Will to meaning (Frankl) versus will to power (Nietzsche)

Will to meaning (Frankl) versus will to power (Nietzsche)

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This is a discussion on Will to meaning (Frankl) versus will to power (Nietzsche) within the Critical Thinking & Philosophy forums, part of the Topics of Interest category; The "will to meaning" can be understood in relation to Viktor Frankls book: Man's Search for Meaning-An Introduction to Logotherapy ...

  1. #1

    Will to meaning (Frankl) versus will to power (Nietzsche)

    The "will to meaning" can be understood in relation to Viktor Frankls book: Man's Search for Meaning-An Introduction to Logotherapy and "will to power" is a concept associated with Nietzsche, though I know very little about the latter and have only started reading Frankl a little while back.

    Either term can be found through a quick google search, and I figured it would be easier to have everyone contribute to this discussion with their own understanding/research rather than me trying to summarize something I don't even fully understand yet.

    Just curious - which appeals more to you? and what are your reasons? Any critiques of either? thoughts?

  2. #2

    (I am a scholar on neither. I have read some Nietzsche and liked the concept of the will to power enough to hijack it, but am unfamiliar with the will to meaning except from what I might gather from Wikipedia.)

    On the surface of it, there doesn't appear to be any reason why the will to meaning and the will to power are not simply one and the same thing. I've always interpreted the will to power as, in general terms, the will to live, to manifest oneself, to create in ones own image, basically, to fill the universe with the semblance of one's self, to abrade and overcome every barrier or limitation to the self, to penetrate every dark unknown and light it up. It is absolutely core to what it means to be human and our very consciousness rests on and is a manifestation of this inward pull of everything into integration, which is ultimately self-integration. The desire is to structure the universe into harmony. Alternatively, insofar as the universe is already self-harmonious and complete (because I'm highly sympathetic to the philosopher Hegel), the desire is for the universe to become for itself what it is in itself.

    The phrase "will to power" sometimes comes to designate a rather different concept for people for a number of reasons, including the connotations of the word "power" which are generally negative, and the misuse of Nietzsche historically, such as perhaps with the Nazis and with some social Darwinists. It's worth stating explicitly that even though the will to power as I've used it above and the will to power OVER others emerges, it is true, from the same thing, but I would want to argue, if it needed it, that the will to power OVER others is an inferior form of it based on misunderstanding, ignorance, and which for exactly those reasons must come to dead-ends within their own scope (although the whole movement represents the will to power as much as ever in a wider perspective, so that the path turns out to meander).

    But it seems that Frankl's will to meaning is just identical with this drive. He speaks of the will for the human to find and develop meaning, yet what is meaning except that will to touch and link with everything which is foreign to bring it into knowing? As we speak of deeper meaning, we mean more meaning, and deeper meaning emerges from the simplicification of complex systems or appearances into a rational and known order or science. Coming to know the structure of things is like the work of a gardener who tames nature in a way that structures it and takes care of it as though her own, and reforms it or nurtures it such that it comes to reflect her as a part of her. To come to know, to structure, to bring into meaning and self-meaning, is exactly to create in one's own image, to expand into the universe and fill it with one's semblance. This is WHY I would say that the will to meaning and will to power describe one and the same will, which is THE human will.

  3. #3

    The will to power exists in all life, not just in sentient beings capable of wondering about the meaning of things.

    For Nietzsche, the will to power is stronger than the will to life. In other words, we live not just for the sake of existing but to exert our strength upon our environment and the other organisms in it. There's a certain life-affirming thrill, Nietzsche believes, in exercising dominance. It's what he has us all secretly here to do.

    I really don't know what I think about the will to meaning or the will to power. I'm more with Aristotle, I think: the end/aim of human life is happiness, and happiness is created through living well.

  4. #4

    Here's something interesting I found online, that kind of helps in distinguishing the differences

    To Dr. Frankl, however, both Freud's will to pleasure and Adler's will to power were manifestations of something missing, which hinted that there was yet another explana- tion for the kinds of behaviors exhibited by the former corporate icons identified here. In effect, the need or drive to seek pleasure à la Freud and the relentless pursuit of power à la Adler were really just attempts to cover up, but not necessarily fill, a void of meaning that existed in the lives of these individuals. Put differently, because their “will to meaning” had been frustrated, for whatever reasons, they chose alternative paths to follow; paths based on the premise that pleasure and/or power would somehow be able to replace what had been missing.

