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.
- 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).