Manfred S. Frings (1925-2008)  ~ Requiescat in pace
Manfred Frings, professor emeritus of Philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago, the world’s leading specialist in the philosophy of Max Scheler and much-beloved doyen among Scheler scholars, died on Monday, December 15, 2008, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, following a stroke.  Frings was the editor of Max Scheler’s Collected Works (Gesammelte Werke), translated many of Scheler’s works into English, and is preeminently responsible for introducing Scheler’s phenomenology to the English-speaking world.

Born on 27 February 1925 in Cologne-Lindenthal, Germany, Frings was the third son of Gottfried and Maria Frings. He attended a Catholic elementary school, lived close to a Jewish community where he forged significant friendships shaping his later antipathy towards Nazism. Both his school and home were destroyed during the bombing of Cologne in WWII, and he remembered rescuing his mother from the ruins of their house. He was drafted into the German military near the end of the war, and was captured by American forces and sent to a POW camp near Rouen, France, where he made the first of many lifelong friendships with Americans.

Following the war, Frings attended the University of Cologne, where he studied philosophy, English and French. He earned his doctorate in philosophy in 1953. In 1958 his dream of emigrating to America was realized when he accepted an invitation to teach philosophy at the University of Detroit. In 1962 he accepted an appointment in philosophy at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. From 1966 to his retirement in 1992, he taught at DePaul University in Chicago. He subsequently continued teaching part-time at the University of New Mexico. At various points throughout his career, he served as visiting professor and lecturer at the Universities of Cologne, Freiburg, Oxford, and Sorbonne.

Frings initiated the annual International Heidegger Conference at DePaul in 1966. He was one of six scholars chosen by Martin Heidegger to be the original editors of Heidegger’s Collected Works (Gesamtausgabe). He edited Heidegger’s 1942-1944 lectures on Parmenides and Heraclitus (volumes 54 and 55 of the Gesamtausgabe). Since 1970, he served as editor of the Collected Works (Gesammelte Werke) of Max Scheler (1874-1928), a task completed with the publication of vol. 15 in 1997. He was President (then President Emeritus) of the international Max Scheler Society (Max-Scheler-Gesellschaft), as well as a founding father of the Max Scheler Society of North America.

The principal focus of Frings’s career was Scheler’s phenomenology of values, sociology of knowledge, ethics, political theory, and philosophy of time. Among Frings’ major contributions are the recognition he brought to Scheler’s phenomenology as a credible alternative to Edmund Husserl’s, his clarification of the relationship between Scheler and Heidegger in his seminal Person und Dasein (1969), and his concept of absolute time in his LifeTime: Max Scheler’s Philosophy of Time (2003). He has published well over a hundred articles, and edited twenty-four books, including his notable The Mind of Max Scheler: The First Comprehensive Guide Based on the Complete Works (1997, 2nd ed. 2001). His publications have been translated into Chinese, French, Japanese, and German. His work was recognized in a special audience with Pope John Paul II, himself an accomplished Scheler scholar, and by Martin Heidegger in personal meetings in Freiburg.

Frings is survived by his wife and long-time companion, Karin, as well as his daughter, Bliss.  A memorial service for Manfred S. Frings was held on Friday, December 19 at the French Mortuary, 1111 University Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102. A religious service was held the next day.

Select Bibliography

  • Max Scheler: A Concise Introduction into the World of a Great Thinker (Pittsburgh, 1965; 2nd ed, Milwaukee, 1996).
  • Person und Dasein: Zur Frage der Ontologie des Wertseins (The Hague, 1969).
  • “Max Scheler: Rarely Seen Complexities of Phenomenology,” Phenomenology in Perspective, ed. F. J. Smith (The Hague, 1970).
  • Zur Phänomenologie der Lebensgemeinschaft: Ein Versuch mit Max Scheler (Meisenheim, 1971).
  • Philosophy of Prediction and Capitalism (Dordrecht, 1987).
    “Scheler, Max,” Encyclopédie Philosophique Universelle, III, Les Ouvres Philosophiques (Paris, 1992).
  • “The Background of Max Scheler’s 1927 Reading of Being and Time: A Critique of a Critique Through Ethics,” Philosophy Today 36 (1992): 99-113.
  • “Max Scheler,” Encyclopedia Americana (Danbury, Connecticut, 1994).
  • “Max Scheler,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed (1994).
  • “Max Scheler,” Dictionaire d’éthique et de philosophie morale (Paris, 1996).
  • “Max Scheler,” The Encyclopedia of Phenomenology (Dordrecht, 1997).
  • The Mind of Max Scheler: The First Comprehensive Guide Based on the Complete Works (Milwaukee, 1997).

Tributes

Manfred Frings was not only the Editor the Collected Works of Max Scheler (in German) and publisher of many Scheler studies. He was the greatest Scheler scholar we are liable to ever see. From the day I first read his book on Scheler (in 1965) I have drawn inspiration and support first from his works and later from the person. His encouragement and gentle mentoring has meant much to me, as it has to many Scheler scholars over the years. He was not only my mentor, he became my friend as well. All Scheler scholars have now lost their father. The only consolation is, as my wife Nancy pointed out to me, he is now in heaven questioning and debating with Scheler as we all would love to do. May his soul rest in peace and joy.

Sincerely,
Peter Spader
December 19, 2008

Thank you for sharing the sad news. I was on campus to adminster a final, 12/18, and some papers were due by 1 PM on Thursday.

