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Meaning of life and pedagogy

Meaning of life and pedagogy

ISBN: 978-83-8294-327-6
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Podtytuł: Impulses of thought by Viktor E. Frankl

The monographic method will be complemented by the thematic biography method (J.K. Helling 1990, p. 16ff.), because it would be difficult to analyse Frankl psychologically without capturing the contexts and connections of key events from his life, especially his experience of concentration camps...

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Introduction

The search for the meaning of life has accompanied humanity since the beginning of its existence. Questions about the meaning of one’s own existence and the purposefulness of the existence of the world appear in human consciousness with varying intensity. Everyone asks themselves questions such as: Who am I? What am I living for? What is the meaning of life? These questions especially arise when human existence is affected by an event involving misfortune or suffering, or when a person finds oneself in a difficult or uncertain situation. The issue of the meaning of life is of interest not only to so-called ordinary people but also to researchers of philosophy, sociology and representatives of other scientific disciplines, including psychology and educational studies. However, from a practical point of view, there remains the important question of how to revive the issue of the meaning of life in upbringing, in educational activities and in pedagogical thinking, and how to help people embark upon a goal-oriented path, a path of fullness of being and life. Such a proposal can be presented by attempting to read the pedagogical implications in the thought of the forerunner of the concept of logo-theory and logotherapy, Viktor E. Frankl, who was a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and philosopher, creator of the third Viennese school of psychotherapy.

[...]

The monographic method will be complemented by the thematic biography method (J.K. Helling 1990, p. 16ff.), because it would be difficult to analyse Frankl psychologically without capturing the contexts and connections of key events from his life, especially his experience of concentration camps. This method assumes the capture of a certain area of human activity and, although it does not constitute an independent topic in the work, it certainly allows for a comparison of the main lines of V.E. Frankl’s creativity and professional activity (scientific, didactic) with specific events in his biography and with the professor’s struggles with the socio-political reality (mainly World War II and the post-war years), determined by the era in which he lived.

[...]

Opis

Książka papierowa
oprawa miękka

Specyficzne kody

isbn
978-83-8294-327-6

Jarosław Tomasz Michalski

autoris a pedagogue and full professor at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw and the Mazovian Academy in Płock. He serves as the director of the Institute of Pedagogy at UKSW and is the head of the Department of Philosophy and Sociology of Education within the same institute. His scientific interests include the pedagogy of religion, the intersection of religion and education, the connections between pedagogy and upbringing with hermeneutic philosophy, ontological and axiological challenges in pedagogy and resuscitation, contemporary philosophy of education, and personal-existential pedagogy.

 

Oficyna Wydawnicza "Impuls"

Autor

Jarosław Tomasz Michalski

ISBN e-book

978-83-8294-327-6

Wersja językowa

EN

Objętość

266 page

Wydanie

1st edition, Cracow 2024

Format


Oprawa

B5 (160x235)


miękka, klejona, matowa

Contents

Introduction          

PART I
HUMANS AND THEIR EXISTENTIAL PROBLEMS. SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS IN THE PROPOSAL
OF VIKTOR E. FRANKL


CHAPTER ONE

VIKTOR E. FRANKL AND HIS THEORY   
Viktor E. Frankl – biographical elements    
Frankl’s theory in isolation from the views of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler     

CHAPTER TWO

THE LOSS AND CRISIS OF MEANING. A PHENOMENOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE       
Existential void        
The loss of meaning as a neurotic phenomenon     
Possible causes of the crisis of meaning        
Phenomenological attitude     

CHAPTER THREE

MEANING AS A WAY OUT OF EXISTENTIAL CRISIS     
The way out of existential crisis       
The concepts of meaning and values        
Conscience as an organ of meaning    

CHAPTER FOUR

THE QUESTION OF MEANING AND THE QUESTIONER        
The question of meaning         
The possibility of finding the answer       
The principle of dialogue and the question of meaning        
The person as the subject – the carrier of meaning    

