Kaos Pilots: Making a Difference

Yesterday, I began to discuss what Kaos Pilots is; today I will discuss what it could become.

I suggested that what could unify the school would be (i) the cultivation of character, (ii) the articulation of a finite set of final aims, and (iii) the attempt to draw a comprehensive picture of a set of prima facie competing claims and vocabularies. It occurs to me that it could make the most sense to begin with (ii).

What it is Not

Manifestly, it is a school committed to the active life even though it does not fit the models of a design, business, or creative leadership school. The purpose of the school is not to teach design (e.g., Stanford D-School, RISD, etc.), sustainability (e.g., Bainbridge Graduate Institute), business (e.g., Aston Business School, Wharton, etc.), ecology (e.g., Schumacher College), or fine art (e.g., Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts). And it is not simply a social enterprise or social innovation school either. If it is not these, then what unifies it in form (formal cause), substance (material cause), and aim (final cause)?

Furthermore, even though it believes in self-cultivation, it is not a school oriented to the contemplative life. It is not an ashram, a retreat, a meditation center, an Esalen Institute.

What it is is What it is For

To say what the school is is also, and in the same instant, to say what it is for. In The Good Life and Sustaining Life: An Inquiry into Our Great Vexation (2014), I argue that there are only so many higher final aims available to us in modernity. Of this set, I believe that only the paths of social enterprise, of politics, of the active artist, of the educator, and possibly of the craftsman would fit Kaos Pilots. What are these final aims, respectively?

  • The final aim of social enterprise is the creation of social goods.
  • The final aim of politics is the creation of a just society.
  • The final aim of the active artist is the production of plenitude.
  • The final aim of the educator is the cultivation of students’ characters.
  • The final aim of the craftsmen is the creation of what is fine (or excellent).

Therefore, it could be said that the school teaches would-be social entrepreneurs how to be social entrepreneurs, would-be social activists how to bring about a just society, active artists how to create a fecundity of experiences, the would-be educator how to forge students’ souls, and would-be craftspersons how to make a life out of making what is fine. (The school does not teach craftspersons how to be good at a craft. It sometimes admits excellent craftspersons and helps them to make a living at crafting. The weight given to craftsmanship may change in time yet only with a new curriculum.)

Articulate and Specify

One can imagine a candidate student, already committed to the active life, saying something like this:

I want to make a difference, but (a) I don’t know what this means, (b) I don’t know where to begin, (c) I don’t know how to do so, and (d) I don’t know in which domain or domains I can best use my talents.

Of great significance is the opening statement. If he does not want to make a difference, then he would not be a viable candidate for coming to this school. And yet, if he knew what and how to make a difference (‘I want to work for Doctors Without Borders’) and that difference-making fell into (e.g.) science, then he would also not be a viable candidate. It must be that he wants to make the kind of difference that this school in particular can teach. Thus, the statement needs to be vague from the start as well as open to a variety of articulations and specifications.

Articulating–that is, (a) above–involves saying which path I shall set foot on (that of the social entrepreneur, say) while specifying allows me to clarify (b) – (d). Hence, my education consists in articulating what making a difference actually means for me as well as in specifying my starting point, the manner of doing so, and the strengthening of my specific talents.

Thus, I begin with a vague declaration about my desire to make a difference and, some three years later, I am able to make a well-articulated, clear statement about my specific contribution to making a difference in the present social world.

A special thanks to my friend Pete Sims for discussing these subject with me.