Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)
Man's search for meaning: an introduction to logotherapy (1946)
If you want to stay alive, there is only one way: look fit for work.
It was Lessing who once said «There are things which must cause you to lose your reason
or you have none to lose». An abnormal reaction to an abormal situation is normal
In Auschwitz I had laid down a rule for myself which proved to be a good one and which
most of my comrades later followed. I generally answered all kinds of questions
truthfully. But I was silent about anything that was not expressly asked for.
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.
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.
There is also purpose in life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment
and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: namely, in man's
attitude to his existence, an existence restricted by external forces.
If there is a meaning in live at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.
It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.
We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves
as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist,
not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. 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.
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. He knows the «why» for his existence, and will be able
to bear almost any «how».
The meaning of our existence is not invented by ourselves, but rather detected.
Logotherapy...considers man as a being whose main concern consists in fulfilling
a meaning and in actualizing values, rather than in the mere gratification and
satisfaction of drives and instincts.
What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and
struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of
tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled
What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific
meaning of a person's life at a given moment.
Ultimately, man should not ask what the 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 own life; to life he can only
respond by being responsible.
The true meaning of life is to be found in the world rather than within man or his
own psyche, as though it were a closed system....Human experience is essentially
self-transcendence rather than self-actualization. Self-actualization is not a
possible aim at all, for the simple reason that the more a man would strive for it,
the more he would miss it.... In other words, self-actualization cannot be attained
if it is made an end in itself, but only as a side effect of self-transcendence.
We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by doing a deed;
(2) by experiencing a value; and (3) by suffering.
At any moment, man must decide, for beter or for worse, what will be the monument
of is existence.
(Washington Square Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1963.)
liens: sur Frankl,
Frankl et la Shoa,
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dernière mise à jour : 21/09/2001