Death of Former Sather Professor Michael Frede

August 12, 2007

Michael Frede, who served as the 84th Sather Professor of Classical Literature in 1997-98, has died. Frede was attending a triennial colloquium on Hellenistic philosophy in Delphi and died on August 11 while swimming at Agios Minas, a cove east of Itea on the Gulf of Corinth.

Michael Frede was recognized as one of the most distinguished experts in ancient philosophy in the world. Born in Berlin in 1940, he earned his Ph.D. at Göttingen in 1966 and held the post of Wissenschaftlicher Assistent there from 1966 to 1971. Having first come to Berkeley as a Visiting Lecturer in 1968-69, he joined the faculty of the Philosophy Department here in 1971 as an Assistant Professor and rose to the rank of full Professor with extraordinary rapidity. In 1976 he left Berkeley to join the Princeton Philosophy Department, where until 1991 he was a key component of their top-ranked graduate program in Ancient Philosophy, whose graduates by now hold positions at major institutions all over the U.S.A. In 1991 he returned to Europe, to take the Chair in the History of Philosophy at Oxford University. After his retirement from Oxford, he taught at the University of Athens.

Professor Frede's two early books, Prädikation und Existenzaussage (1967) and Die Stoische Logik (1974), immediately established him as an extraordinarily acute and rigorous philosopher; and a series of definitive articles during the 1970’s and 1980’s on Stoic logic and grammar, ancient Scepticism and history of science, and the relations between Aristotelian and Stoic epistemology, played a crucial role in the vigorous resurgence of scholarly interest in post-Aristotelian philosophy. A book collecting some of his Essays in Ancient Philosophy (1987) is already a classic, and his two-volume edition with commentary of Book Z of Aristotle’s Metaphysics (co-authored with G. Patzig, 1988) represents another landmark contribution. With his penetrating powers of analysis, his unique combination of philological with philosophical expertise, and his ability to pay equally close attention both to minute details and to the larger issues, he commanded the attention both of historians of philosophy and of students of contemporary epistemology. In addition to his monographs, he is the author of numerous articles and he co-edited several volumes.

In his six Sather Lectures (Fall 1997) on "The origins of the Notion of the Will," Frede revisited the topic of the Sather series given by Albrecht Dihle when Professor Frede was still a member of Berkeley’s Philosophy Department. Although the lectures themselves struck the audience as polished and cogent, Frede insisted that there were other authors and problems related to the topic that he had to deal with before he would be willing to commit his lectures to print.

Professor Frede was a Member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.