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Macvey Napier

(1776—1847) journal editor


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Macvey Napier was born in the parish of Kirkintilloch on 12 April 1776 and died in Edinburgh on 11 February 1847. He matriculated in 1789 at the University of Glasgow, but then moved to Edinburgh, where he prepared for the legal profession, but also attended the philosophy class of Dugald Stewart in 1795. In 1799 he was admitted to the Society of Writers to the Signet, and from 1805 until 1837 held the position of librarian. At that time, Napier's interests were philosophical and literary rather then legal, and his library included the principal British philosophers of the previous two centuries. He contributed for the first time to the Edinburgh Review in 1805 with a short article on J.-M. De Gérando's De la generation des connoissances humaines (1803), where he acknowledges the merit of the French philosopher in stressing the role played by all our intellectual powers in the formation of ideas, but claims that De Gérando ‘has added nothing to what Condillac had already written upon the importance of investigating into the origin of ideas’ (p. 321). With Stewart, he thought that French philosophers had not ‘made great progress towards a detection of the manifold errors which the doctrine of ideas has engrafted upon the science of mind’ (De la generation des connoissances humaines (1803), p. 322) and that they were ‘but superficially acquainted with the principles of [Reid's] philosophy’ (p. 323).

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From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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