By Keston Sutherland.
Whether it’s representation, ethics, self-knowledge, or any other sub-field of theoretical inquiry that falls under the lens of paid thinkers, we can rest assured that a conceptual crisis will be found for it, opened up, and discovered to be as fertile for innovative methodological and discursive investment as a new market is fertile for the investment of capital. Crisis is the linchpin of philosophy’s business plan.
The proliferation of conceptual crises induces the banalisation of the concept “crisis” itself—even as the discourses in which conceptual crises proliferate are implicitly or even explicitly structured on the antinomy of banalisation and crisis.
In order that the proliferation of conceptual crises should appear to be a consequence not of market forces but of the immanent demands of philosophical thinking itself, the proliferation is said to be caused by historical events described as extreme or singular or atrocious. This causative relation is set up in philosophy and implicitly propagated by it.
Auschwitz has become paradigmatic in this regard. What is questionable is not the extreme or singular or atrocious nature of what happened at Auschwitz, but the trend in paradigmaticisation that leads to Auschwitz being regarded automatically as more singular as the number of historical events that can in some way be compared with Auschwitz increases.
The trend in paradigmaticisation effects a cumulative overconceptualisation of singularity; which is to say that the singularity of extreme suffering and injustice is increasingly conceptualised, perhaps most piquantly of all where philosophy affects momentary dispossession of conceptual thinking, or of “meaning,” in the face of suffering, by means of the concept “aporia” or some equivalent. Affected dispossession of conceptual thinking is always the aggrandisement of conceptuality. Precisely at the point where it is claimed no longer to work, where it is said to have reached a point of crisis, is where conceptual thinking gets its most lavish encomium: i.e., it knows exactly when to defer to the superior authority of mere life, life raw and confused, life incapable of a reasonable settlement with the concepts on offer. Every crisis in conceptual thinking is yet another proof that conceptual thinking knows its place. The induction into crisis is the reduction to deference. And since the concept of crisis is infinitely rebrandable, we may gladly assume that there is an infinity of deference up for grabs.