The Will to Meaning


Middle age: no longer concerned with issues of identity but with sustaining care and discovering the basis of integrity.

     Not “who am I” but “what does all this mean”?  What kind of life should I be making for myself, who do I want to be with for the rest of my life?  To what work should I devote myself in the years that remain?

     Only one life.  Now determining its overall purpose and design.

     Identity establishment gives way to question of whther one’s identity has any ultimate meaning and value.


Three interlacing dimensions of human life:

1.    Bodily - will to pleasure

2.    Mental - will to self-actualization

3.    Spiritual - will to meaning


For Frankl: the spiritual dimension of human life has the strongest effect upon our halth or illness, our sense of fulfillment or frustration.

     To ignore the spiritual dimension is to miss the most salient features of our humanity.


The essense of human life is the spiritual dynamic created by our fundamental  responsibility for fulfilling a unique mission or vocation in life.


Health and wellbeing -- meaning - is achieved in at least three different ways:


1.    By crating values through active deeds

2.    By enduring suffering and thereby realizing an attitudinal achievement

3.    By experiencing the “Suprameaning” of life throiugh a prerational experience of an indwelling spiritual reality


An important insight from Frakl:  Meaning is to be found even in moments of loss, grief, and pain.

     Much of life is beyond our control, leaving happiness to external conditions

     One aspect of life, however, is not under the control of external conditions - the attitude toward those external events.

     In moment of profound suffering we can assert one’s freedom to shoose an attitutde towards life, thereby achieve dignity in the face of tragedy.


A “spiritual unconscious”:  the ultimate source of human activity that transcendes the environment -- e.g., in art, love, and moral conscience


An unconscious ground into which one can reach and “experience a rlatinoship betwen the immanent self and a transcendent thou”

     Makes it possible to lay holdof meanings that transcend the historical flux of everyday life


Logotherapy in a Nutshell


Will to pleasure / will to power / will to meaning


When the will to meaning is frustrated, logotherapy speaks of “existential frustration”

     “Existential” refers to (1) Existence itslef, esp. The specifically human mode of beong; (2) the meaning of existence; (3) the striving to find a concrete meaning in personal existence.


“Noological”: mental dimension of human existence; anything pertaining to the specifically human dimension.

     Logotherapy dares to enter this specifically human dimension.   Rejects ‘nothingbutism,” assists the patient in finding meaning in his life (make it conscious find the hidden logos of his existence).

     Mental health is baed on a certain degree of tension based on the gap between what one is and what one should become.  One strives and struggle for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.


The Existential Vacuum: A widespread phenomenon of the modern era.

     Based on a twofold loss:

     Loss of some of the basic animal instincts in which an animals behaviors are embedded > humans have to make choices.

     Loss of the traditions that support his behavior, traditions that have been diminshed in the moern era.  No instinct or tradition tells us what he has to do.

     So he either conforms (wishes to do what other people do) or is told what to do (as in totalitarianism).

     Behind many instances of drug abuse, neurosis, sexual obsession, and suicide is an existential vacuum.


The Meaning of Life: 

     One shouldn’t search for an abstract meaning of life.Everyone has his or her own specific vocation or mission in life to cary out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment.

     One should ask what the meaning of life is.  Life asks the question of himor her.  She must answer for her own life. The essance of that response, and of human existence, in responsibility.

The Essence of Existence: “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you has acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.”

     One must confront the finality of what oen makes out of himself and his life.

     Logotherapy helps to make one aware of his respnsibleness; it leaves him thereby the option for what, to what, or to whom he understands himself to be responsible.

     Therapist never imposes own value judgements - she is like an eye doctor rather than an artist

Human beings are responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of their lives

     This meaning can be discovered in the world, not within ones own psyche

     Being human always points to something or someone other than oneself

     The more one forgets himsel, the more human he is.

     Self actualization is not realizable.  The more one strives for it, the more he will miss it.  It is an side-effect of self-transcendence


Meaning of life always changes but it never cease to be.  Can be discovered through:

1.    Creating a work or doing a deed

2.    Experiencing something or encountering someone

3.    The attitude tha we take toward unavoidable suffering


The Super-Meaning:  Whst is demanded of humans is not to endure the meaninglessness of life but to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms.

     Logos is deeper than logic


Life’s Transitoriness Cf. p.121 on the pessimist and the activist.