Hamacher, Werner – Das eine Kriterium für das, was geschieht

Keynote beim 13. Kongress der Gesellschaft für Theaterwissenschaft, Frankfurt, 4. 11. 2016

Der 13. Kongress der Gesellschaft für Theaterwissenschaft lud unter dem Titel „Theater als Kritik“ dazu ein, Theater als eine kritische Praktik im doppelten Sinne zu untersuchen: Vor dem Hintergrund der Krise klassischer Begründungen des Theaters wie der Kritik sollten deren Geschichte, Theorie und Fragen neu beleuchtet werden. Nicht also die Gegenstände der Kritik des Theaters standen zur Debatte, sondern vielmehr diese Kritik selbst. Die zweite von drei Keynotes hielt dabei der Frankfurter Literaturwissenschaftler und Philosoph Prof. Dr. Werner Hamacher.


The one criterion for what happens

The fact that everybody can criticize and that they can criticize everything does not mean that their criticism is justified; even less does it mean that it is it founded in principles of justice. As a controversial utterance, criticism itself is subject to criticism and must be prepared to engender anti-criticisms and anti-anti-criticisms in an interminable process. The critical stance therefore is characterized by not having found any general consensus, by being unable to assert a universal principle and by not being secured by any community, but still demanding consensus, laying claim to principles and being in search of a commonality that it will not attain as long as there remains occasion to criticize. Whether it is expressed in actions or assertions, in refusals, lamentations or invectives, criticism remains partisan, it remains partial and, because of its partiality, cannot even substantiate its claim to being part of the whole that it demands for the future. In short, criticism is, in a strict sense, without a binding criterion. It wages a struggle for universal criteria of cognition knowledge and action, but does not establish them on its own. Since European antiquity, art (téchne and ars) has been understood as a form of discovering and appropriating the world and therefore as structurally dramatic. Therefore, the struggle for generalizable criteria of action and knowledge has been able to condense in what, since Aristotle, has been defined as drama. Up until the most recent period of modernity, this struggle consistently resulted in a criterion that, in this drama, was staged as a necessary yet necessarily misleading “theater” – as a fake, feint, or trick –  and thus as both eminently criticizable and uncriticizable. However, because this fake can neither be simply empirical, nor a transcendental bluff or a dialectical ruse, the criterion of dramatic action – and fiction – must be rethought. The shortest formula of the one criterion for what happens could well be: N’one.