What does Frankl mean by responsibility?

In Man's Search for Meaning, for Frankl, responsibility means approaching life with a sense of purpose. While maintaining an "inner freedom" is important, it must be complemented by a sense of responsibility. Otherwise, freedom is rendered meaningless and arbitrary.

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At one point in Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl claims that the Statue of Liberty on the east coast of the United States should be complemented by a Statue of Responsibility:

Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

While Frankl had no arguments against freedom (indeed, Man's Search for Meaning pushes the idea that inner freedom is always possible), he felt that freedom without responsibility would only lead to listlessness and unhappiness. According to Frankl's logotherapy, people's lives are centered around having a sense of meaning, and meaning can often come from responsibility. Living in complete freedom from responsibility would only lead to a life ruled by whim, chance, and impulse—in other words, "arbitrariness." In fact, one might say that finding meaning in life is the individual's chief responsibility, according to Frankl.

Ultimately, when Frankl talks about responsibility, he means simply living with a sense of purpose. To live in "a tensionless state," without any sense of ambition, duty, or drive, is psychologically unhealthy. To live a life of responsibility does not mean one must aim to be a great political leader, athlete, scientist, or artist: it can mean caring for an aged parent, volunteering time to help those in need, or approaching one's hardships in life with a courageous attitude. Such goals potentially provide an individual with a sense of meaning throughout their daily lives, even if such tasks do not seem great or heroic to anyone else.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 24, 2021
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