New Stuff

Book Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

In the past, I would post only book reviews pertinent to worship, music in the local church, or general Christian leadership and discipleship. Recently, I've been studying many more general topics as well, such as history, economics and scientific thought, some of which end up as reviews here as well.

Entries in viktor (1)

Man's Search For Meaning - Viktor Frankl (1959)

Victor Frankl is the author of one of the most concise personal narratives of the holocaust of the Nazi concentration camps. Frankl, who survived no less than four camps personally, uses his profound analytic mind to explore the behavior and nature of human beings. Rejecting the Freudian premise of existentialism, Frankl develops a new way of viewing humanity in the psychoanalytic discipline. As both a psychologist and neurologist, Frankl's physiological and psychological findings are synthesized into his new psychoanalytic technique called "logotherapy".

In contrast to the existentialist foundations of Freud, Frankl establishes the belief that there is meaning in the universe, especially for mankind. Man’s Search for Meaning articulates that it is this search for meaning that becomes the primary question for all:

The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times. [1]

While staying away from religious archetypes to present his theory, the core of logotherapeutic beliefs are constructed with such care that they can sit squarely on top of the foundation of either Jewish or Christian orthodoxy (or perhaps any religious context in which God is viewed as good).

Man's Search For Meaning is one of the most profound modern works I have read. Perhaps Frankl's most significant concept presented therein is his thorough and profound treatment of human suffering. Frankl does not dismiss suffering as meaningless (unlike existentialism), but places it within a triad of human experience that he says brings meaning: doing significant work, caring for others, and enduring suffering.  He contends that without human thought and activity based one one or more of those three, a person will lose meaning in life and destruction (either external or internal) is sure to follow.

According to logotherapy, we can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering. [2]


In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice [3]

The key for Frankl's thesis is the rooting of human expectation in the future, not the present. Meaning comes, he contends, by placing hopes in spiritual or earthly goals. Failing to do so will cause discouragement and loss meaning, spiralling people into trying to scratch out meaning in temporal pleasure of the day, which will eventually lead to abandonment of hope and self-destruction.

Logotherapy focuses rather on the future, that is to say, on the meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future. (Logotherapy, indeed, is a meaning-centered psychotherapy.)[4]

This book starts off being our hosted view into the unfathomable world of concentration camps in Nazi Germany, and the psycho-analytical understandings that Frankl comes to.  But the more you read, the more you are drawn into Frankl's so thoroughly rendered understanding of suffering that the book becomes a way for us to enter into the story by Frankl's genius. Very few books come close to the profundity of human experience and, therefor, understanding that is present in this book.  I can't imagine that it isn't one of the greatest writings in the last century.

Life changing!

Book Link on Amazon: Man's Search for Meaning


Review by

Kim Gentes


[1]“Man’s Search For Meaning”, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press 1959), Pg. X

[2]Ibid, Pg 111

[3]Ibid, Pg 113

[4]Ibid, Pg 98