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.
Continue reading “Kaos Pilots: Making a Difference”
In The Good Life and Sustaining Life: An Inquiry into Our Great Vexation (in progress), I write,
I have included the figure of the warrior in the schema but not without some reservations since I am not at all sure whether the heroic life is possible in modernity. Many societies have held the aristocrat-warrior in special high regard. Epic heroes such as Alexander the Great and Tamburlaine in Christopher Marlowe’s play Tamburlaine both strove to achieve glory and immortality. And even after the heroic societies were supplanted by more humane civilizations (such as in 5th and 4th C. Athens), the warrior figure was still highly honored. In Plato’s Republic, for example, the guardian figure, who embodies thumos (passion, spiritedness), protects the city-state from its enemies. The guardian stands beside the philosopher-king who rules and the craftsmen, fishermen, and farm workers, all of whom labor to meet everyone’s needs. During the medieval period, the reigning motto was that there were those who pray, those who fought, and those who worked. The clergymen, the arisocrat-knights, and the laborers were all necessary even if the men of the cloth were regarded as the most venerable.
What the warrior shows us is how to be so courageous that death fails to become what is ultimate for us. He is like a metaphysician of life, revealing by example that there is more in or about human life than mere death.
Somehow or other, the concept of the noble has been transposed into our time, yet it now occupies much different milieu. There is still, whether said or unsaid, ideas about the noble thing to do with one’s life. What has been taken, in the modern age, as the noble thing to do? What orientation, I mean? I take it the twin aims of doing what is noble have been (a) the eradication of inequality (the question of injustice) and (b) the eradication of unwanted death (the question of mortality).
Continue reading “The Fall of the Warrior and the the Idea of the Noble”
Certain philosophical terms have been slowly creeping into business culture and everyday speech, terms such as ‘meaning,’ ‘value,’ ‘direction,’ and ‘purpose,’ without its being possible, with any clarity or analytical rigor, to pin down their meanings. Calling a project ‘meaningful’ implies that one is drawing a line between projects that are not meaningful and those that are. Suggesting that one’s life is headed in the ‘right direction’ may, albeit only obliquely, suggest that there are right or wrong ways in which your life could head and thankfully, in this case, it is going the right way. And though it may sound good to say that one is doing something of ‘value’ with one’s life or that one ‘has a sense of purpose,’ the listener invariably has to crane his neck and work his ears in order to squeeze out any genuine content from these utterances.
Much of this talk, I suggest, suffers from vagueness and nominalism and quickly results in conversation-stopping. The adjective ‘meaningful,’ for instance, is vague in the sense that it is difficult to pin down what it is referring to in any given context. Yet it is as if the one making such a claim were a nominalist, believing that calling something X were enough to make it so. If I say something has a purpose, then the error is to think that, as a matter of fact, it has a purpose. It may or it may not; quite possibly, the claim may be well wide of the mark.
Continue reading “The Good Life and Sustaining Life: Vague Words and Well-specified Questions”
The good life and sustaining life are two separate, albeit connected, concepts. How they are connected, when they are connected properly, is the subject of this philosophical investigation.
Definitions and Distinctions
1. By ‘the good life,’ I mean that for the sake of which one ultimately lives.
2. Throughout the course of this guide, I will often distinguish between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ in order to bring out the distinction between various viable conceptions of the good life (the higher) and various mistaken conceptions of the good life (the lower).
Remark: I will claim that the bourgeois and hedonistic ways of life are chief examples of ‘the lower.’ Plato delightfully refers to hedonists as the ‘lovers of sights and sounds.’
3. By ‘wasting one’s life,’ I mean not living out a viable conception of the good life either (a) because such a form of life is not available to us in the modern world or (b) because such a form of life cannot be defended as a higher form of life.
Continue reading “The Good Life and Sustaining Life: Definitions (Excerpt)”
Preface: Our Great Vexation
There may be no greater vexation in our time than the question of how to make a living in a manner that accords with leading a good life. Laypersons may evade the question merely by closing their eyes and keeping their heads down; doing so involves the great effort of remaining blindly unthinking. For the thinking person, however, such is not an option. Yet if nearly every thinking person has faced this vexation at one time or another and doubtless throughout most of his adult life, virtually no one has ventured to think it through in a well-considered, systematic fashion.
Unlike those who despair of what they see or who sound the world weary note of caution that ‘life is full of burdens, compromises, and trade-offs,’ I assume that the question, though surely quite hard, is not so foreign that it cannot be addressed nor so enigmatic that it must go unanswered. This is why ‘thinking through things,’ which Aristotle regarded as the supreme undertaking of philosophy, becomes so timely and paramount today. We cannot go on with this great vexation, yet we do not know how to go on otherwise.
The dilemma catches most people off guard, ensnaring some for life. Over the past four years in my philosophy practice, for instance, I have listened to the nihilist wishing not to be one, to the creative person who is taken, all around, to be hopelessly impractical, and to the relatively wealthy individual who, amid the mental turmoil, lives with a ‘bad conscience’ (Nietzsche). Some, that is, are able to make a decent enough living but sniff out that what they are doing is just a lot of ‘bullshit work’ (David Graeber). Others pursue beauty or union yet have to elbow their way in and hustle to get gigs simply, and clumsily, in order to get by. And others are enmeshed in the kind of well-paying work–say, for a large oil corporation or an investment bank–that is so at odds with any idea of social good or notion of distributive justice that they quickly fall victim to mental discord.
Continue reading “The Good Life and Sustaining Life: An Inquiry into Our Great Vexation (An excerpt)”