Man's Search for Meaning

It is not too often that I write about a book that I want to read. I saw something on Facebook this week (I think that is where I saw it) that caused me to check it out. Here is part of what the Wiki says about it:
Viktor Frankl's 1946 book Man's Search for Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and describes his psychotherapeutic method of finding a reason to live. According to Frankl, the book intends to answer the question "How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?" Part One constitutes Frankl's analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory of logotherapy.
According to a survey conducted by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress, Man's Search For Meaning belongs to a list of "the ten most influential books in [the United States]." (New York Times, November 20, 1991). At the time of the author's death in 1997, the book had sold 10 million copies in twenty-four languages.
The Wiki gives a synopsis of the book and a bit of depth into Frankl's experience.. they also list some quotes from the book.. here are a few:
  • We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that 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.
  • A man can get used to anything, but do not ask us how.
  • When we are no longer able to change a situation – just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer – we are challenged to change ourselves.
  • Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him – mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp.
That first quote floored me when I read it. This also causes me to ponder:
Frankl also concludes that there are only two races of men, decent men and indecent. No society is free of either of them, and thus there were "decent" Nazi guards and "indecent" prisoners, most notably the kapo who would torture and abuse their fellow prisoners for personal gain.
The piece concludes that "Frankl's meaning in life is to help others find theirs." The book seems to be one that might do just that. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the book (especially if you have read it) and if you recommend my reading it.


  1. Oh my goodness, Bob ~~ after reading this article I too would like to read this book. I'm sure it will break my heart, but also give me insight into the relationship these prisons had with each other and their God.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. I read it many years ago and now I think I will read it again. I highly recommend it, it puts so many things in life into perspective.

  3. You can view a dozen talks by Viktor Frankl on YouTube ( and the entire text of his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” is available, free online, at, It appears to be a great book and very readable. Also, I remember seeing an American Public Television documentary about him, “Frankl’s Choice”. It can be ordered for $29, if anyone is interested, or perhaps if more than one person is interested, the DVD can be shared. I don’t remember much about the documentary as it was aired in 2002. In the blog, I felt that the term “concentration camp” wasn’t descriptive enough. There were vast differences between camps. I knew an American bomber crew member in the Assisted Living facility where I worked who was shot down over Germany in 1944 and became a POW. Relatively, he was well treated (however, not all American POWs were so lucky.). Race was an extremely important factor. Frankl was Jewish and the blog didn’t mention this, so I looked it up. All Jewish camps were hell. Looks like this is a most excellent suggestion, Bob. We should all read the book.
    Also, this is “off topic”, but the Science Channel today presented a documentary about Sodom and Gomorra. Unbiased scientific researchers have found amazing hard historical evidence that these two cities did indeed exist, and that they were destroyed by fire. Scientific evidence points to destruction by a meteor, similar to the one that caused the creator in Arizona.

  4. I downloaded Man's Search to my iPOD as an audio book for 10 bucks from AUDIBLE.COM

  5. Review: Dr. Frankl was a psychiatrist who developed a new method of treatment for mental problems called, “logotherapy”. Be aware that the last quarter of this book is equivalent to an “infomercial” pushing this product. This is not a criticism – logotherapy may be great; but the last quarter of the book like a psychology lecture in collage. Psychology is just not my thing. I am not one who is wont to pick up one of Jung’s or Freud’s books and devote time to it.
    And for this blog, it may be germane to note that Frankl is Jewish – and although he respects Christianity, Jesus is not necessary in order to experience a full and happy life. Again, I don’t mean for this to be a criticism – I’m just telling how it is.
    Frankl’s main tenet is this: mankind is crying out for meaning in life (Woe is me! My life has no meaning! What is the meaning of life! I’m going to hang myself ‘cause I got no meaning!) Who am I to question Frankl? But, as for me, I say a serious search for meaning is absurd. None of you will understand this, but suppose you go back, way back, when the sharp dividing line between humans and animals didn’t exist – and you ask the ape next to you, “Are you unhappy because you can’t figure out the meaning of your life?” The ape will give you an uncomprehending stare and then go off to enjoy the day that god hath made. Another example; what pleases god more – a person on his knees all day in fervent prayer or a kitten joyously playing with a ball of string? I say the kitten.
    I’m so bad, but I’ve got to take another exception to Frankl and this is my fiercest criticism: “there are only two races of men, decent men and indecent.” I begin my argument with this quote, “What men do in the name of evil we can survive – but god save us from what we do in the name of good.” My beef is with the “decent race of men”. History is rife with people who consider themselves law abiding, moral and good. But they are destructive beyond belief. For example, the judges who presided over the “burning time” in Europe, otherwise known as the “woman’s holocaust” where an estimated 9 million woman and female children were burned at the stake for being witches. (Hey man, we’re just making the world better for everybody!”) But I see things happening today in the sure and irreversible demise of America. I believe a small cadre is leading our fall, but they could not succeed with the help of millions of well meaning and kind people.
    Since I have the book on my ITUNES, I can burn a copy if anyone wants it. I am curious what other’s may think about this book.

  6. Thanks Roger for your perspective on the book and for that great review. Ditto your concerns about "decent" people doing bad things. I think that it is sometimes a mixed bag.. those slave-owners that justified slavery using the bible comes to mind.. there may have been some misguided adherents to that ideology but the religious leaders were misguided on a different level and IMO bear the greater weight for sustaining the evil of slavery.. either way slavery is a blight on our history.

    Lastly, I think that you are a good writer and would make a good blogger.. something to think about :)


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