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The book is divided into two parts. Part one is entitled the experiences in a concentration camp. The second part is referred to as the logotherapy, in a nutshell. Editions released after 1984, have postscript making a case for the tragic optimism. The sections in the books do not have any chapters. The first part of the book focuses on the experiences of the author in the prison. The second part explains the technical aspects of psychological theory. The theory that he advances is called logotherapy. The prevalent and general theme of the book is on the finding of the right meaning of life. Therefore, the life of a person has a meaning the person has to understand the meaning of his life to survive. The experiences of the author in the concentration camp exposes the importance of having meaning in life.
Prisoners in the German concentration camps survived due to the sense that they apportioned to their lives. The development of meaning in life led to the increased chances of survival. The worst that one could do in the camps was to lose meaning of life and what it had for them. The meaning of life led to the development of tenacity in a person that made it possible for him to endure (Frankl, 1997). The emphasis of the running theme was that any person can define what is meaningful and apportion the meaning that he accords to the same thing. However, there are three other sub-ideas.
One idea that he proposes is that loves have a role to play in the development of meaning in life. All aspects of love can be major sources of inspiration for loving to the people that are in love. Therefore, if a person has another person that is close to him, the meaning of life will come from the person. The will to live exists for the individual. The willingness of the person can be cut in the event that the loved one dies. The assertion is correct since love is the primary driver of action on most of the societies. Loving one another is the prerequisite for the human existence since people are social by nature. The need for an emotional connection generates love. As long as the connection is still there, the life of a person has a meaning (Frankl, 1997).
People make difficult decisions based on love. The feeling is probably one of the largest feelings in the world. Therefore, the actions of the population will always be aligned with the religion. Making the decisions in life according to love means that the love relationships is one of the main reasons for the development of the desire to survive. People live or die for love. Therefore, the assertions made by the author on the role of love in the decision making of the individual are true (Frankl, 1997). The pursuit of the more than single life and the need to relate is so high such that the lives of most of the people that are genuinely in love is founded on the interests of each other. The make their decisions in consideration of the effects of the same to the next person.
Love based relationships could be love for the nation (patriotism) romantic love, family love or even friendship. In the case of nationalism, the people make their decisions with the interest of the nation in mind (Frankl, 1997). The purpose of the Patriots is the increment of the standard of living and other aspects in the country. They are focused on the improvement of their country and society. Therefore, all their life efforts are directed towards the development of the nation. They have the goal of ensuring that they cater for the needs of all the people in the nation. The love for the country could lead to the assumption of irrational decisions.
However, they are often less concerned about the entire system (Frankl, 1997). They often assume that the harm or consequences of their actions are just results of the bid to attain means to an end. Therefore, the business concern on the injury of self or other people in the nation rarely features. Love is the driving force in the world. Therefore, the author theoretical perception of the meaning of life from love point of view is accurate and representative of the largest sections of the community (Frankl, 1997).
The second source of the sense of life is religion. Religion plays a vital role in the determination of the behavior that one assumes. The belief that there is a divine power that ordains all things that happen in life is the main motivation for living among the pious members. This assertion is true since when things are not working out; most of the people seek the insight provided by the religion. Religion defines the acceptable behavior and the unacceptable one. Therefore, the religion sets the boundaries in which the believer operates (Frankl, 1997).
The belief of a person is the ultimate determinant of the set of actions that he will take in dealing with some issues. Therefore, the religion gives the person the approach that he or she will use in life. With the faith, the person is assured of a certain approach to issues then his life is ordered. Most of the religions promise the followers rewards for living in a particular manner (Frankl, 1997). The reward system in the religion comes after death. This leads to the attainment of the motivation to live according to the teachings of the religion.
It also encourages the followers of the religion to live according to the teachings regardless of the situation that they are in. This is why some people will avoid taking courses of actions that will naturally improve their lives for the retention of the change of getting into heaven. The religion beliefs of the people are, therefore the main drivers of action. The promise of rewards in the second life of the individual world is the determinant of the direction of the relationships between the members. Therefore, the life has a meaning since it is part of the process of attaining the goals of the second life (Frankl, 1997).
Third source of meaning in life is suffering. The idea is that one can derive meaning from the unwanted events in his life. Such events can be the source of meaning in life such that one suffers in a bid to honor a person or an event. This theme is not traditional. I do not agree with the idea of the suffering of an individual is undesired. Therefore, ensuring that the pain ends the primary goal. One cannot derive meaning from the unpleasant events. Only lessons can be attained from the suffering (Frankl, 1997).
