Viktor Frankl Symposium 2019

For the 12th time, our College invites to a Symposium in honour of its name giver. For two autumn days, it will become the scene for a lively exchange of ideas. International experts will meet with people, who already know or want to get to know Viktor Frankl. Together, they will consider the potential impact of the teachings of the founder of the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy on their lives. This time, reflections will be guided by the metaphor of the way. Just as many ways lead to the same goal, it is with life that wants to be experienced as meaningful by the person living it. Viktor Frankl tries to convey precisely this: the design of human existence longs for the will to meaning to accompany it along its way. Understanding that this at times may seem too abstract or incomprehensible, Viktor Frankl explained in real terms how we keep meeting meaning along the way, as an uncut sequence of possibilities offered to us in the 10,000 moments of our lives. Which ones we decide upon is determined by our values, and those we encounter along three kinds of paths: the paths of creation, those of experience and those of attitude.

Because in everything we do, we actualize. We create, from the well-functioning schoolhouses of the caretakers to the habilitation papers of the scientists, the comfort-giving of the mother to the symphony of the composer, but also the fulfillment of unwelcome duties, the support we give to others in their distress. We experience, from the joy of the taste of our favorite food to the exhilaration of a run through freshly fallen snow, from the meaningful gaze of a fellow human being to the gaze at the rising sun, but also from the injury through a person related to us to the grief over the loss of love. In all this, we are in the middle of an attitude, attitudes determine the character of our actions and experiences, they determine our very being. Humorous or thankful, ready for sacrifice or openminded, persistent or truthful, defiant and dignified in the face of an inevitable fate, this is how we can imagine such attitudes. They are of great importance to us because in them we perceive and realize our unconditional human freedom, the root of our human dignity. For Viktor Frankl, they are the essential paths to the actualization of the many possibilities of meaning that life has in store for us along its ways.

Even though it is not always straightforward: who does not lose the path, is not on the way.

Jutta Clarke
Institute for School Development
University College of Teacher Education Carinthia, Viktor Frankl University College

Viktor Frankl Symposium 2018 - Meaning and autonomy

It is certainly right to consider Viktor Frankl the founder of the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy. After Sigmund Freud, who believed that the primary motivation of man could be found in his striving for pleasure, and Alfred Adler, who saw man driven by his need for dominance, Viktor Frankl recognized, when he was still a very young man, that the primary motivation of man lies in his will to meaning. With this, he reconquered autonomy for the human person and never stopped to emphasize that the spiritual dimension of the human being enables him to take a stance towards everything, also towards himself. There is no need for us to take everything from others or from ourselves. We can always shape things, even if we cannot escape our conditionalities. The space we have for this is supported by three pillars: freedom of will, will to meaning, and meaning of life.

It was Frankl´s primary concern to understand what it is that makes it possible for the human being to experience life as meaningful. Each individual, so his conviction, is called upon to freely find meaningful responses to the questions life asks. From these responses, responsibility arises, and this, in turn, can only be the result of autonomous action. Thus, man can, may, and must arrange the spaces he inhabits, and in this process he meets, again and again, his specific meaning. Because meaning for the individual is not established by a predetermined codex of rules, but meets him afresh in every moment of his life. Life can be successful when we respond to the 10,000 commandments of the 10,000 moments of our lives, freely and responsibly. Autonomy in the sense of Frankl, therefore, is decisive freedom in responsibility.

Jutta Clarke
Department for School Development