Frithjof Bergmann, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, passed away on May 24 in Ann Arbor. He was 90 years old.
Born in 1930, Bergmann came to the US from Germany as a student, and received his PhD in Philosophy from Princeton University in 1959. He joined the University of Michigan, where he spent the majority of his academic career, in 1961. Bergmann also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.
As a scholar, Bergmann’s interests included continental philosophy, existentialism, social and political philosophy, philosophical anthropology, and philosophy of culture. Particularly engaged with Hegel, Nietzsche, and Sartre, he articulated a novel and influential theory of freedom of the will in his best-known academic work, On Being Free (1977).
Bergmann was also known for his political activism; he led one of the earliest known “teach-ins” at Michigan in 1965, and remained active in anti-war movements throughout his life.
In the later portion of his career, Bergmann turned his attention to his "New Work" movement, which addresses the relationship between work, self-realization, freedom, and technological and social change. In 1981, he founded the Center for New Work in Flint, MI, which sought to foster dialogue about ameliorating the impacts of auto-industry layoffs in the community.
After his retirement in 1999, Bergmann continued to write and lecture on the practical, social, and cultural implications of philosophical thought. In 2018, he published New Work, New Culture, which recounts the development of his ideas and proposes an alternative framework to the modern “job system."
A memorial ceremony will be held on Sunday, July 18 at 1 PM in the backyard of Bergmann's former residence at 1420 Jorn Court, and will be followed by a reception at Morgan and York.