PART II
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SEARCH
FOR THE MEANING OF LIFE FOR PEDAGOGY

CHAPTER FIVE

FROM QUESTIONS IN GENERAL TO THE QUESTION OF THE MEANING        
Principles of pedagogical thought and practice        
The philosophical foundations of pedagogy       
The interrelationship of questions of a pedagogical and psychotherapeutic nature         
An attempt to bring the positions closer together. A phenomenological perspective        

CHAPTER SIX

THE ROLE OF QUESTIONING IN HUMAN EXISTENCE        
The relationship between questions and answers       
The inductive path of cognition     
The pedagogical significance of the question of meaning         
The importance of conscience in the search for meaning         
The question of duty     

CHAPTER SEVEN

THE QUESTION OF MEANING        
The place of existential analysis     
The significance of the question of meaning   
A question of values       
The significance of conscience         
Responsibility as an answer         

CHAPTER EIGHT

THE QUESTIONER         
The personal self in pedagogy         
The concept of a person in existential analysis    
Humans in search of themselves       
A pedagogical attempt at synthesis        

CONCLUSION     

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Introduction

The search for the meaning of life has accompanied humanity since the beginning of its existence. Questions about the meaning of one’s own existence and the purposefulness of the existence of the world appear in human consciousness with varying intensity. Everyone asks themselves questions such as: Who am I? What am I living for? What is the meaning of life? These questions especially arise when human existence is affected by an event involving misfortune or suffering, or when a person finds oneself in a difficult or uncertain situation. The issue of the meaning of life is of interest not only to so-called ordinary people but also to researchers of philosophy, sociology and representatives of other scientific disciplines, including psychology and educational studies. However, from a practical point of view, there remains the important question of how to revive the issue of the meaning of life in upbringing, in educational activities and in pedagogical thinking, and how to help people embark upon a goal-oriented path, a path of fullness of being and life. Such a proposal can be presented by attempting to read the pedagogical implications in the thought of the forerunner of the concept of logo-theory and logotherapy, Viktor E. Frankl, who was a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and philosopher, creator of the third Viennese school of psychotherapy.

According to V.E. Frankl, the meaning of life is the ability to find and perform specific tasks that prove to be unique to each individual. These tasks are not accidental, and the involvement in their implementation results from a calling and a sense of responsibility. He often and willingly quoted Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: “He who has something to live for can endure almost anything”.

The main thesis that determines the perspectives of analysis in this work is as follows: the question of meaning is of great importance for pedagogy. When trying to emphasize this thesis more strongly by presenting appropriate arguments, the thought and work of V.E. Frankl become particularly important. Of course, these connections are important and possible, assuming that we consider them from the perspective of philosophical-transcendental pedagogy. Paying attention to this starting point appears important because each type of pedagogical orientation contains, in one way or another, its philosophical assumptions regarding the nature of humans, their meaning and their place in the world. This results in a specific type of explanation and argumentation of the key problem of the question of meaning and its connections with pedagogical theory and practice contained in the work. If, for example, the question of meaning were to be researched and analysed in relation to education, or “meaning” as an obligation were to become the subject of research, then the adopted methodological perspective of philosophical-transcendental pedagogy would determine the method and course of the research used.

The philosophical and pedagogical category of meaning as a specific horizon of human existence can be treated as a challenge, a way of thinking and as a reality. It can be treated as a challenge, because in order to authentically experience a relationship with another person, one would need to take a step towards them and meet them. One must leave their monological fortification, abandoning a certain way of thinking, and experience dialogicity with the other human as a person, whereby human action emerges and reflects their attitude to reality. It is impossible to achieve goals or to fulfil ideals without breaking patterns and without changing one’s frequently instrumental treatment of others. It can be treated as a reality, because the phenomenon of meaning, in Frankl’s approach, is something truly connected with the core of man, with the core of one’s human matters, something rudimentary and irreplaceable by anything else. The category of meaning understood in this way is something whose presence or absence, authenticity or mystification, affirmation or deprecation has a real and measurable impact on the quality of every person’s life. The personal dimension of meaning, as Frankl emphasized, shapes the types of references and connections, relationships and motivations, thus constituting a specific form of interpersonal interactions.

