It will be quite an event for Peirce scholars.

My proposed paper will be on applications of Peirce to film theory, and in particular the two neo- (quasi-?) Peircian approaches that I present in Ecologies of the Moving Image. The first of these builds on Sean Cubitt’s three-part typology of the image (pixel–cut–vector, which I rework as spectacle–sequentiality–semiosis); I’ve written about it before on this blog and elsewhere. The second develops Peirce’s three normative sciences (aesthetics, ethics, logic) into a logo-ethico-aesthetics of viewership.

Here’s a quick encapsulation of the latter:

1. Aesthetics of firstness: involves cultivating delight . . . in this, and that, and the next thing.

No questions asked here, only skillful perception of a thing in its naked reality. To be a good film viewer, or, more generally, to become skilled at becoming (human, or whatever), one must learn how to see, and hear, and feel what is there in a way that appreciates the thing(s) in itself (themselves).

2. Ethico-aesthetics of secondness: involves cultivating a dignifying responsiveness to encountered others.

The question here is: How do I respond to encountered others in a way that preserves and deepens the dignity of those involved in the encounter?

Viewing a film is a passive activity, when compared to interacting with others in daily life, so here it is a matter of evaluating a film based on the skills and capacities it allows us to practice and develop. How do we model, question, and engage with the characters presented in a film, including both the characters in the film-world itself and the implied and intended characters — the filmmakers, the represented (and unrepresented) communities, the audience communities? How do we do that with the film in our encounters and conversations with other viewers (or potential viewers)?

3. Logo-ethico-aesthetics of thirdness: involves cultivating the capacity to make sense of encounters through contextual reference, in widening contexts of meaning.

This sense-making process always includes the sense made by others (in the past and in the present) and that made by those yet to come.  Semiosis and logic, for Peirce, both have a forward momentum that is directed to future semiotic communities. For Peirce, scientific truth-seeking ought to be directed to discovering what would be acceptable to an ideal community of interpreters — a community that may never arrive, but always remains ahead of us as a possibility. Without that possibility (ideal, not actual), the quest for knowledge would be barren; with it, it remains open and viable. Logic, building on ethics and aesthetics, aims at this truth that is always to come.

Viewing a film, as with any activity, is not only a matter of making sense of the film (or specific activity), but also of making sense of the world. What in a film contributes to this sense-making task? How does it do so, and how do we take it up?



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