What does Frankl mean by "What matters therefore is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment"?

In Man's Search for Meaning, Frankl's observation here means that individuals give their lives meaning by performing specific tasks. There is no general "meaning of life" which is applicable to everybody.

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In Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl cautions against taking an abstract approach to meaning in life. He does not think that it is possible to find a general, universally applicable meaning through meditation, introspection, or dialogue. Instead, he believes that people must create the meaning in their own lives, often through the work they do:

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way.

It is this perspective on life and meaning that makes Man's Search for Meaning a classic of existentialism. Dr. Frankl himself used his skills as a psychiatrist to help others to survive in the concentration camps. This gave meaning to his life and allowed him to survive as well. However, it would obviously be absurd to conclude from this example that the meaning of life is surviving in Nazi concentration camps. This would mean that, if you are not in a concentration camp, your life cannot have meaning. Other attempts to create a blanket definition of "the meaning of life" encounter the same problem. Any objective, from becoming a world-class violinist to curing cancer, may be excellent for a particular individual, while obviously not being suitable for the entire human race. Frankl believes that all meaning is specific to the individual and that it may change as the subject's situation changes.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 17, 2021
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