North American Scholar

FRITZ, Karl Albert Kurt von

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1900-08-25
  • Born City: Metz
  • Born State/Country: Lorraine
  • Parents: Oberstleutnant Adolf & Anna Stoelzel v. F.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1985-07-16
  • Death City: Feldafing near Starnberg
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Married: Louise Eickemeyer, 26 Nov. 1931; Hildegard Talhoff, ca. 1975?
  • Education:

    Abitur, Realgymnasium, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, 1918; class. abitur, 1919; study at Freiburg, 1919-20; Ph.D., Munich, 1923; habil., 1926.

  • Professional Experience:

    Privatdozent Munich, 1926-31; asst. to Ernst Kapp, Hamburg, 1931-3; ao. prof. Rostock, 1933-5; suspended, then dismissed, 1934-5; lctr. anc. math. Corpus Christi Coll., Oxford, 1935-6; vis. prof. Gk. & Lat. Reed Coll., 1936-7; vis. assoc. prof. Gk. & Lat. Columbia, 1937-8; prof. & chair dept. Gk. & Lat., 1938-54; o. prof. Freie Universität Berlin, 1954-8; Munich, 1958-68; vis. prof. U. California, Berkeley, 1969-70; U. Texas, 1970-1; U. Wisconsin, 1970-1.

  • Dissertation:

    “Quellenuntersuchungen zu Leben und Philosophie des Diogenes von Sinope,” (Munich, 1926); printed Philologus Suppl. 18, 2 (Leipzig, 1926).

  • Publications:

    “Herodotus and the Growth of Greek Historiography,” TAPA 67 (1936) 315-40; Philosophie und sprachlicher Ausdruck bei Demokrit, Plato und Aristoteles (New York & London, 1938); Pythagorean Politics in Southern Italy: An Analysis of the Sources (New York, 1940); “Atthidographers and Exegetae,” TAPA 71 (1940) 91-126; “The Meaning of ἘΚΤΗΜΟΡΟΣ,'' AJP 61 (1940) 54-61; “The Mission of L. Caesar and L. Roscius in January, 49 B.C.,” TAPA 72 (1941) 125-56; “Pompey's Policy before and after the Outbreak of the Civil War,” TAPA 73 (1942) 145-80; “Sallust and the Attitude of the Roman Nobility at the Time of the Wars against Jugurtha (112-105 B.C.),” TAPA 74 (1943) 134-68; “Greek Prayers,” Review of Religion (1945) 5-39; Aristotle's Constitution of Athens and Related Texts, trans, with E. Kapp (New York, 1950); The Theory of the Mixed Constitution in Antiquity: A Critical Analysis of Polybius' Political Ideas (New York, 1954); “Das Hesiodische in den Werken Hesiods,” Fondation Hardt pour Vetude de I'antiquM classi-que, entretiens 7, Hésiode et son influence. (Geneva, 1960), 3-47; “Tragische Schuld und poetische Gerechtigkeit in der griechischen Tragodie,” Studium generate 8 (1955) 194-237; “Tacitus, Agricola, Domitian, and the Problem of the Principate,” CP 52 (1957) 73-97; Aristotle's Contribution to the Practice and Theory of Historiography, Howison Lecture 1957, UCPCP 28,3 (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1958); “Die Entwicklung der Iason-Medea-Sage und die Medea des Euripides,” A&A 8 (1959) 33-106; Mathematiker und Akusmatiker bei den alten Pythagoreern, SBAWHeft 11 (Munich, 1960); Walter F. Otto, Mythos und Welt (ed.) (Stuttgart, 1962); idem, Das Wort der Antike (ed.) (Stuttgart, 1962); Antike und moderne Tragodie. Neun Abhandlungen (Berlin, 1962); “Die ἐπαγωγή bei Aristoteles,” SBAW (Munich, 1964); Die griechische Geschichtsschreibung I: Von den Anfitngen bis Thukydides (Berlin, 1967); Platon in Sizilien und das Problem der Philosophenherrschaft (Berlin, 1968); Platon, Theaetet und die antike Mathematik (Darmstadt, 1969); Grundprobleme der Geschichte der antiken Wissenschaft (Berlin & New York, 1971); Fondation d'Hardt pour l'Etude de l'antiquité classique, Entretiens 18, Pseudepigrapha I (ed.) (Geneva, 1972); The Relevance of Ancient Social and Political Philosophy for Our Times: A Short Introduction to the Problem (Berlin, 1974).Kleine Schriften: Schriften zur griechischen una rdmischen Verfas-sungsgeschichte und Verfassungstheorie (Berlin, 1976); Schriften zur griechischen Logik I: Logik und Erkenntnistheorie; II: Logik, Ontologie und Mathematik, Problemata LXX & LXXI (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, 1978); Beitrdge zu Aristoteles (Berlin, 1983).

