Viktor Frankl’s Will To Meaning

In her book Ikigai ni Tsuite, Mieko Kamiya references Viktor Frankl on several occasions and mentions his Will To Meaning, a concept based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life.

Questioning the existence of meaning in life once was described as a symptom of neurosis by Sigmund Freud. Frankl´s view could not be more different. In this interview given for Canadian television in 1972, Frankl describes the connection between meaning in life and happiness. Below is a transcription of some of his answers from that video.

Victor Frankl's Will To Meaning

The feeling of meaninglessness or the despair over the apparent meaninglessness of life is in no way a neurosis.  Questing for a meaning to life…questioning, doubting…is rather a human achievement than a neurotic symptom. No animal will ever raise the question of whether or not its existence has a meaning. But man does – and even more, it’s a privilege, a prerogative of YOU – boldly daring adventure to challenge that there IS a meaning to life rather than taking it for granted. In other words, it’s an intellectual honesty and sincerity, but no neurotic disease.

It is the characteristic of neurotic existence that one tries to get rid of one 's freedom of choice and one tries to just delve to to intoxicate oneself by way of pleasure seeking. Actually basically man is not concerned with pleasure or power, the will to power or the will to pleasure is nothing original primarily but rather a will to meaning as I call it means man is basically concerned with finding and fulfilling a meaning in life. And if this search for meaning is frustrated the noogenic neurosis, the feelings of meaninglessness results. 


When there is a feeling of meaninglessness pepole do meaningless things.  They resort to crime, to violence because the will to power exaggerated, lived out without restrain in violence, the will the power as well as the will to pleasure substitute for the frustrated will to meaning.

The will to meaning, one's search for meaning is the original concern and only a man who has been frustrated in this basic will to meaning results either to power seeking or to pleasure seeking.  The crudes most brutal form of power seeking, of living out one 's search for power, is violence.

On the other hand, this pleasure seeking, this so called pursuit of happiness is not only contradicting one's primarily will to meaning, but even more, it proves to be self defeating. It is very pursuit of pleasure, of happiness, that thwarts happoness, because happiness occurs a byproduct as a a side effect of finding and fulfilling a meaning or loving another human being.