The method proposed by Frankl is therefore centrally focused on human as a person who is oriented towards meaning and needs meaning, despite being often unaware of this reality. Logotherapy is, apparently, a psychological and psychotherapeutic direction which openly admits its connections with existential and transcendental philosophy. Frankl himself, when building and developing his therapeutic project, often referred to the philosophical reflection of authors such as Saint Thomas of Aquinas, Max Scheler, Georg W.F. Hegel, Reinhard Gehlen, Baruch Spinoza, Nicholas of Cusa and others. The anthropological assumptions of logotherapy are therefore included explicitly in the reflection and should not be sought indirectly, as is the case in other psychological directions.

As a subject of pedagogy, a human being, due to susceptibility to education in the process of becoming a full person, should be guided by the principle of freedom and perceive one’s own self-determination, autonomy, maturity and the ability to make judgments if one does not want to be reduced to an object or tool in the hands of others. The common ground between the existential analysis proposed by Frankl and philosophical-transcendental pedagogy pertains to treating the individual in one’s full personal and integral dimension. However, such an approach to reality is only possible to the extent to which we may demonstrate the distinctiveness of Frankl’s existential analysis in relation to psychoanalysis and experimental psychology. These two directions – in his opinion – significantly narrow the overall image of human beings, disregard their spirituality and valuation, and, above all, refer mainly to subconscious states. Meanwhile, the “Franklian sense” has constitutive anthropological foundations and in this approach it applies to pedagogy in its theoretical and practical dimensions. Therefore, the main goal of this work is to show the significance of this question in the educational process of an individual’s development.

Reflection on Frankl’s thought in the context of connections with pedagogy leads to the belief that the issues of the meaning of life are among the fundamental ones that people try to pose and solve. However, these are problems that cannot be resolved through institutional recommendations or scientific investigations alone. Questions related to the meaning of life constantly remain open and assigned to the sphere of lived experience. Ultimately, it always turns out that they enter the path of the mystery of life and death, which cannot be explained by means of rational intellectual premises. However, the modern human, entangled in the process of rapid existential and civilizational changes, feels a constant need to seek and experience it.

Frankl’s theoretical investigations into meaning also demonstrate its connections with values and valuation. From the perspective of the search for the meaning of life, it should be assumed that they are arranged in a specific hierarchy: higher and lower, important and less important values. The higher and highest ones determine the basic directions of human life and the essence of humanity depends on them. Lower values, on the other hand, are the basis of human existence and are a necessary condition for achieving higher values. Therefore, lower values cannot constitute the true goal of life, but are only the means to achieve it. Their importance ultimately depends on which other higher values they serve, because from these they derive their additional nobility and purposefulness. In this way, a human being, finding the ultimate meaning of life, confirms it through specific choices of specific values, which are his or her indirect and partial goals.

In his proposal, Viktor E. Frankl clearly emphasized the primacy of moral values over material ones. At the same time, he pointed out the importance of basing one’s evaluation on religious, permanent, unchanging and objective values. He made finding the true meaning and purpose of life dependent on them. They do not confine human beings to temporal life only. On the contrary, they open them to supernatural reality.

For Frankl, apparently, religion proves to be an autonomous value, but it also fulfils many other important functions in one’s personal life, as well as influencing social life. It can significantly help a person to function better both internally and in taking up external activity. It seems important to emphasize that religiosity, i.e. the subjective attitude to religion as a set of certain truths, dogmas, a system of norms of conduct and rituals that regulate the attitude towards God, may play an important role in shaping a person’s personality and attitude to life. Religious values are an important reference point and guide in personality development. They may contribute to its development to varying degrees, depending on the place they occupy in the personality structure. Thanks to them, people can satisfy their needs and find answers to basic questions about the existence of humanity and the world. It is on them, just like on needs, that the meaning of human life can be built.

The issue of the meaning of life is extremely important from an existential perspective. This is an issue worth taking up, especially in the current moral crisis. Such crises often lead to a loss of the meaning of life. In a rapidly changing world, the circles of people who succumb to feelings of meaninglessness in life are expanding, and the number of so-called existential frustrations increases. The crisis of the meaning of life and the feeling of meaninglessness arise in contemporary conditions as a result of various disappointments, but also, above all, as a result of negative changes in the sphere of values and norms.

