Thom Foolery's Reviews > Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
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Jun 22, 10

bookshelves: religion, psychology, philosophy, antisemitism, classic, resistance, holocaust, favorites
Recommended to Thom by: several recommendations, most recently *Poker Without Cards* by Ben Mack (http://pokerwithoutcards.com/)
Read from May 29 to 31, 2010, read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** From the Preface by Gordon W. Allport:

"To weave [the:] slender threads of a broken life into a firm pattern of meaning and responsibility is the object and challenge of logotherapy, which is Dr. Frankl's own version of existential analysis. (ix)

"Hunger, humiliation, fear and deep anger at injustice are rendered tolerable by closely guarded images of beloved persons, by religion, by a grim sense of humor, and even by glimpses of the healing beauties of nature...But these moments of comfort do not establish the will to live unless they help the prisoner make larger sense out of his apparently senseless suffering. It is here that we encounter the central theme of existentialism: to live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering....Each must find out for himself, and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes. If he succeeds he will continue to grow in spite of all indignities." (xi)

From Part One:

"Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom." (31)

"Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance." (37)

"Man canpreserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress....everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way....It is this spiritual freedom--which cannot be taken away--that makes life meaningful and purposeful." (65-6)

"If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete." (67)

"A man who could not see the end of his 'provisional existence' was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life....The prisoner who had lost faith in the future--his future--was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future he also lost his spiritual hold: he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay." (70, 74)

"Woe to him who has no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost." (76)

"Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual." (77)

"A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life." (80)

"Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be very easy to condemn. The boundaries between groups overlapped and we must not try to simplify matters by saying that these men were angels and those were devils." (86)

"We all said to each other in camp that there could be no earthly happiness which could compensate for all we had suffered. We were not hoping for happiness--it was not that which gave us courage and gave meaning to our suffering, our sacrifices and our dying. And yet were not prepared for unhappiness." (93)

Part Two:

"Logotherapy focuses...on the future, that is to say, on the assignments and meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future." (96)

"Man's search for meaning is a primary force in his life and not a 'secondary rationalization' of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that is must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning." (97)

"If the meaning which is waiting to be fulfilled by man were really nothing more than a projection of his wishful thinking, it would immediately lose its demanding and challenging character; it could not longer call man forth or summon him." (98)

"Now, if I say man is pulled by values, what is implicitly referred to is the fact that there is always freedom involved; the freedom of man to make his choice between accepting or rejecting an offer, i.e., to fulfill a meaning potentiality, or else to forfeit it....Man is never driven to moral behavior; in each instance, he decides to behave morally." (99)

"A man's concern, even his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is a spiritual distress but by no means a mental disease. ((103)

"What matters...is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment....One should not search for an abstract meaning of life." (108)

"Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that is it he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible." (109)

"For what matters above all is the attitude we take toward suffering, the attitude in which we take our suffering upon ourselves....In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end." (112, 114)

"What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life; but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp is unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms. Logos is deeper than logic." (118)

"It is not the neurotic's self-concern, whether pity or contempt, which breaks the circle formation; the cue to cure is self-transcendence!" (129)

"To be sure, a human being is a finite thing, and his freedom is restricted. It is not freedom from conditions but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions....In other words, man is ultimately self-determining. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant." (130-1)

"A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes--within the limits of endowment and environment--he has made out of himself....Man has both potentialities [i.e., swine and saint:] within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions." (135)
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