Following the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
Sam Keen, a philosopher born in the 1930’s, is perhaps best known for his exploratory and even pioneering questions about life and the love therein. Unafraid to ask fundamental things such as, “what makes me love?” or even, “How do I know I am a loving person,” Keen desired to come face to face with his inner tenderness, encouraging us to do the same. Should we find we were not very tender, as he perhaps was afraid to find, he was prepared to ask, “If I am not a loving person, how should I become one?” While these questions seem ridiculous or inconsequential to some, they are of vital importance to all, whether they realize it.
According to, “Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up,” by Irving Singer and Alan Soble, Keen’s questions are not just philosophical banter, but questions everybody should ask and answer throughout their lives in order to be innately satisfied . For example, Keen’s first question, “How can I become a more lovable human being?” surmises it does not matter how much we are loving or not loving. The question is free of judgment. However, it does suggest more love is always needed in order to be satisfied. This question is followed by, “How much do I love? How can I measure it?” The authors suggest there is no true way to know, other than to measure by the fulfillment one feels within themselves, and with those around them. It is not something that can be measured physically, of course, but certainly can be measured in the happiness one feels as they give it freely. This, again, allows for more love to be an option regardless of the answer.
Keen continues his inward journey, one we can all take, by asking, “If I discover I am not a very loving person, is there a way I can increase my capacity as a lover?” Keen appeared to understand questions such as these had the power to make an individual feel unsatisfactory. As such, these questions are needed in order to allow the individual introspection should they realize they feel inadequate, or as if they do not love enough, but would like to be. Of course, anybody can learn to love, though love is arguably innate. Most likely, the ability to express love freely is being smothered by other feelings, a repression, or mental block of some kind . Once a person is able to overcome these obstacles, “learning” to be more loving is very simple, as many philosophers have proclaimed the ability to love, while painful, is one of the most easy and most human things about us.
Finally, Keen asks if love is learnable. We have surmised that it is. He then asks that, logically, if loving more or loving at all are things that can it be taught to a person? And if they are qualities that can be taught, as they are, who is able to teach them. Technically, the ability to become a more loving person can be taught, and anybody who is able to show a loving capacity would make a viable teacher. In many cases, those seeking habits that will make them more loving individuals simply need to observe what these habits are, and adopt them for their own. We are able to understand the qualities that make these individuals more loving and perform them ourselves, understanding what will make us more loving in the process. On a deeper level, we must begin to understand what it means to love, to give selflessly, and to stop thinking about ourselves in the interest of someone or something else in order to love more. In contrast, those who are unable to show love, or be loving, could arguably teach individual how to be more loving by essentially displaying habits that make them unable to be affectionate, loving beings.
Keen’s questions were relevant when first asked, and they are relevant now. They demand we come face to face with our inner selves, taking control of how we treat others; whether it is with love and compassion, or hatred and malice is what we must assess. The philosophy behind these questions forgets to mention each individual has the components for love inside of them, inherently, as a human being. We all are able to love. Moreover, we all are able to love more. It is all a matter of assessing if we are pleased with the love we give freely, and learning new habits to give more love if we are not.
Singer, I., & Soble, A. (2011). Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up. Boston: MIT Press.