A Meaningful Existence
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl attempts to write a “detached psychological account” of his experience as a Nazi concentration camp prisoner and answer the question: “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner” (Frankl 3). Initially, Frankl’s descriptions are psychological in nature, however he makes a distinct shift near the end of the book toward a more philosophical account of human experience. This shift is important in Frankls narrative because it demonstrates how maintaining a philosophy that gives life meaning can positively affect human behavior in even the most dire of situations. Without an object or goal to give a human life meaning, that person is “haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness” (106) or what Frankl calls the “existential vacuum” (106). The connection between philosophy and psychology becomes apparent when Frankl describes his experience upon his release from the dreadful conditions of the Nazi concentration camp as he attempts to give his drained life a source of meaning. Frankl recounts, “ We came to meadows full of flowers. We saw and realized that they were there, but we had no feelings about them. The first spark of joy came when we saw a rooster with a tail of multicolored feathers. But it remained only a spark; we did not yet belong to this world” (88). This passage seems to draw a connection between Frankl's life experience and “the divided line” from Plato’s allegory of the cave. Frankl has been trapped in a concentration camp where any aspect of a meaningful human existence is stripped from the individual, much like those who live in the cave for all their lives. Frankl, like those who leave the cave and enter the intelligible realm, is having trouble discovering meaning within the world, which has a negative impact of his physiological state. While a comparison with Plato's model helps to understand the nature of Frankl's...
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