Frederick “Fritz” Wilhelmsen (1923-1996) was, in my estimation at least, one of the great Thomists of the last century. So, I thought it fitting to mark in some way the 20th anniversary of his death. I’m a month late for the anniversary – Wilhelmsen died on May 21, 1996 – but I don’t think that matters much.
Wilhelmsen grew up in Detroit. During World War II, he interrupted his studies at the University of Detroit to serve for three years as an army medic. He eventually earned his BA in 1947 from another Jesuit institution, the University of San Francisco. He completed his MA in philosophy in 1948 at the University of Notre Dame, where he studied under Gerald Phelan and Yves Simon. He completed his PhD in philosophy at the Universidad de Madrid in 1958, with a dissertation on Jacques Maritain.
Wilhelmsen taught at Santa Clara University, Al-Hikma University in Baghdad, the Universidad de Navarra, and lastly at the University of Dallas, where he taught philosophy and political theory for 31 years.
His work ranged from metaphysics and epistemology to political theory and cultural criticism. During his lifetime, Wilhelmsen authored seventeen books, among which, the better known are: Hilaire Belloc: No Alienated Man. A Study in Christian Integration (1954); Man’s Knowledge of Reality. An Introduction to Thomistic Epistemology (1956); The Metaphysics of Love (1962); The Paradoxical Structure of Existence (1970); Christianity and Political Philosophy (1978); Citizen of Rome: Reflections from the Life of a Roman Catholic (1980); and Being and Knowing: Reflections of a Thomist (1991). Several of these books collect separately published papers.
Wilhelmsen co-authored two books with Jane Bret: The War in Man: Media and Machines (1970) and Telepolitics: The Politics of Neuronic Man (1972).
You can find a bibliography of Wilhelmsen’s writings here.
Since there are several good overviews of Wilhelmsen’s life and work available online, I'll forego going any further with the one in this post. Here are four of those overviews:
J. Lehrberger, O. Cist., Christendom’s Troubadour: Frederick D. Wilhelmsen
D.J. D’Elia, Citizen of Rome: Dr. Fredrick D. Wilhelmsen
J.O. Nelson, Wilhelmsen, Frederick
UD Philosophy Department, Frederick D. Wilhelmsen (1923-1996): A UD Legend (Go to p. 2.)
A last word...
It's truly sad that Fritz is gone. We could really use him right now.