Frankl again asserts that man ultimately has control over his own destiny, and that “every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.” As a result, the future of each human being cannot be known or predicted by biological or sociological factors. Instead, man has the ability to transcend these factors and become something of his own making.
Frankl believes in man’s freedom to change at any moment because his philosophy is focused on man’s possibilities. Further, his belief is backed up by his experiences in the camps, where he saw firsthand that man’s actions were not entirely determined by his environment.
Frankl tells the reader about Dr. J, a mass murderer and a truly terrible person. Frankl once met a person who had been imprisoned with Dr. J, and who told him that Dr. J was his best friend in prison. Frankl sees this as proof that anyone, no matter how cruel, has the capacity to change.
Despite all of the pain and suffering Frankl experienced at the hands of others, he is certain that even the cruelest people can become good. He is willing to forgive, despite this man’s horrible reputation and past actions.
Frankl disagrees with pan-determinism, or the idea that humans cannot control their destiny, because he believes that there are certain freedoms which can never be taken from a man. However, Frankl writes, “Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.” In other words, while man has the freedom to choose the meaning of his life, he is also responsible for choosing that meaning. The only freedom worth having, Frankl argues, is freedom that is coupled with responsibility.
Although man is fundamentally free, that freedom is meaningless without responsibility. Thus, in order to fully take control of one’s life and find meaning in it, one must live in a state of tension between one’s freedom and one’s obligations (even if that obligation is only to life itself). Later in life, Frankl even went on to propose that America’s Statue of Liberty should have a corresponding “Statue of Responsibility” on the nation’s West Coast.