"Everything can be taken… but one thing the last of human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance, to choose ones on the way." The quote is accurate since the primary driver of action in life is the power to have a free will over all aspects even in jail. Therefore, freedom is a state of mind (Frankl, 1997).
“Those who have a ‘why' to love can bear with almost any ‘how.' The quote is also accurate since it focuses on the primary driver for action. Life direction depends on the assumed purpose. The final quote is “… an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.” The quote focuses on the definition of the acceptable behaviors in the society. The response to a particular behavior depends on the classification of the behavior as normal or abnormal (Frankl, 1997).
Frankl, V. (1997). Man's search for ultimate meaning. New York: Insight Books.
The word ‘love’ evokes different emotions from different kinds of people. Depending on the background of the person, there are people who attach deep feelings of ‘profound, tender affection for another person” or “feelings of a warm personal attachment,” of sometimes even the word love has been used to connote an “intense sexual desire or passion.”
The common understanding of love is mostly based on the English translation and meaning of the word ‘love.’ However, as this case proves, the origin of a word closely determines what the original meaning of the word was. Because of syntax, background, and the ideological differences people develop over time, it emerges that sometimes one word can have more than one meaning.
English meaning of love
This article analyzes the word ‘love’ and tries to identify the meaning of this word from two distinct backgrounds i.e. English and Greek. The word ‘love’ greatly abounds in the English realms of words. According to most dictionaries, in this case, we will define love by referring to the Cambridge English dictionary. It defines love as a concept that can exist in both the animate and inanimate objects. In this regard, the first definition of “love” is the “strong affection one can have for another coupled with a romantic attraction.” This is the kind of love that exists in the animate realm. In essence, these are “living’ feelings that we may feel for another “living” object, say, a person (Ammer 1).
This understanding of love impresses upon us at some time that “love” is a feeling that can come and go, it can be there one time and be absent the other time. In the classical English context, love is a fleeting emotion. This is so because when we examine the meaning of “love” from an inanimate perspective, then we begin to grasp the finiteness of love. For example, present day usage of the word reveals that love can also be expressed towards objects that are not living. It’s common place to hear of people expressing their “love” for a certain food, place, movie and time. For instance, when someone comments that “I love French fries” or a proclamation that “Hawaii is loved by many because of its sandy beaches and sunny weather” then again, we see a different connotation of love.
The “love” in this context is one which if finite. This ‘finiteness’ originates from the fact that what we feel for a certain place today may not be the same once we visit a different place and experience new feelings, or even once a new snack pops into the local grocery shop, and everybody is suddenly craving for it (Elkrief 2). Essentially, the understanding here is that “love” for inanimate objects is determined by circumstances. When these circumstances change, the probability that our feelings are going to change with it is high. For example, people “fall in love” and “out of love” based on how the relationship has affected them both.
The same understanding also applies to the love of inanimate objects as already discussed. In this section, we have concentrated solely on the premise that love as a feeling is finite and thus can end of stop being there ultimately. Now, if analyze this concept from a biblical point of view, we will unearth the disparities that modern English translation and meaning of love have created and how this has ultimately affected our understanding of love and the determined our whole perception “loving” someone or something.
When analyzed from an English perspective, the word “love” has several meanings and usage. First and foremost, the word can be used as a noun. Essentially, this means that love is used to name a feeling or emotion. When we develop a deep attraction for something and possibly with some romantic undertone, then we talk about that feeling of being symbolical of love. Similarly, we can address the person or object that evokes such emotions from us as “love.” For example, a husband may refer to the wife as “love” in this context – “can we go out to dinner today, my love?” (Ammer 2)
On the same note, the word love can be used as a verb i.e. an action word. For instance, we can talk about people “making love” to symbolize an activity that is sexual in nature. Or when we talk about students “loving” their math teacher. These examples illuminate the different contexts of love prevalent in the everyday usage of the word. Other uses of the word love are in the symbolical language e.g. idiom. For example, we can refer to the animosity between two siblings as “having no love lost” between them, or to express affection for doing something as in, “he tended for his dying dog for love.”
The origin of the word “love” in the English vocabulary originated from several backgrounds (Ammer 2). Old English word for love is thought to have been close to the word “lufu” meaning "love, affection, friendliness," and this is captured well in Thornton Wilder’s excerpt from the book "Bridge of San Luis Rey" where he writes that,
"Even now," she thought, "almost no one remembers Esteban and Pepita but myself. Camilla alone remembers her Uncle Pio and her son; this woman, her mother. But soon we shall die, and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living, and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."