  • Notes:

    Kurt von Fritz was a scholar of extraordinary range and learning and a person of rare integrity. He came from a military family recently ennobled, and was originally trained for a career as an officer. His youthful interest in German philosophy and Greek culture led him to learn Greek by a correspondence course and take a second abitur, so that he could study classical philology. He began at Freiburg, where he pursued logic and science as well as Greek and Latin, and then was attracted by Eduard Schwartz to Munich, where his studies included mathematics and Arabic and where both his dissertation and his Habilitationsschrift were devoted to Greek philosophers (Diogenes the Cynic and Democritus respectively). It was in Munich that he met Ernst Kapp, working then on Greek logic. In 1933 he was given his first professorship in Rostock, and one year later was faced (like every employee of the German government) with a request to sign the loyalty oath to Hitler. Because von Fritz added as a condition to his signature sofern nicht gegen die Wahrheit und mit meinem Gewissen vereinbar (“so far as not against truth and compatible with my conscience”), he was immediately suspended and subsequently dismissed. Eduard Fraenkel was able to find him a post at Oxford for one year, but in 1936 he came to the United States. In 1941 he was able to get his old friend and senior colleague Ernst Kapp a position in his department at Columbia. Those who had the good fortune to study with von Fritz and Kapp in those Columbia years had contact with two remarkable scholars, dear friends of sharply contrasting temperament, who represented the German classical tradition in its finest flower.It was not easy for von Fritz to decide to leave Columbia and the United States, but in 1954 he accepted a professorship at the freshly founded Freie Universität Berlin, where he felt he could be more useful in training the young generation of the new Germany.  He returned to the United States as often as possible, including visiting professorships at Berkeley, Austin, and Madison after his retirement. The last ten years of his professorial career were spent at Munich, as successor to Rudolf Pfeiffer, thus fulfilling the wish expressed by his teacher Eduard Schwartz at the moment of his departure from Germany in 1936, that he should one day return to occupy the chair at Munich.It is difficult to do justice to von Fritz's amazingly diverse productivity in a brief summary. If the center of gravity of his work remained in Greek philosophy (including not only Plato and Aristotle, but the Presocratic and Hellenistic schools as well), it was philosophy conceived as completed on the one hand by the history of mathematics and logic, and on the other hand by the history of political theory and the writing of history itself. (He liked to remind us that ἱστορία originally meant rational inquiry in general.) Political theory in turn included constitutional history, in Athens and in Rome. And besides philosophy and history, von Fritz's major work was in tragedy: Greek and modern, side by side. He was one of those rare classical scholars who were as much at home with Balzac or Brecht as with Sophocles and Seneca, in touch with colleagues in mathematics and natural science as well as in political theory and literature. He chose classics because he regarded it as of fundamental importance for human thought and much needed for modern culture. And his intellectual energy and breadth of vision were matched by an exceptionally strong moral commitment, a lifelong sense of political responsibility, and a character marked by sincerity, lack of pretense, and simple good will

  • Sources:

    H. Flashar, FAX (26 July 1985); W. Ludwig, Gnomon 58 (1986) 283-6; Ludwig & Gerhard Jager, In Memoriam Kurt von Fritz (1900-1985) (Munich, 1986); Ernst Vogt, Jahrbuch der Bay. Akad. der Wissenschaften (Munich, 1988), 247-53; WhAm 1950-1, 2833.

  • Author: Charles H. Kahn