  5. #5

    It's a false dichotomy. You can also have a will to freedom, will to peace, will to health, will to possession, etc.

  6. #6

    I’m a little drunk on Eggnog and Rum, so bare with me on my half-rambling stupor.

    In Viktor Frankl’s book, Logotherapy and Existentialism, and Man’s Search for Meaning, he speaks about the practical applications and affects of Logotherapy on his patients and recalls many experiences he had while developing and applying the theory. Much of his so-called evidence is anecdotal, but there are many benefits to his method, and he translates theory into practice.

    In his psychological and neurological field, many doctors describe values as defense mechanisms, reaction formations, or rationalizations of instinctual drives. He thinks to understand and remove existential despair, which he witnessed in many of the Jewish prisoners that were sentenced to concentration and extermination camps, a person must derive more than merely a superficial text-book meaning for themselves.

    For Viktor Frankl, reality is a momentary subjective perception of a seemingly objective external. He believes that existential meaning can transcend biological and environmental conditions, such as something with more substance than mere survival. He wants one to create an extension of meaning through conception, by developing a relationship with a loved one, finding a profession to become passionate about, focusing on the means to achieve the end without focusing on the end, and so on.

    In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in the first part, Viktor analyzes the conditions of different prisoners in the concentration camp he was in. He spoke about the harshness of the guards, who were demoted if they acted merciful, and the prisoners, which formed groups and fought for survival. The degrees of survival depended on physical and mental constraints and each prisoner developed their own method for hustling, fighting, saving, and strategizing, coupled with their mentalities when approaching different stages of a potential life or death.

    Bertrand Russell once said, “The conquering of fear is the beginning of wisdom.” Russell’s idea about conquering oneself to learn coincides with some of the ideas of the German philosopher and founder of Perspectivism, Frederic Nietzsche.

    Nietzsche distanced himself from organized religion, especially Christianity. He thought that absolutes did not exist and organized religion enslaved all the masses. Christianity, to Nietzsche, was an archaic tradition that relied on dogmatism and obedience, instead of rational thought and individuality.

    He wanted people to stand on their own minds, and create their existential meaning. There seems to be no ethical, epistemological, or logical absolutes according to Nietzsche. As he once said, “there are no facts, only interpretations.”

    According to Nietzsche, knowledge does not stem from itself and cannot be measured or proven to exist as a totality. Also, a person needs to derive meaning for him or herself and not rely on any one to think or act for him or her. This seems extremely difficult for those raised on dogmatism or Aristotelian logic, but when an individual has the courage to examine him or herself; one can find a path for truth, and rely on him or herself rather than adopting other belief systems.

    Stop living with the manufactured identity that others force upon you, because when you are in difficult situations, you develop the detrimental mentality of not thinking for yourself. The knowledge you seek about your existence forms from your perspective of the external and internal world. You have the responsibility to decide how you will perceive life, with the naïve wonders of a child or with the pessimism of an old man.

    Furthermore, you should not believe me, or others, unless you critically think about what’s important and make decisions based upon your own reasoning. You may find that certain values you once held as true conflict with each other under closer examination. Many of the generalities that your parents, teachers, preachers and holy books, have taught you to unquestioningly believe in, seem contradictive, especially when you examine the particulars of various contexts. This seems similar to what Buddha said about not believing anything unless one’s reason agrees with it and it benefits the individual and other humans.

    There’s so much to discuss about these people and their ideas; I barely scratched the surface.

    I think the PDF file of Man’s Search for Meaning is relatively easy to download, from Google, but here are some good resources to check out:

    An interesting documentary:

    Human, All Too Human : Nietzsche (1999)

    Friedrich Nietzsche - Nihilism and the Death of God: Part 1

    Dr. Frankl on Existentialism:

    TheYellow, curious0610, perennialurker and 1 others thanked this post.


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