Date of Award
Rev. Francis Wiegenstein
Rev. Daniel Smith
The first question that may be asked upon seeing the title of this paper is "what is logotherapy?" I might reply as did Dr. Viktor Frankl, the Viennese psychiatrist who founded logotherapy, when asked to answer this question in one sentence by an American psychoanalyst. Frankl replied with a question asking the psychoanalyst to state in one sentence the essence of psychoanalysis. He said, "During psychoanalysis the patient must lie down on a couch and tell you things that sometimes are very disagreeable to tell." Frankl then retorted, "In logotherapy the patient may remain sitting erect, but he must hear things that sometimes are very disagreeable to hear."
This was meant facetiously, but it can be used to point out some things about logotherapy. Whereas psychoanalysis stresses introspection and retrospection, logotherapy stresses the future and what is yet to be accomplished. It is a psychotherapy which strives to bring a person to an awareness of his position in the world, help him find the specific meaning of his existence, and show him the necessity of accepting the responsibility for living in the light of this meaning.
As early as 1938 Dr. Frankl wrote concerning "Existenzanalyse" which is translated into English as existential-analysis. Another psychologist, Ludwig Binswanger, then developed a school of psychology called "Daseinanalyse", also transled as existential-analysis. In order to avoid confusion, Frankl calls his chool logotherapy in English He takes it from the Greek "logos" which can be translated as meaning, thus making logtherapy a therapy of meaning.
Frankl was later able to test whether his idea that life had meaning was theoretical or actual for him. Being a Jew he spent time in Dachau and Auschwitz, two of the most dreaded death-camps of World War II. In his stay of over two years he was able to live his convictions and help others to do the same. He states that during this time his concern was different than the concerns of most of his comrades.
"Their question was, 'will we survive the camp? For, if not, all this suffering has no meaning.' The question which beset me was, 'has all this suffering, this dying around us, a meaning? For if not, then ultimately there is no meaning to survival; for a life whose meaning depends upon such a happenstance--whether one escapes or not--ultimately would not be worth living at all."
When he was released from the camp he wrote down some of his experiences in what is now the book, "Man's Search For Meaning." When he was imprisoned he had taken along a nearly completed manuscript outlining his concepts which was destroyed by the camp officials. He soon came to the conviction that his specific reason for living in such a state was to be able to live his theories and to proclaim them when released. Despite the twenty to one odds against even surviving the camps, he set out to reconstruct his manuscript on bits and scraps of paper, scribbling notes in secret and hiding the pieces until they could be recovered. Subsequently they were, and he published them in a book entitled "The Doctor and the Soul".
In this work Dr. Frankl, who has a doctorate in philosophy as well as the psychiatric degree, advocates the philosophy behind logotherapy and shows how it is used in practice to confront people with a specific meaning for their life in contrast to nihilistic philosophies greatly advocated by many today.
This paper will attempt to explain this philosophy and hopefully give an idea of what logotherapy is all about, including some personal observations on the subject.
Morgan, Kirk, "The Philosophy Of Logotherapy" (1970). Philosophy Undergraduate Theses. 28.