The questioning of values and the identity crisis that a significant number of people, especially young people, are going through today oblige us to overcome it and make new efforts in the field of research and scientific inquiry. The global crisis, which has affected the economy, politics, culture, morality, religiosity, and finally humans themselves, demands special integration, cooperation, a sense of responsibility and creative dialogue in the field of building a new order and a new normative order, especially the institutions responsible for the upbringing of the young generation.

From a practical point of view, an important problem arises: how to revive the issue of the meaning of life in upbringing, in education (not only in the religious sense but also in broader pedagogical thinking) and how to help people find the fullness of being and life. It is worth maintaining interest in the issue of the meaning of life, both in theoretical considerations and practical activities.

The present work does not aim to comprehensively and fully exhaust the problem of the relationship between pedagogy and V.E. Frankl’s proposal from the perspective of the question of meaning. Instead, in the author’s intention, it is a contribution to further in-depth research, which may ultimately lead to treating the category of “meaning” and “meaning of life” as an important topic for contemporary exploratory pedagogy.

The formal and substantive structure of the work will be determined by two main parts: the first contains the theoretical background of the assumptions of Frankl’s theory and method which result from the analysis of the human existential situation and the characteristics of the category of meaning. Therefore, there will be described (in chapters one and two) the symptoms of the loss of the sense of meaning in relation to the duties that a person is supposed to fulfil, as well as goals and values that exist and which a person should set and pursue. In addition, the causes of the crisis of meaning will be presented, a feeling of a limited or closed life perspective, development prospects, a feeling of inner emptiness and boredom, which weaken a person’s vital forces as well as depriving them of strong motivation and hope for the future. Perceiving the world as absurd and meaningless is a direct path to potentially serious personality disorders and, in general, to the intensification of phenomena that fall within the scope of social pathology. The contemporary youth counterculture movement, the increase in drug addiction, crimes and aggressive behaviour in stadiums and streets seem to be closely related to the experience of existential frustration. The subsequent chapters (fourth and fifth) will focus on the issue of meaning as a possible way out of the existential crisis, as well as on the dialogical and personalistic principle characterizing its essence.

The second part of the work will be entirely devoted to the pedagogical validation of Frankl’s logotherapy and showing the importance of the question of meaning for educational interactions. The discussion on the mutual relations between psychotherapy and pedagogy has been conducted for a long time in a particularly controversial way. While some participants of the discussion are convinced of the need to relate these fields to each other, others claim that there is a fundamental inconsistency between the psychotherapeutic and pedagogical approaches to the problem. Moreover, there are also positions that see V.E. Frankl’s existential analysis as a special case of pedagogy, or possibly further development taking place within it. In the second part, these relations will be analysed, while taking into account the necessary assumptions influencing the formulation of problems and questions about the meaning of life. The concept of the dissertation and the limits outlined in it for updating V. Frankl’s psychological and therapeutic thought, as well as its application to pedagogy, require the adoption of a specific research model. It will be based on the basic assumptions of Jean Piaget’s genetic structuralism, namely on the analysis of the genesis and stages of processing knowledge in its entirety from a lower to a more advanced level (J. Piaget 1977, p. 46f.). In the models of this reconstruction of educational theory, the following phases of analysis can be distinguished: the genesis of a specific theory, the transformation of the structure of a given theory or its components, and the updating of pedagogical concepts from the past (W. Ciczkowski 1995, pp. 75–76). The scientific thought of J. Piaget was placed by Zbigniew Kwieciński, next to John Dewey and Lawrence Kohlberg, in the trend of reconstructionists seeking harmony between the past and shaping the courage to create a new social reality, combining the common good with the good of the individual (Z. Kwieciński 2000, p. 42f.).

The methodological approach applied in the dissertation is called triangulation in social research. It most often includes categories such as description, explanation, design and evaluation, as well as understanding and interpretation (S. Palka 1999, p. 13). The compilation of these categories allows one to strengthen the authenticity of the analysed problems, in addition to contributing to feedback in the creation of richer knowledge about pedagogical phenomena and processes (S. Palka 1999, p. 15). Thanks to triangulation, it is possible to obtain confirmation of analyses and statements, as well as obtaining greater reliability of the conclusions drawn from them. Among many possible methods, theoretical and methodological triangulation was applied in the dissertation (K. Konarzewski 2000, p. 44). The former takes analyses from various theoretical sources as the basis for interpretation, while the latter employs a compilation of various research methods for analysis. In this case, the monograph method was of primary importance, while other methods, i.e. biographical, hermeneutic and phenomenological, played a complementary role in the work.

