Finding Something to Live and Die For | The Philosophy of Viktor Frankl | Summary and Q&A

July 2, 2021
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Finding Something to Live and Die For | The Philosophy of Viktor Frankl


Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, argues that finding meaning is the key to overcoming even the most unbearable circumstances in life.

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Key Insights

  • 🏢 Despite being in the worst conditions imaginable, there is always a reason to live and find meaning in suffering.
  • 💔 The current societal condition often leads to a sense of purposelessness and meaninglessness, leading to nihilism and despair.
  • 💡 Finding purpose and meaning in life, rather than pursuing pleasure or success, is what drives people.
  • 💪 The discovery of purpose in unbearable conditions can help individuals overcome even the most painful circumstances.
  • 👥 The lack of meaning and faith in a favorable outcome can lead to the loss of will to live.
  • 🧠 We always have a choice in how we navigate our circumstances and find meaning, even in the face of extreme adversity.
  • 🔎 Meaning is not something we invent, but rather something we detect and discover in our interactions with the world and what it needs.
  • 🌟 The pursuit of happiness and success should not be the primary focus, as they are byproducts of a meaningful life.


“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.” What keeps a human being going?  The purest answer to this question   is perhaps to be found in the worst of  places. Austrian psychiatrist, philosopher,   and author Viktor Frankl spent three years in  four different concentration camps. He was at   the mercy of sadistic SS guards and the so-called  “... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Viktor Frankl find meaning in the concentration camps?

While in the concentration camps, Frankl found purpose in helping fellow inmates who suffered from illnesses. He refused an opportunity to escape so he could continue taking care of his patients, demonstrating that his purpose was more important to him than personal freedom or survival.

Q: What is the significance of finding meaning in suffering?

According to Frankl, finding meaning in suffering allows individuals to overcome even the most difficult circumstances and gives them a reason to live. It transforms a seemingly hopeless existence into a life worth living, regardless of the external factors.

Q: Is it fair to expect people in extreme circumstances to find meaning?

While it may seem overwhelming to find meaning in extreme circumstances, Frankl argues that individuals always have a choice in how they respond to their situation. Even in the face of unimaginable suffering, they can choose how to find purpose and meaning in their lives.

Q: What are the different ways to find meaning in life according to Frankl?

According to Frankl, meaning can be found through creating or accomplishing something, through experiencing love and connection with others, and through finding meaning in suffering. These different paths to meaning give individuals the opportunity to discover their purpose in life.

Q: How does Frankl's philosophy relate to the pursuit of happiness and success?

Frankl argues that pursuing happiness and success directly is futile. Instead, he suggests that happiness and success are by-products of finding meaning and purpose in one's life. When individuals engage in meaningful pursuits and dedicate themselves to a larger cause, happiness and success naturally follow.

Q: Can meaning be found in small acts of kindness?

Yes, according to Frankl, even small acts of kindness can have profound meaning. Something as simple as sharing a piece of bread with a starving inmate in a concentration camp can bring a profound sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Q: How does Frankl believe individuals can find meaning in the face of adversity?

Frankl believes that by changing one's attitude and taking responsibility for their own choices, individuals can find meaning even in the most adverse circumstances. By shifting their perspective and finding purpose within themselves, they can transform adversity into triumph.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, believes that there is always a reason to live, even in the worst conditions.

  • He argues that finding meaning in suffering is what drives individuals, rather than pleasure or success.

  • Frankl emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one's own choices and finding purpose in life, even in the face of adversity.

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