Quest for Wisdom: Two Approaches Two approaches to the "Quest for Wisdom" that I enjoyed are Walden, by Henry David Thoreau and Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl. Both of the authors took similar approaches by using narration of a main segment of their lives to explain their philosophy and how they arrived at their conclusions. Though both conclusions represent individualism they are strikingly different. Thoreau values the doctrines of Transcendentalism, seeking ones inner self through Nature, while Frankl Existentialism values the interpretation of individual experiences and responsibility of ones actions. Thoreau spent years building his approach and developing his own beliefs.
Born in Concord, Massachusetts, in July 1817, he developed an early love of solitude and communion with nature. He studied English, history, philosophy, and four different modern languages at Harvard College and graduated in 1837. From 1837 to 1840 he tried jobs unsuccessfully as school teacher and tutor. From 1841 to 1843 he took a job as a gardener and handyman where he was inspired by the exploration and writing about spiritual relationships between humanity and nature, and the ideas of Ralph Emerson. On July 4, 1845 Thoreau started an experiment on Emerson's land at Walden Pond and spent two years watching, writing, and understanding the power of nature. The only way Thoreau could encounter a relationship with nature was to independently bond with the way of the woods, streams, ponds, and animals.
This does not mean that to gain wisdom from Thoreau's approach you would abandon your life and live in a cabin in the woods and commune with nature. His statement to man seeking a similar life, was: "I would not have any one adopt my mode of living on any account; for, beside that before he has fairly learned it I may have found out another for myself, I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead. The youth may build or plant or sail, only let him not be hindered from doing that which he tells me he would like to do. It is by a mathematical point only that we are wise, as the sailor or the fugitive slave keeps the polestar in his eye; but that is sufficient guidance for all our life." (P 158 Thoreau) I believe instead through out his writings, Thoreau was trying to suggest that a person be more self-reliant and self-sufficient. That people gain wealth in personal experience and the beauty of Nature. Through self-exploration and discovery they seek the truth and draw inner strength from it.
Viktor Frankl began his education early in the study of psychology. He finished his high school years with a psychoanalytic essay on the philosopher Schopenhauer, a publication in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, and began correspondence with Sigmund Freud. In 1925, a year after graduating and on his way towards his medical degree, he met Freud in person The following year, Frankl used the term logo therapy in a public lecture for the first time, and began to refine his particular brand of Viennese psychology. In 1928 and 1929, Frankl organized cost-free counseling centers for teenagers in Vienna and six other cities, and began working at the Psychiatric University Clinic.
In 1930, he earned his doctorate in medicine, and was promoted to assistant. In the next few years, Frankl continued his training in neurology. In 1940, Frankl was made head of the neurological department of Rothschild Hospital, the only hospital for Jews in Vienna during the Nazi regime. He made many false diagnoses of his patients in order to circumvent the new policies requiring euthanasia of the mentally ill. It was during this period that he began his manuscript, The Doctor and the Soul.
Frankl's narration of his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps built on to the foundation for his approach and developing his beliefs. In his narration he describes the people who had hopes of being reunited with loved ones, or who had projects they felt a need to complete, or who had great faith, tended to have better chances than those who had lost all hope. The descriptions of the life as a prisoner, and as a doctor, dealing with the atrocities and daily sufferings became the basis for his theory called logo therapy. His beliefs that people's primary motivation in life is to search for meaning of personal existence. "According to logo therapy, we can discover this meaning of life in three different ways: by creating a work or doing a deed; by experiencing something or encountering someone; and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering." (P 115 Frankl) These three ways allow any person to gain knowledge and wisdom from their own experiences and in the process discovers their own meaning. I believe both authors offer valid arguments in searching oneself for knowledge and wisdom.
Also, both theories allow for inner exploration and spiritual growth and can be accepted and practiced even today. Thoreau's approach may seem more drastic today by rejecting society and turning inward, where as Frankl approach gathers strength from all life experiences and looks forward to the future. By making our own choices and assigning meaning and value to these choices I would find Frankl approach more in line with today's modern society. 1 web david thoreau. html 2 web.