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Comparison of Jean-Paul Sartre’s and Viktor Frankl’s Theories Essay

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2021

Although millions of people share similar beliefs and values, such as their families, career, or education, it is not possible to find two people who share their ideas of life, knowledge, mind, or existence ultimately. Philosophy is one of the means to describe the theory of such a fragile, intangible world. Jean-Paul Sartre is one of the most well-known authors associated with existentialism, who claimed that a person should invent their way to define who she or he is.

Viktor Frankl is also an existentialist who introduced a new approach to psychotherapy called logotherapy. The purpose of this paper is to study the main ideas of these two philosophers, compare their views, and define the connection between my beliefs and the epistemologies mentioned above.

Jean-Paul Sartre was a French philosopher and existentialist in the 20th century. His central idea is that a man is “condemned to be free” (Sartre, Being and Nothingness 164). A person did not choose to be born, she or he was introduced to the absurdism and chaos of the world. According to Sartre, a person is left alone and is entirely responsible for their actions (Maligne 49). One of the famous Sartre’s statements is “existence precedes essence” (Existentialism Is a Humanism 3).

It means that a person exists in the first place and defines their actions afterward (Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism 3). Jean-Paul Sartre’s views can also be described as atheist existentialism, as his philosophy implies that there is no creator. If God exists, the essence of a person will be predefined, but Sartre claims that no one can define a person except the person himself (Existentialism Is a Humanism 3). According to his philosophy, “We can act without being determined by our past, which is always separated from us” (Maligne 53). Thus, a person is left alone, and she or he is the only one responsible for their actions.

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. One of his famous works is “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which was written after being a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. It is a book about his excruciating experience and how he and other people coped with those terrible problems. The main idea behind this book is that work can bring meaning to life, and life without purpose leads to an existential vacuum (Frankl 128).

It is a common fact that the life of prisoners in a Nazi camp was terrifying, but Frankl was sure that even in such suffering, the meaning of life could be found (Frankl 95). He does not state that suffering is a meaning of life but claims that meaning can be found even in suffering as it is an ineradicable part of life (Frankl 95). Despite the circumstances, it is essential to know the purpose of living; otherwise, it is hard to survive.

The ideas of being responsible for one’s own life and actions are close to my belief system as education, health, and family are my core values. It is possible to say that together they comprise a meaning in life, and I think it is crucial to find one. Everyone should decide on his or her own what their meaning might be. It does not have to be hard work, as Frankl claims, but something else, like family for myself. The idea of defining oneself by actions and being responsible for those actions is also applicable to my beliefs.

One may argue with the atheist ideas of Sartre’s existentialism. A religious person might say that the destiny of a person might as well be predefined by God. Another example is that when a person is born in a family of dentists or lawyers, she or he might choose this path as this person feels she or he is predestined to do this. Moreover, when one gets hit by a car at the green light, it is obvious that this person is not responsible for their suffering as they did not anything wrong.

On the contrary, there are many examples of people who were bound by terrible circumstances, but they built a life they wanted for themselves. A bad neighborhood does not mean a person will never receive proper education and become a scientist. Bad health can be related to certain lifestyles, and it can always be improved by choice. If a person blames someone else for his or her mistakes and cannot take responsibility for his or her actions, nothing changes.

Jean-Paul Sartre and Viktor Frankl are both outstanding philosophers who gave the world a new perspective. Although it is never possible to agree with someone’s ideas completely, some of their thoughts correspond to my beliefs. If one wants to achieve or change something, it is necessary to take responsibility for his or her actions and not blame someone else. Finding meaning in life is essential to me, and the philosophy of Frankl is also partly compatible with my beliefs.

Works Cited

Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press, 2017.

Malinge, Yoann. “Does Our Past Have a Motivational Effect? Our Reasons for Acting: Sartre’s Philosophy of Action.” Ethics in Progress, vol. 4, no. 2, 2013, pp. 46-53.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology. Citadel Press, 2001.

—. Existentialism Is a Humanism. Yale University Press, 2007.

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