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’.
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.
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
Viktor E. Frankl,
Man’s Search For Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy
, (Pocket Books: NewYork, 1963), page 156
, pages 169 - 170