Kaos Pilots: A Comprehensive View (Part 2)

I mentioned a second method that, if applied, could help Kaos Pilots or a school like it to make sense of a wide array of phenomena by bringing that wide array into a single, comprehensive view of things.

In Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, the Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre observes that there come times when competing traditions confront each other. Quite often, tradition B will do no more than reject tradition A, claiming simply that A’s views are incompatible with its views. Occasionally, tradition A concedes that some of B’s minor claims may be placed at the outskirts of A yet nothing else need be modified. In MacIntyre’s telling, most medieval theologians before Aquinas simply rejected Aristotelian cosmology on the grounds that it wasn’t compatible with the Augustinian theology they had inherited and were committed to espousing.

On rare occasions, though, tradition A may be in the midst of coming to grips with its own limitations, the limitations that, by virtue of its own inquiries, it has discovered within itself and cannot, as of yet, overcome. Then, there may be an opening for it to interpret tradition B, treating B as a reservoir of funds that may enable the tradition to maintain its integrity without at the same time changing itself. MacIntrye believes that Aquinas’s medieval synthesis of Aristotelian cosmology with Augustinian theology demonstrates just this and therefore stands as a colossal achievement in the history of Western thought.

To what main tradition does Kaos Pilots belong? I would argue, drawing from the work of Charles Taylor (specifically, Sources of the Self), that it follows the Romantic tradition. I offer only the briefest of sketches of its Romantic commitments:

  • The school believes that a human being does not have a static essence; rather, a human being grows and develops over time.
  • The school does not believe that learning occurs for a certain time but instead that learning is a lifelong endeavor.
  • The school believes that human beings have an expressive capacity in the sense that something is known (or known fully) only when it is articulated or manifested in some medium or another.
  • The school has a longstanding concern with beauty.
  • The school conceives of making along the lines of a work of art.
  • No doubt owing to Schiller’s Aesthetic Education of Man, the school emphasizes play, curiosity, and creativity so much that it seems scarcely possible to conceive of a good human life that would be devoid of playfulness, creativity, and curiosity.

One would need to go much further in order to elaborate upon the ways in which Kaos Pilots has inherited the Romantic tradition.

The limits of Romanticism are readily felt in its devolution to the ‘cult of authenticity’: self-expression for its own sake, doing whatever one does so long as it comes naturally and spontaneously, believing that one’s views are justified so long as they ‘come from within,’ appreciation of a diversity of things regardless of whether not those items are worthy of appreciation, the belief that manifesting anything is sufficient for making it.

I believe the limits of Romanticism can be overcome if one takes a closer look at Aristotelian teleology or, even more broadly, puts the question of the good first. Aristotle enjoins us to ask what it is that self-expression is for and requires us to come to a sufficient reason for this particular form of self-expression. What is growth for? What role does beauty play in a human life overall? What counts as a good project as a work of art? Furthermore, he presses us to consider what a life is for, thereby freeing us from the solipsistic tendency inherent in ‘the cult of authenticity.’