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Friday, September 9, 2011

#33 The Philosophical Background of Logotherapy

Click here to download The Philosophical Background of Logotherapy.

This podcast examines the relationship of Viktor Frankl's Logotherapy and Existential Analysis (LTEA) to other movements within philosophy. This episode continues a lecture series on logotherapy that includes #25 Logotherapy Overview and #32 The Placement of Logotherapy within Psychiatry and Psychology.

Thank you for listening. Please email any questions or comments to and may you have a meaningful day.


  1. Hi Marshall.

    I'm interested in the phenomenology of the spirit in Frankl. Does this appear as values and conscience?

    In my view the crisis of the West is a spiritual one and so this aspect of his work is vital I think.

    Is Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning the best source for this part of Frankl's thought or would you like to point me to other places?

    Hope your practise (and drumming) is going well.

  2. PS I can't figure out how to comment on itunes. (I'm no good at the tech stuff.)

  3. Yes, it does appear as values and conscience. Frankl was careful to speak almost exclusively about the "human spirit" - that which is uniquely human (as opposed to animal and instinctual) and he avoided religious-spiritual elements. However, you get the best glimpse into his thoughts on the relationship between the "human spirit" and a "transpersonal agent" in Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning, which is an updated version of The Unconscious God and which is also the last book Frankl completed before his death.

  4. Oh, on the comments...not sure I can explain. It has to be done from within iTunes. This might explain it better than I can:

    Also, I really appreciate the way you are using the blog, Evan! This is more what I had in mind when I started it and I hope it catches on more!!!

  5. Hi Marshall, I've ordered a copy of Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning. Though it may take a while for it to make it's way to Australia. Our book shops here are mostly devoted to bestsellers and books by personalities. Hopefully things are more enlightened in the US.

    Thanks for the directions on the itunes stuff - hopefully I will be able to follow it (no guarantees. What is the manual equivalent of illiterate?)

    I like your shorter format and focus on topics. The longer personality style stuff (eg Dr Dave's Shrinkrap Radio) I don't like nearly so much. (In Myers-Briggs terms I'm a thinker it might not surprise you to know.)

    Looking forward to some solid thinking about whether values and conscience are reducible to thoughts and emotions.

  6. It's a big philosophical problem but I'd like to see some discussion of 'the is and the ought'.

    Frankl seems to think the divorce is total. That the ought cannot be deduced from the is. I agree with this.

    But if the divorce is absolute then how can we have an ethic? The ought must be applicable to the is.

    I know this is a huge topic and I certainly don't have any answers. The only idea I have is that life is a positive strength not just a neutral energy that can be directed wherever we wish.

  7. Hmm.... I wish I were a philosopher at the moment! Anyone?

    While the ought cannot be deduced from the is, Frankl believed that every is demanded one correct ought. Conscience, imperfect though it is, is the organ we have to detect ought in this is, if I understand rightly.

  8. I've been trying to think about conscience. Without a great deal of success.

    I wonder if it reduces to guilt and shame and if not how we distinguish it from these.

    It certainly seems to be more than intellectual recognition of wrongness.

  9. I believe Frankl would consider it to be irreducible and would certainly consider it more than intellectual. If you think of the way in which Freud thought of the ego - as being partly conscious but mostly unconscious - I think you come close to the way Frankl saw conscience - partly conscious but mostly a function of the spiritual unconscious. One might even argue that the purpose of logotherapy is to make the spiritual unconscious conscious, or, in other words, of making conscience more conscious and refined. After logotherapy, therefore, a person should be more able to discern the one right action a given situation may demand.

    By the way, Evan, I am gathering materials for an upcoming episode on Logotherapy and Positive Psychology I think you will enjoy!

  10. I guess I need to give more thought to how to differentiate conscience from other experiences.

    I'm very much looking forward to the episode on Logotherapy and Positive Psychology.

  11. Hi Evan!

    I am excited that I have about half of the podcast on positive psychology prepared. It is really rich with research, and, thanks to your input, I think addressing Frankl's view of the conscience in contrast to a certain aspect of positive psychology will be helpful. The podcast on logotherapy and positive psychology should be ready for release in December. In the meantime, I think you will find the interview for November both interesting and historically important. But, I won't say more now because I don't want to give it away! :) Less than 2 weeks, though, before publication!

  12. Have you received Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning yet?

  13. Hi Marshall. I'm looking forward to the upcoming episodes. I have received Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning. I think Frankl underestimates dogs - even those not punished demonstrate "shame". I think the thing that marks os off from the other animals are our symbol systems and our propensity for worship. I still haven't got much of a handle on conscience.

  14. Hi, Evan. I did get the same impression myself. Part of that, I'm sure, is the result of all the experiments trying to teach animals to use symbols (like chimps using sign language) that have taken place since Frankl wrote. I do agree with your statements about our complex symbol systems (language, mathematics) and our propensity to worship. The latter especially is evidence in logotherapy of the spiritual unconscious. This is part of the specifically human dimension that animals lack.

    Humans want to have a meaningful life, not just to have their basic biological needs met. We could argue that our symbol systems and religions come from this will to discover meaning in life.

    A story is told of Maimonides who was brought to a dinner where - after many months of training - someone had taught a cat to walk on its hind legs and to serve food. The cat came to Maimonides' table. Everyone waited to see what the great sage would do in response to this elevation of the animal to the human. At this point Maimonides took a small box out of his coat and let loose a mouse. Immediately the cat dropped all of the plates and started chasing the mouse.

    So, animals can be trained up to a certain level, but even professional animal trainers must respect the power that instincts hold over the lives of their animals, and know that their training is only superficial in comparison.