The Old Saxon word for this feeling was “liof” had similar word structure to the German reference word for the same feeling. The German word was structured as “Liebe” to imply the feeling of “love” (Ammer 4)
A chronological account for the usage of these words can be traced all the way back to the 13th centuries when expressions like “a beloved friend” are believed to have been in use. Similarly, in the 1740s, there were idiomatic expressions using the word “love” in tennis games to refer to a score line, for example, a score line of 7 – 0 could be referred to as “seven love” of people could say, “playing for love.” In the 1580s, the phrase “for love or money” came into use in reference to “for anything.” Its application in a sentence could go thus, “I can’t eat snails for love or money” to imply “there’s no way I can eat snails.” The act of having sex was given the euphemism “make love” and was attested to in the 1950s. Other phrases like – love song, love affair, love seat, love letter, etc., are seen as having origins in the early English usage. The periods range from the 13th century to the early 1950s (Ammer 4).
From the preceding, we identified contemporary English as creating the impression that love if finite. However, Noah Elkrief (2017) is of the opinion that love has three inherent qualities, i.e.
Noah observes that to develop a deeper understanding of the concept of love, we must first analyze what prevents us from “loving.” He is of the view that our judgment of other people is the first and foremost hindrance to us loving other people. He says that, if we are with other people and the whole time we only focus on “our judgments, commentary, or labels about them” then, essentially, we start creating a wall that ultimately prevents us from truly engaging with these people and having true feelings for them (Elkrief 2). From Noah’s perspective, we get the sense that love originates from the first person. It is the “I” which determines the level of emotions we may develop and feel for someone.
Noah’s perspective can be used as a contemporary modern view to what many of us have come to understand as “love.” Noah lists the following 7 factors that he believes many people have come to identify as being symbolical of love but which, in fact, have nothing to do with it. He says that:
Looking for someone to love us is like looking for someone to make us happy.
Trying to change those we claim to love is NOT an indication love
When we get excited about the prospects of the future with someone doesn’t necessarily mean we love that person.
Doing certain things for our partners expecting some other things in return doesn’t constitute the concept of real love.
Fear and love are incompatible – any aspect of fear either of losing your loved one through natural attrition of any other means is not supportive of what real love means.
Loving the emotions that the person evokes in us may not necessarily imply that we love that person.
It’s easy to argue that Noah views love from a utopian perspective. However, it is logical to question if humans can exist on the plane Noah is suggesting i.e. that we can interact with people from all backgrounds without having preformed judgments and opinions about them. Humans by nature are, in part, emotional and, in part logical. It, therefore, means that we subconsciously form notions and judgments of the people we’re dealing with or the places we are in. We grow up in different surroundings, and this fact leads to always trying to “judge” what the other person may think about the way we, for instance, dress, talk, our view on issues etcetera. Now, if we “feel” that the other party has “accepted” our character, then we can start “loving” that person. However, it becomes very difficult to develop affectionate feelings for someone who might not have an appreciation of your different appeals (Elkrief 5).
The Greek meaning of love
The Greeks had six different varieties of love namely:
The Greeks probably had a better understanding of the meaning of love. Studies indicate that they had six different forms of love and each instance had its reference word as highlighted above. For starters, the Greeks had a form of “love” which they referred to as “Eros.” The Greeks regarded Eros as deeply sexual and desirous, in fact, Eros was the Greek god of fertility. They didn’t view Eros as a good thing because it involved a “loss of control to emotions” which, it’s reported, that the Greeks loathed (Krznaric 1).
The second form of love among the Greeks was “philia” meaning “deep friendship.” This was a form of love that the Greeks cherished more than the “sexual” Eros. This form of love was present between brothers and siblings who had some common interests. The Greeks also viewed the bond between brother-in-arms as being “philia” because of the experiences that soldiers go through while in the battleground. Similarly, it was also symbolical of the love that friends had for each other where sacrifices, loyalty, and sharing of emotions were concerned.
The third form of love present in the Greek society was “Ludus” meaning “playful love.” This is the form of love witnessed in young lovers or children. The playful nature of children was construed to be representative of a love relationship between the children. In the modern society, psychologists believe that going out with friends and chatting over drinks interspersed with sessions of dancing is the ultimate proof that this form of love does still exist, and that theirs is a no better manifestation of this form of love than dancing with a stranger (Krznaric 3).
The fourth form of love as expressed by the Greeks was “agape” and is viewed as being one of the most radical. “agape” or “self-love” is the love that we show towards everybody else regardless of whether they are friends, family, or strangers. The “agape” form of love later translated to Latin as “Caritas” meaning charity. In the Christian context, agape is regarded as the highest form of love. Buddhism refers to it as "universal loving kindness, " and it appears in other religions as well.
