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Man Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Man Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

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Published by Dave
psychology, psychiatry, Viktor Frankl, Meaning of Life, philosophy, Heidegger, Nietzsche, psychoanalysis, Aadler, Freud, logotherapy
psychology, psychiatry, Viktor Frankl, Meaning of Life, philosophy, Heidegger, Nietzsche, psychoanalysis, Aadler, Freud, logotherapy

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Published by: Dave on Dec 13, 2009
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08/02/2010

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 Briefly review Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning as a whole. Then evaluatelogotherapy with the help of the theology of Ecclesiastes and relevant insights fromSupplementary Readings 3-6. Highlight in what way logotherapy is consistent with Ecclesiastes and in what way it is not. Can logotherapy be modified so that it can be safely used by Christians? If no, why? If yes, how? A summary on Frankl and hislogotherapy is available at: (Length: 1000 words)http://www.meaning.ca/archives/archive/art_logotherapy_P_Wong.htm.
 Questions about life’s meaning and suffering which were formerly handled by priests or rabbis are now increasingly confronted by psychiatrists and doctors. In his bestseller 
Man's Search for Meaning 
, Dr Victor Frankl highlighted the distinctive of logotherapy, also known as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy”, as the ideathat “the striving to find a meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force in man”.Therefore, for logotheraphy, the focus is on the
in contrast to the
 of Freudian psychoanalysis and the 
stressed by Adlerian psychology. While Freud and Adler tried to discover primal drives latent in the past,Frankl focuses rather on the meanings one is called to fulfill in the future.
1
In his movingautobiographical account of experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, he observed how prisoners who lost hope in the future would be subject to mental and physical decay.
2
 According to Frankl, man’s search for meaning is not a derived projection frommore basic instinctual drives or sublimations. Otherwise it would lose its ability to
1
Victor Frankl, 1984, p.120).
2
page 117 – 121
 
challenge or summon him to live or even die for these values. Unlike Sartre’s axiom thatexistence precedes essence, Frankl’s existentialism asserts that the meaning of our existence is not invented by ourselves but rather we discover it as ‘something confrontingexistence’.
3
 Those who lack a meaning worth living for and find an inner void withintheir hearts experience ‘existential vacuum’. This is a widespread phenomenon of thetwentieth century due to the loss of traditional values and rampant industrialization,manifesting itself in boredom, addiction,
the will to money
, apathy or unbridled sexuallibido.
4
 As a Christian, I applaud Frankl’s critique of the determinism prevailing in much of  psychoanalysis that reduced man to nothing but a victim of hereditary or environmentalconditions. We share the hope that a ‘rehumanized psychiatry’ would replace thetendency to treat human minds as machines and focus on mere techniques. Indeed,Frankl’s view of man is biblical in the sense that man has both the potentials of behavinglike a swine or a saint. Man’s dignity lies in him being created in the image of God andyet marred by the depravity of sin. However, Frankl has an overly optimistic view of human freedom in which even the most evil persons are ultimately self-determining.Through restricted by conditions, they are free to change their own destiny. In theChristian perspective, fallen man is in need of divine rescue and inner liberation beforesuch a change is possible. As long as his basic orientation is self-centered, the outwardchange merely vacillates between hedonism and legalism. ‘Existential vacuum’ (and its
3
Viktor E. Frankl,
Man’s Search For Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy
, (Pocket Books: NewYork, 1963), page 156
4
 
 Ibid.
, pages 169 - 170
 
symptoms) express in modern terms Augustine’s ancient prayer that our hearts arerestless until they find fulfillment or satisfaction in God.However, according to Frankl, the meaning of life cannot be abstract or general. Itmust be specific to a person’s life at a given moment. Everyone has his own concretemission that demands fulfillment. Logotheraphy asserts that the human ability to respondto life’s vocation is the essence of his existence. “Ultimately, man should not ask whatthe meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is
he
who is asked. In a word,each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his ownlife”.
5
In order to help someone discover his own meaning, the doctor asks him questionthat ‘confronts him with life’s
 finiteness
as well as the
 finality
of what he makes out of  both his life and himself’.
6
 The key is not self-actualization (promoted by numerous self-help books) but self-transcendence because the more we make self-fulfillment our goal,the more elusive it becomes. We transcend ourselves by fulfilling the higher meaningwhich can be detected through three different ways – 1) by achievement, 2) byexperiencing a work of nature or art or a person we love and 3) by suffering. Again,Christians could agree with Frankl’s insistence that the meaning of life is detected rather than constructed. In Ecclesiastes, the Preacher confronts his readers with the transitorynature of life and compels them to make a choice in how to live it not in pursuit of  profitless ventures like wealth accumulation and selfish pleasures. We are most fulfilledwhen we give ourselves to a higher cause in accomplishing His concrete calling for us,experiencing personally the Creator’s love, and suffering in service of others as Jesus did
5
 
 Ibid.
, page 172
6
 
 Ibid.,
 page 173. The categorical imperative of logotherapy: “So live as if you were living already for thesecond time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”

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