Frithjof Bergmann

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Frithjof Bergmann
Frithjof Bergmann.jpg
Born(1930-12-24)24 December 1930
Died23 May 2021(2021-05-23) (aged 90)[2]
Alma materPrinceton University
Era20th-/21st-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolContinental philosophy
Main interests
Cultural philosophy
Philosophy of mind
Notable ideas
New Work

Frithjof Harold Bergmann (24 December 1930 – 23 May 2021) was a German professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, where he taught courses on existentialism, continental philosophy, Hegel, and Marx. Furthermore, he was the founder of the New Work movement.[3]

Life and work[edit]

Frithjof Bergmann first moved to the US as a student, where he has lived and worked ever since. He entered the doctoral program in philosophy at Princeton University and studied under Walter Kaufmann, receiving his Ph.D. in 1959 with a dissertation entitled "Harmony and Reason: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Hegel." In addition, Professor Bergmann was a Nietzsche scholar; his publications include "Nietzsche's Critique of Morality" (published in Reading Nietzsche, Oxford University Press, 1988). He spent most of his academic career at the University of Michigan, where he was a professor and visible political activist. He taught also at The University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and The University of California, Santa Cruz. Among his more notable PhD students at the University of Michigan were Robert C. Solomon and Anthony Weston. He is credited as one of the creators of the teach-in, the first of which was held on the Michigan campus in March 1965.[4]

Frithjof Bergmann's interests included continental philosophy—especially Hegel, Nietzsche, Sartre and existentialism generally—and also social and political philosophy, philosophical anthropology, and philosophy of culture. His article The Experience of Values (reprinted in Revisions: Changing Perspectives in Moral Philosophy by University of Notre Dame Press, 1983) is used in universities throughout the world. His book On Being Free (1977) was issued in a paperback edition in 1978. In this book,[5] Bergmann argues against the standard views of freedom as the lack of external obstacles or as an irrational, unencumbered act that rejects all order. Both of these leave us with nothing substantial for a self at all—and thus, he suggests, constitute virtually a reductio ad absurdum of modern ideals of education, society, and the family. Instead, he argues that the primary prerequisite of freedom is a self possessed of something that wants to be acted out. An act is free, he argues, if the agent identifies with the elements from which it flows. The real problems of education, society, etc. are those of coming to a true understanding of one's self and of building a society with which a self can identify.

In the years between 1976 and 1979 he undertook trips to the former countries of the Eastern Bloc and began to question capitalism and communism. In this time, he introduces his concept of New Work. In 1984, Bergmann founded an organisation called the Center for New Work in Flint, Michigan.[6] Together with others he formulated a novel proposal that became known as the "6 months--6 months proposal."


  • On Being Free. University of Notre Dame, November 1977; ISBN 0-268-01492-2
  • Menschen, Märkte, Lebenswelten. Differenzierung und Integration in den Systemen der Wohnungslosenhilfe. VSH Verlag Soziale Hilfe, 1999; ISBN 3-923074-65-4
  • Neue Arbeit, Neue Kultur. Aus dem Amerikanischen übersetzt von Stephan Schuhmacher - Arbor Verlag, 2004; ISBN 3-924195-96-X
  • New Work New Culture: Work We Want and a Culture that Strengthens Us. Zero Books, 2019; ISBN 978-1-78904-064-7


  1. ^ 'Frithjof Bergmann – Wir sollen nicht der Arbeit dienen, sondern die Arbeit soll uns dienen.'
  2. ^ a b 'Obituary: Frithjof Harold Bergmann. December 24, 1930 – May 23, 2021.'
  3. ^ "The future of work is called New Work". Job Wizards. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  4. ^ Peace Movement Now
  5. ^ Frithjof Bergmann (1977). On Being Free. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctvpj760s. ISBN 978-0-268-15889-7.
  6. ^ "Department of Philosophy at the University of Michigan". Archived from the original on 26 May 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2006.

External links[edit]