Man's Search for Meaning has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 psychiatrist Viktor Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the stories of his many patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory—known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")—holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. "What man actually needs," Frankl writes, "is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task . . . the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him."
In the decades since its first publication in 1959, Man's Search for Meaning has become a classic, with more than twelve million copies in print around the world. A 1991 Library of Congress survey that asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" found Man's Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America. At once a memoir, a meditation, a treatise, and a history, it continues to inspire us all to find significance in the very act of living.
"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)
"One of the ten most influential books in America."
—Library of Congress/Book-of-the-Month Club Survey of Lifetime Readers
Born in Vienna in 1905, Viktor E. Frankl earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. He published more than thirty books on theoretical and clinical psychology and served as a visiting professor and lecturer at Harvard, Stanford, and elsewhere. In 1977 a fellow survivor, Joseph Fabry, founded the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. Frankl died in 1997.
Harold S. Kushner is rabbi emeritus at Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, and the author of several best-selling 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 at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the University of Houston Law Center.
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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.
When Man's Search for Meaning was first published in 1959, it was hailed by Carl Rogers as "one of the outstanding contributions to psychological thought in the last fifty years." Now, more than forty years and 4 million copies later, this tribute to hope in the face of unimaginable loss has emerged as a true classic. Man's Search for Meaning--at once a memoir, a self-help book, and a psychology manual-is the story of psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's struggle for survival during his three years in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Yet rather than "a tale concerned with the great horrors," Frankl focuses in on the "hard fight for existence" waged by "the great army of unknown and unrecorded."
Viktor Frankl's training as a psychiatrist allowed him a remarkable perspective on the psychology of survival. In these inspired pages, he asserts that the "the will to meaning" is the basic motivation for human life. This simple and yet profound statement became the basis of his psychological theory, logotherapy, and forever changed the way we understand our humanity in the face of suffering. As Nietzsche put it, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." Frankl's seminal work offers us all an avenue to greater meaning and purpose in our own lives-a way to transcend suffering and find significance in the act of living.
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.
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