An Analysis of Viktor Frankl's Philosophy: A Key for Suffering Nigerians

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There is no doubt that the question of the meaning of life strikes a bell not only in the philosophical, but scientific, theological and literary domain. It is perhaps the most fundamental question in human existence. It speaks about the inquiry into the reason for man’s existence and that of existence in the universe.

This question has pulled to itself an outstanding measure of attention in philosophical studies and philosophers of different epochs have approached it from various ways, both as it pertains to man per se and as it pertains generally to life in the universe.

The existentialists handled this question as one of the foundational stones of the structure of their inquiry. According to this understanding, the focus of philosophical thought should be, “not to deal with the purpose of life in the universe for it is meaningless to ask about the meaning of life in the universe but to deal with the meaning of life as it pertains to man.”1

Noteworthy, is the fact that even before the emergence of the epoch of the existentialist philosophers people of different epochs had dived into the inquiry of the meaning of life. One among others is the essentialist school for instance; this group regards the meaning of life to be “determined through perfection of the intellect which is the essence of human nature.”2 As such, their approach views man in general, that is, man as a universal notion. But the view of the existentialists themselves is based on the idea that “it is only personal choices and commitments that can give any meaning to life since, for an individual, life can only be his or her life, and not an abstractly given entity.”3 Thus the existentialist view is that the focus of philosophical thought should be to deal with man as an individual thereby approaching the question of the meaning of life “by exploring where and how an individual finds meaning in life as well as what gives meaning to his life.”4 This existentialist approach is what sets the pace for this research work.

Viktor Frankl, an existentialist philosopher and psychologist whose concept of ‘meaning of life’ I am to explore in this research work also emphasized the fact that “it is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”5 His concept of the meaning of life serves as one of the philosophical foundations of his system which he termed ‘Logotherapy’ a term he coined from the Greek word ‘logos’ which he translates as ‘meaning’. I shall also explore the meaning, aims and tenets of this system because it is a system that focuses on man’s search for meaning in life.

In his concept of meaning of life, he emphasized the idea that at the face of whatever ill condition man finds himself he still posses that inner freedom to choose his attitudinal response to the condition, thus creating meaning out of a life that could be pessimistically viewed as meaningless. These shall be treated in details in the course of this research.


No life is without meaning. If it does seem so, then the owner of that life has hidden its meaning.

A critical examination of the Nigerian terrible living conditions immediately exposes what the average Nigerian man’s life consist of, which will definitely not exclude pain and suffering. Most Nigerians live in acute poverty and political injustices with practically no hope for a better Nigeria, at least in the near future. Where then does meaning exist in such lives? The further mental problem here is to provide the key which the suffering Nigerian masses need for the realization of the meaning of their lives. In the course of this research work I intend to philosophically expose the thoughts of the...
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