Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mackay, Robert William

MACKAY, ROBERT WILLIAM (1803–1882), philosopher and scholar, born 27 May 1803 in Piccadilly, London, was only son of John Mackay, and was educated at Winchester. He matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford, 15 Jan. 1821, graduating B.A. 1824 and M.A. 1828, and carrying off the chancellor's prize for Latin verse. On leaving Oxford he entered Lincoln's Inn in 1828, but after planning and partly writing a treatise on equity he conceived a dislike to the subject, and turned to theology and philosophy. In 1850 he published his most elaborate work, ‘The Progress of the Intellect, as exemplified in the Religious Development of the Greeks and Hebrews,’ 2 vols. 8vo. This was followed in 1854 by ‘A Sketch of the Rise and Progress of Christianity,’ and in 1863 by ‘The Tübingen School and its Antecedents: a Review of the History and Present Condition of Modern Theology.’ All are remarkable for ‘the amount of research and thought put into a narrow compass.’ Their author, as a philosopher, agreed most nearly with Kant, as a theologian he followed Baur and Strauss. His devotion to Plato found expression in two translations—‘The Sophistes of Plato, translated, with explanatory Notes and an Introduction on Ancient and Modern Sophistry,’ 1868, and ‘Plato's Meno, translated, with explanatory Notes and Introduction, and a preliminary Essay on the Moral Education of the Greeks,’ 1869. These, like his other works, show originality of thought and fine scholarship. He died 23 Feb. 1882.

[Athenæum, No. 2836, p. 283; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Foster's Alumni Oxon.]

R. B.