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Man's Search for Meaning Paperback – June 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


One of the great books of our time. —Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

"One of the outstanding contributions to psychological thought in the last fifty years."—Carl R. Rogers (1959)

About the Author

Viktor E. Frankl was professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School until his death in 1997. His twenty-nine books have been translated into twenty-one languages. During World War II, he spent three years in Auschwitz, Dachau, and other concentration camps.

Harold S. Kushner is rabbi emeritus at Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, and the author of bestselling books including When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Living a Life That Matters, and When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough.

William J. Winslade is a philosopher, lawyer, and psychoanalyst who teaches psychiatry, medical ethics, and medical jurisprudence at the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1 edition (June 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807014273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807014271
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,455 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Viktor E. Frankl was professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School until his death in 1997. He was the founder of what has come to be called the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy (after Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology)--the school of logotherapy.

Born in 1905, Dr. Frankl received the degrees of Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Vienna. During World War II he spent three years at Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps.

Dr. Frankl first published in 1924 in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and has since published twenty-six books, which have been translated into nineteen languages, including Japanese and Chinese. He was a visiting professor at Harvard, Duquesne, and Southern Methodist Universities. Honorary Degrees have been conferred upon him by Loyola University in Chicago, Edgecliff College, Rockford College, and Mount Mary College, as well as by universities in Brazil and Venezuela. He was a guest lecturer at universities throughout the world and made fifty-one lecture tours throughout the United States alone. He was President of the Austrian Medical Society of Psychotherapy.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

432 of 460 people found the following review helpful By Mr Mondo on January 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Dr. Frankl's logotherapy is straightforward and easy to understand. It is also a useful antidote to the rather frightening drift in psychology during the past two decades toward strict biological determinism.
This particular work is one I keep at hand and re-read on a regular basis. I read it for the first time a few months after I started medical treatment and therapy for life-long depression. I get more from it each time I go back to it.
Logotherapy manages an incredible balance. It does not put man himself at the center of the universe, thus avoiding the kind of narcissistic self-reflection common to much of the therapeutic literature today. Yet, it does not sweep man aside as irrelevant. Instead, Frankl argues that we have an incredible power to shape our attitudes and responses to the challenges life presents us and that we inevitably grow thanks to these challenges.
This is a quick read and could conceivably change your life. Man is more than the sum of his biology and his environment. We inevitably choose to be who we are. Frankl's argument is that, if we choose wisely, we can triumph even in tragedy. It's a truth many of us have lost sight of in our cynicism.
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321 of 344 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
Frankl, who survived the concentration camps, writes that suffering is inevitable and that avoiding suffering is futile. Rather, one should be worthy of one's suffering and make meaning of it instead of surrendering to nihilism, bitterness and despair. He uses poetic, moving anecdotes from the concentration camps to illustrate those souls who find a deeper humanity from their suffering or who become animals relegated to nothing more than teeth-clenched self-preservation. Though not specifically religious, this masterpiece has a religious purpose--to help us find meaning. This book succeeds immeasurably.

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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on February 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
An American doctor once asked Viktor Frankl to explain the difference between conventional psychoanalysis and logotherapy. Before answering, Frankl asked the doctor for his definition of psychoanalysis. The man said, "During psychoanalysis, the patient must lie down on a couch and tell you things which sometimes are very disagreeable to tell." Frankl immediately replied by saying: "Now, in logotherapy the patient may remain sitting erect but he must hear things which sometimes are very disagreeable to hear." By this he meant that in logotherapy the patient is actually confronted with and reoriented toward the MEANING of his life. The role of the therapist, then, is to help the patient discover a purposefulness in his life. Frankl's theory is that man's search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a "secondary rationalization" of instinctual drives. Whereas Freudian psychoanalysis focuses on the "will to pleasure" and Adlerian psychology focuses on the "will to power" it can be said that Frankl's logotherapy focuses on the "will to meaning." Does man give in to to conditions or stand up to them? According to Frankl, the strength of a person's sense of meaning, responsibility, and purpose is the greatest determining factor in how that question will be answered. He believed that "man is ultimately self-determining" and as such, "does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment."
The first (and largest) section of this book is the searing autobiographical account of the author's experience as a longtime prisoner in a concentration camp. These camps claimed the lives of his father, mother, brother, and wife.
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74 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Ryan on June 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
I originally bought this book knowing nothing about Frankl, his experiences, or psychological theories. I simply read the description and a few of the overwhelmingly positive reviews here on Amazon and decided that it sounded interesting. What a life-changing book. Merely reading it at any given time has a marked positive influence on my attitude towards life.

What's most interesting about it, as Frankl says himself, is that what he's propounding are not abstract ideas developed by some academic at a university or in some research laboratory. He uses his direct experience in one of the most adverse circumstances possible--a Nazi concentration camp--to relate the ideas of logotherapy (his own school of psychotherapy) to the reader.

In a nutshell, the three most important tenets of logotherapy are as follows: (1) Life has meaning under all circumstances--even the most miserable ones; (2) Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life; and (3) We have the freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering. These principles are put directly to the test, and Frankl demonstrates their validity in a way that no social scientist has conceived of (or been able to) ever before.

From the afterword:

"Frankl was once asked to express in one sentence the meaning of his own life. He wrote the response on paper and asked his students to guess what he had written. After some moments of quiet reflection, a student surprised Frankl by saying, 'The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.'

'That was it, exactly,' Frankl said. 'Those are the very words I had written.'"
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