How We Elevate Each Other: Viktor Frankl on the Human Spirit and Why Idealism Is the Best Realism
“If we take man as he really is, we make him worse. But if we overestimate him … we promote him to what he really can be.”
By Maria Popova
Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl (March 26, 1905–September 2, 1997) is a timeless testament to the luminous tenacity of the human spirit. His 1946 psychological memoir Man’s Search for Meaning (public library) is one of the most vital books ever written, and one of the most vitalizing one could ever read — a wealth of insight on how to persevere through troubled times and what it means to live fully.
In this 1972 lecture footage, brimming with his humble wisdom and disarming wit, Frankl makes a beautiful case for believing in each other and viewing the human spirit with hope rather than cynicism:
If we take man as he really is, we make him worse. But if we overestimate him … we promote him to what he really can be. So we have to be idealists, in a way — because then we wind up as the true, the real realists.
Complement with Frankl’s indispensable Man’s Search for Meaning, then see another great champion of the human spirit echo the same ennobling sentiment: Isaac Asimov on choosing optimism over cynicism.
Published April 14, 2015