1858. He devoted his entire life to education, both as a teacher and as the author of a large number of text books; he had liberal sympathies and was also involved in the movement for the reform of the education system. In 1876 he was appointed Professor of the Theory, History, and Practice of Education at the University of St Andrews. As far as philosophy is concerned, Meiklejohn is known for having translated Kant's Critique of Pure Reason at the age of only nineteen. The translation, he writes, was begun on the basis of a MS. translation, by a scholar of some repute, placed in my hands by Mr. Bohn, with a request that I should revise it, as he had perceived it to be incorrect. After having laboured through about eighty pages, I found, from the numerous errors and inaccuracies pervading it, that hardly one-fifth of the orgininal MS. remained. I, therefore, laid it entirely aside, and commenced de novo. (Preface to Critique of Pure Reason, p. vi)And this was the right decision. The translation was extraordinarily successful, and was not even supplanted by Max Müller's 1881 translation; it is still widely used today. In the Preface to his own translation of the Critique, Norman Kemp Smith points out one of its merits: ‘Meiklejohn has a happy gift […] of making Kant speak in a language that reasonably approximates to English idiom’ (p. v). But this is not its only quality. Besides his good knowledge of German philosophy, Meiklejohn was also well aware of the philological problems faced by the editors of Kant's works – the question hotly debated by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Rosenkranz, and Karl Ludwig Michelet, regarding the value of the differences between the two editions. Meiklejohn preferred the second edition, and justified his choice. The translation is furnished with a few but essential notes on his choice of words.

From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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