30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 27: Searching for Meaning

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Logotherapy

Lesson for the Day: You are not merely or only a highly developed animal.

The search for meaning is a truly human act, one that is reserved for human beings alone. It is also a human trait to question the meaning of life, even to doubt its meaning. In the words of Dr. Frankl,

“Challenging the meaning of life can therefore never be taken as a manifestation of morbidity or abnormality; it is rather the truest expression of the state of being human, the mark of the most human nature in man. … It is reserved for man alone to find his very existence questionable, to experience the whole dubiousness of being. More than such faculties as power of speech, conceptual thinking, or walking erect, this factor of doubting the significance of his own existence is what sets man apart from animals.”1

Of course, human beings are animals or creatures. But they are also qualitatively different, that is, different in kind, from every other animal and life-form on earth. As Frankl writes,

“In a sense, he [the human person] remains an animal, and yet he infinitely surpasses his animal properties.”2

Humans, then, are special creatures, possessing a unique kind of value. In short, they are persons.

Footnotes

  1. Viktor E. Frankl, Psychotherapy and Existentialism: Selected Papers on Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1967), p. 137.
  2. ———-, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books/ Random House, 1986), p. 26.

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