Man's Search For Meaning


Victor Frankl describes his experiences in a German concentration camp and the differences he noticed between people who survived the camps and the people who did not. He also goes into logotherapy, a therapy method he pioneered that focuses on living a meaningful life.


The meaning of life is a question that has been asked by man for as long as man had the ability to ask questions. Victor Frankl comes closer to answering this question than any person or story I've heard in my life. Frankl takes us to what is one of the most gruesome and hopeless situations any man could find themselves in, inside the bowels of a Nazi concentration camp, and through graphic descriptions of the horrors that unfold there, show the depth of atrocity that man can commit as well as the heights in which man can rise to meet it. Frankl attributes this to men who have a cause to live and this he explores more deeply in the second part of the book.

Using simple terminology and heart breaking accounts of scenes encountered, Frankl puts us into the camps and the minds of the men that toiled there. Not judging people on simple dimensions of good and evil, Frankl examines the systematic incentives and pressures that everyone is under, guard and prisoner alike.

Final verdict - the world would be a better place if everyone within it read this book


  1. people can get used to anything
    • eg. dying and dead of concentration camp
    • eg. donald trump
  2. meaning involves finding something outside of oneself
    • aggression is the result of resentment, solved by finding common cause
    • eg. knowing that there exists a task that only you can do (loving someone, finishing a piece of work, etc)
  3. one kind find meaning in suffering even if that is the sole end
  4. don't have right to complain about things
    • working in snow with no shoes is much worse
  5. there is no single answer for meaning for life
    • its like asking a chessmaster what the best move is #analogy (Private)
    • it depends on context
    • meaning comes 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.


  • Preface
  • 1: Experiences in a Concentration Camp
  • 2: LogoTherapy
  • Afterwards


Victor Frankly

  • doctor
  • had chance to immigrate before Hitler but parents were in Germany so decided to stay
  • daughter and unborn son died in concentration camp
  • this book was written in 9 days
  • 4 diff concentration camps


“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”


  • there can be meaning even if we don't see it. eg. poliomyelitis (polio) vaccine, developed by puncturing chimps, to chimp, seems like meaningless torture
  • old vs young, old, instead of potentials, you have realities
  • freedom and responsibility are needed


  • how can you use knifes when they are used to kill people?


  • life:

    • not about pleasure (freud)
    • not power (alfred adler)
    • about meaning
      • 3 sources: work, love, courage (the way we respond to suffering)?
  • happiness is not something to be pursued (like your shadow), it is side-effect to dedicating oneself to a cause greater than oneself

  • harsh conditions

    • 10.5 ounces of bread and 1.75 pints of thin soup a day
  • grown man that cried after his feet swelled and he couldn't fit shoes anymore

  • people reflection of environment, no one would let frankyl see out the train when it passed his home - "you've already lived here so you've seen enough of it"

  • using barbed wire to tie shoes in place

  • can't be sick or look weak, otherwise will be taken to "chimney"

  • fortune is finding 5 minutes of solitude when treating typhoid patients

  • 2500 people stayed silent after 1 person stole food and everyone went without a meal

  • story of death in Tehran, servant who hurried to Tehran only to meet death there, the very thing he was trying to avoid

  • its not about asking life what the meaning is but life asking you and you finding that answer

  • psych heals soul, religion looks into its salvation