The choice of the monograph was determined by the fact that it consists in describing one selected issue through comprehensive criticism of the sources and their interpretation (B. Miśkiewicz 1971). In the case of this work, the main analysed issue will be V.E. Frankl’s concept of logotherapy and its importance for pedagogical theory and practice. The sources of this research method lie in historical and ethnographic sciences, and more precisely in the area of cul­tural anthropology. The above-mentioned scientific disciplines use the discussed research method to describe a specific section of cultural and social reality, individual, group or the entire social system.

The monographic method will be complemented by the thematic biography method (J.K. Helling 1990, p. 16ff.), because it would be difficult to analyse Frankl psychologically without capturing the contexts and connections of key events from his life, especially his experience of concentration camps. This method assumes the capture of a certain area of human activity and, although it does not constitute an independent topic in the work, it certainly allows for a comparison of the main lines of V.E. Frankl’s creativity and professional activity (scientific, didactic) with specific events in his biography and with the professor’s struggles with the socio-political reality (mainly World War II and the post-war years), determined by the era in which he lived.

Both methods seem objective and are not susceptible to accusations of unscientific nature, because in their essence they use historical and biographical facts without changing their semantics. It was the hermeneutic method that was important for analyses, especially of source texts. In the first sense, it is, of course, a method of critical examination, explanation and internal interpretation. In the presented case, it will be to obtain information about the importance of V.E. Frankl’s intellectual thought, with particular emphasis on its usefulness for contemporary exploratory pedagogy, but in a historical context. After all, history can become a determinant of life if only the right questions are asked of it (J. Gnitecki 1993). Therefore, hermeneutics as the science of understanding through its reflexivity and connection not only with the written source, but also with pedagogical experience, is the basis for constructing meanings with a broader scope (A. Krause 2004).

During the analysis of V.E. Frankl’s compact works and articles in the field of logotherapy, the question of its pedagogical and educational values and the ways of making them present was considered important. The question of extending the subject of research from the field of psychology to strictly pedagogical ground was also justified, looking for relations, connections and the validation of questions of meaning in pedagogy.

The problem of the specificity, depth and educational nature of the meaning of life in pedagogy remained relatively difficult methodologically and analytically. A supporting phenomenological method served to resolve it due to its basic postulate of “returning to things”, i.e. direct experience of what is given (J. Gnitecki 1993, p. 52). This method made it possible to show the sense and significance of individual phenomena included in V.E. Frankl’s therapeutic project adopted for analysis. Z. Kwieciński postulates, using the phenomenological method, “drawing maps of paradigms and theories” (Z. Kwieciński 2000, p. 47). This is a method transferred by Roland G. Pulston from the sociology of science to compare representative trends in pedagogy over longer periods of time and to study the connections (relations) of social changes with changes in pedagogical theories (R.G. Pulston 1993, pp. 25–30).

The presented diversity of methodological procedures allows for this type of theoretical reflection, which is closely related to praxeology. It shows the problems of educational practice often associated with fundamentalist thinking, inappropriately stimulated and “behind” in the perspective of the most advanced planes of theoretical thinking, which were reconstructed in the first decade of the 21st century.

The analysis of the central philosophical category of the meaning of life in this work seems important because, paradoxically, what is undisclosed and inconspicuous turns out to be what is the most constitutive of the human condition and the manifestations of human coexistence with others. Awareness of the need to search for the meaning of life shows the need to approach the process of upbringing and education from the point of view of the basic truths that constitute the form of human existence. The words of Tadeusz Gadacz express this extremely well:

There are truths that can be learned from a book, which can be reached through intellectual speculation. There are also truths to which there is no theoretical answer. They can only be known through personal testimony and your own life experience (T. Gadacz 1991, p. 47).

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