The other form of love, according to the Greeks, was “pragma” or translated long-standing love. This was the kind of love evident between couples who had been married for a long time. It’s believed that such couples developed a deeper understanding of each other as they tried to “keep their love alive.” The basic premise of pragma was making compromises and sacrifices towards keeping the relationship working and functional. This could involve being patient and tolerant with one another as we learn to understand them for who and what they are. Psychoanalysts believe that the current setup “spends too much energy of falling in love” and that more energy should now be directed at “standing in love.” (Krznaric 3)
Philautia or love of self is the sixth kind of love in Greek societies. Now, it’s noteworthy that this form of love was further divided into two more types – the much maligned and shunned version where one would be overly concerned about him/herself to the extent that it could be viewed as being narcissistic and self-obsessed (Krznaric 3). The goal of this form of love was believed to be the acquisition of personal fame and fortune at the expense of others. The other version, the good one, encompassed someone’s capacity for loving others. The rationale was that if someone loved and felt secure about themselves, then they would have an increase capacity to love others as well. The Greek philosopher Aristotle put this into context by these famous words, "All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man's feelings for himself."
Cross-Comparison of The Two Contexts
Evidently, the Greek concept of love differs greatly with the modern one where we have one unified version, and from it, we expect to get everything. It is no wonder our misguided view of love as being a single romantic feeling has left many people frustrated with the concept of love that proclamations of love not existing are presently a common school of thought. It’s tempting to think that if indeed love exists in many different forms, then it’s simply impossible to find all of these forms in one place. And this has been the undoing of the contemporary view that love is one big emotion that encompasses all good and leaves out all the bad (Krznaric 2).
From the Greeks perspective, we can infer that love has many sources and varieties. As such, we shouldn’t only seek for Eros, but develop philia by spending more time with family and friends. Cultivating Ludus by opening up to strangers and enjoying their company is also a form of love we should nurture and develop to reap the benefits of a more balanced love life.
The Greek concept of love is more balanced and widely structured than the English concept because the Greeks probably had a better understanding of the feelings of love than their English counterparts. Since Christianity was largely influenced by the English, it would be good to consider Christianity’s viewpoint regarding the issue of love. According to Christianity, there are four types of love namely (Gallagher 1):
Agape – it is important that we understand that even as the Greeks used the word agape to refer to the capacity to love others, it was a term they used when referring to God. Agape love is not wholly concerned with feelings but also with the actions that it inspires. Christianity believes that when Jesus commanded his disciples to “love” their enemies, his real implications was with regards to the agape love and not the Phileo love. Accordingly, Christians opine that Phileo love is a kind of love that exist between friends who are close and have a lot of common interests (Gallagher 1). It’s more of the affection we develop towards people and things that have a certain appeal to us. Biblical scholars believe that the translation of Phileo as love may have been erroneous because Phileo is not the typical love that the Bible goes to great lengths to expound. The explanation for this is that when one says “I love ice cream” and “I love my wife,” the observation is that these two statements both use the word love but the implied meaning of the word is not the same (Gallagher 2).
The first case is more Phileo i.e. love for the ice cream. The second statement, however, depicts a deeper love for someone and is more related to agape. Thus, from the two statements, one gets the understanding that the English translation of the word love may have left out a lot of meanings. In essence, English unified all the facets into one word – love.
The Christian context of Eros, Phileo, and Storge is very similar to the Greek context as having been discussed in the article.
From this premise, it has become inherently difficult to distinguish between which form of love a person may be referring to when the word love is incorporated into a sentence. In practice, therefore, the English translation of “Love” can be inadequate because it fails to incorporate all the aspects of love as envisaged by the Greeks.
The modern day understanding of the meaning of love has all got to do with feelings and emotions. The English language has no categorical delineations of the word love, and this means that our understanding of the word may be fundamentally flawed. We may need to fragment the word to facilitate a better understanding of the word. As currently used, we may just be referring to any of the six different forms of love and continue being at cross purpose whenever we are engaged in a conversation in which the topic revolves around love with the Greeks.
So, has the English language been able to incorporate the versions of love as depicted by the Greeks? The answer is a resounding no.
Ammer, Christine. "love." The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms 22 April 2017. .
Elkrief, Noah. "What Is The Meaning Of Love." 25 March 2017. Love & Relationships, 22 April 2017.
Gallagher, Dan. "Four Kinds of Love." TRUTH OR TRADITION? 12 June 2016: 3.
Krznaric, Roman. "The Ancient Greeks’ 6 Words for Love (And Why Knowing Them Can Change Your Life)." YES Magazine 27 December 2013.
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