Alcove Activities: First Level: Paraphrasing a Text, Man's Search for Meaning
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First Level: Paraphrasing a Text, Man's Search for Meaning
In this set of activities you will be both paraphrasing and explicating the thesis of several classic texts. You will paraphrase each excerpt section by section, followed by explicating the texts by stating your understanding of each one in your own words, then elaborating, exemplifying and illustrating them. In other words, for each of the texts in this section, you will begin by articulating them in your own words, sentence by sentence, or in parts, as we have presented them. Then you will explicate each one at level two.

After writing out your paraphrases in your own words, and explicating them, click on the thinker icon to see our specimen answers. You will first read the text as a whole at the beginning of each section, along with its background information, and then you will find the same text divided into parts for your practice.

Man's Search for Meaning

Background Information:
The following excerpt is taken from Viktor E. Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning (1959). Dr. Frankl, a psychiatrist and neurologist who was imprisoned at Auschwitz and other Nazi prisons, developed a theory of “logotherapy” which “focuses its attention upon mankind’s groping for a higher meaning in life.”

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him... [People] lack the awareness of a meaning worth living for. They are haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness, a void within themselves; they are caught in that situation which I have called the ‘existential vacuum.’...This existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom... Not a few cases of suicide can be traced back to this existential vacuum... Sometimes the frustrated will to meaning is vicariously compensated for by a will to power, including the most primitive form of the will to power, the will to money. In other cases, the place of frustrated will to meaning is taken by the will to pleasure... Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each meaning is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible... (pp. 166-172).

Now that you have read the full text above, you will find the same text in sections below. Write out your paraphrase of each section in the box provided. Then see our specimen answers by clicking on the thinker icon.


What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: People should not strive to be without stress and challenge. Rather they should actively seek important purposes. People shouldn’t spend their time and energy simply trying to relieve pressure in their lives. Instead they should use their energy seeking out pursuits that are significant and important to them.




[People] lack the awareness of a meaning worth living for. They are haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness, a void within themselves; they are caught in that situation which I have called the ‘existential vacuum.’...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: People often do not see that there is anything significant in life. Their minds are not actively pursing anything interesting, anything that gives them deep meaning in their lives. Life seems barren and unfulfilling.




This existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom... Not a few cases of suicide can be traced back to this existential vacuum...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: This lack of significant meaning in one’s life often leads to tedium, dullness, apathy, indifference. Even suicide is sometimes caused by a state of “empty existence.”




Sometimes the frustrated will to meaning is vicariously compensated for by a will to power, including the most primitive form of the will to power, the will to money. In other cases, the place of frustrated will to meaning is taken by the will to pleasure...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: Sometimes when people fail to pursue important meanings and goals, their energy is used instead in the pursuit of control and domination. Some even resort to the most crude type of power, that of pursuing wealth simply for the sake of wealth. In still other persons, the failure to pursue important objectives is covered over by a vain pursuit of pleasure.




Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each meaning is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: In the final analysis people should not try to figure out the meaning of life. Instead they should answer the questions: “What meaning can I give to my own life? What important meaning can I create for myself? What goals can I pursue that make my life important?” In short, people have to answer to the world for their actions. Each of us must justify how and why we are living our lives the way we do. And each of us is responsible to pursue important goals, to live in a conscientious way. Each of us is accountable for the life-forming decisions we make. Each of us is responsible for our own well-being.