I saw the email, at about Noon EST, in the midst of numerous student emails. I took a deep breath, and opened the link, and there was no mistake. It struck me like Heidegger’s Zeus-lightning-bolt.

I know in my heart that our dear teacher and colleague is in a better place, but there is great sadness in contemplating a world without Dr. Frings.

Manfred and I used to discuss the relation between value and essence. He seemed noncommital, but his view of Scheler was more along the lines of Aristotle, while I saw values more as quasi-platonic entities like whiteheadian eternal objects.

While Dr. Frings was always adamant that “Scheler was not a Platonist,” it always struck me that Scheler was the perfect exemplar of the German romantic intellectual, and Frings himself was the exemplar of both the great teacher and the renaissance man. Race cars, paintings, piano, violin, Anglo Saxon, Old Norse, the best grilled meats I ever had, cats, Malebranche, Berdyaev, Fichte, Schelling … was there anything the man had not read or could not do?

As a side note, one of Frings’s very best courses at DePaul was taught 20 years ago at this time:
a seminar on the Parmenides of Plato, Fall quarter, 1988.

So maybe values are closer to Plato than Scheler or Frings would admit.

Sincerely,
Jeff Governale
December 20, 2008

I met Manfred Frings and his wife several times, mostly on the occasions of the conferences of the Scheler society. The atmosphere was always very friendly.

All those who knew him will have fond memories of him as a person who did so much for the dissemination of Scheler’s ideas among the international community of philosophers. And, of course, he was a very friendly person who also played excellently the piano. I will miss him.

Sincerely yours,
Rainer Sepp
December 21, 2008

The first time I met Manfred Frings was was also the first time I met Gene Kelly and Pete Spader — at the Long Island Philosophical Society at SUNY-Stonybrook, April 23, 1988. Gene arranged the conference, and I roomed with Pete.

It was a great conference with many notable speakers — a number of whom are no longer with us — and, for me, a momentous occasion. I remember being struck by Manfred’s unassuming geniality and graciousness toward everyone. He seemed genuinely appreciative of each and every person he met and sincerely grateful for their interest in Scheler’s work.

This impression was reinforced repeatedly at later conferences when I encountered Dr. Frings. He was surely the doyen among Scheler scholars during his lifetime, and yet he was never too busy to consider a new interpretation of Scheler’s work. Even when some of these interpretations raised questions, as sometimes mine did, Manfred was always a model of diplomacy and patience, like an indulgent uncle.

Like many others, I, too, was forcibly struck by the breadth of his interests and learning, when I discovered it. At one conference in Albuquerque in April of 2000, he and Karin invited all of those in the Scheler circle up to their home in the Northwestern suburb of Albuquerque on the sloping piedmont bordering the Cibola National Forest and overlooking the vast valley below. We watched the sunset, which was spectacular.

Manfred may have been discussing Novalis or Schelling or Schiller, but he sported a bolo tie — a testament to the dream he always had, even in Germany, of living in the American Southwest — a dream whose fulfillment was sweetened on this occasion by Karin’s delectable Southwestern-style bean and corn salad, even as she jousted with Manfred about preferences among the German romantics.

But the real kicker was their home itself — not merely the Spanish-American influence of the architectural style, but the grand piano situated prominently with sheet music of Manfred’s beloved Chopin on the keyboard, his free-hand sketches and paintings of Beethoven and other subjects framed on the walls, among a book collection displaying a range and variety of reading that left one wondering when either of them ever had time for Scheler.

Manfred’s academic works will always be appreciated for the care with which they are written. They never disappoint, either in terms of content or clarity of presentation. One cannot be acquainted with his work without being deeply appreciative of it. This is true of his translations as well, which are always sensitive to the needs of the reader. What many of us appreciate more than anything, however, what we have grown to love and what we miss most, is the kindly presence of Manfred himself.

Grüß Gott, lieber Freund!
Philip Blosser
October 23, 2009

It has been one year since M. S. Frings’ passing. Now we still miss him and will miss him forever.  As early as 2001, I, as a student interested in Max Scheler’s thought, began to write emails to Professor Frings, as well as Prof. Eugene Kelly, to ask some questions. From then on we kept in contact with each other till last year. And I have benefited a lot from their advice and help. I will always keep this thought in my mind and heart. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to meet with Professor Frings in person. I feel considerable regret about this.

I understand that Professor Frings sent copies of his and Scheler’s works as presents to several Chinese researchers interested in Scheler. I was also a recipient of his gifts. So far, two of his works on Scheler have been translated into Chinese and published in China. These are: Max Scheler, A Concise Introduction into the World of a Great Thinker (Pittsburgh: Duquesne U.P. 1965; Chinese trans., Beijing, 2003; and The Mind of Max Scheler: The First Comprehensive Guide Based on the Complete Works (Milwaukee: Marquette UP 1997; Chinese trans., Shanghai, 2006).
 
Besides this, many of his articles on Scheler have been translated into Chinese. This greatly promotes the spread of Scheler’s ideas in China and advances research on Scheler in China. I was permitted by Professor Frings to translate one of his works: Person und Dasein. Zur Frage der Ontologie des Wertseins (Den Haag: Nijhoff 1969). It is regrettable that he could not see my translation.

Here, I would like to extend lofty respect and express deep mourning for the “Father of Scheler research in the world,” Manfred S. Frings, on behalf of all of us in the Chinese community of Scheler scholars.

Wei Zhang
December 18, 2009

[Note: anyone wishing to add a few words about Manfred can send them via email to MSSNA.]

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