Peircean Semiotics and Theory of Film
by Werner BURZLAFF (Université Avignon, IRSCE Perpignan)(Lecture given at: University of California, Berkeley, USA 1994) What I will try here is a rare attempt at a Peircean approach to film theory if we exceptthe outstanding thoughts Peter Wollen dedicated years ago to Peirce and the recent usethe French philosopher Gilles Deleuze tried to make of Peirce's categories.In a first part we will have an overlook over the triadic principle, in a second chapter wewill apply it to film-theory and finally we will show a practical outcome by giving a shot-typology.
1. Triadic method.
The reduction of the categories of Kant to three, termed firstness, secondness andthirdness is one of the starting points of Peirce's investigations. Our subject, the film, isnevertheless a very complex one and it is not unreasonable to consider that threeelements, however fundamental the distinctions they might imply, would not lead very far in an inquiry. Beyond the syncategorematic use of the categories they are possessed of aformal property the only one Peirce is really interested in: namely, the relation of presupposition. Thirdness presupposes secondness and secondness presupposes firstness,so thirdness also presupposes firstness. Peirce did much research in this field; he looked principally for a logical possibility of division of the categories and used various devices.From biological classification he took the notion of "genus" and looked for "degenerated"categorical determinations. He also used the tree-structure of Caylay whom he met in hisfather's house. On other occasions he made a comparison with chemical valencies as anillustration of his thought.For the present purpose we will choose the more "genetic" view of the capacities for categorical division. Thus thirdness is termed "triogenous", this means: is capable of three new divisions; then secondness is "dyogenous" showing two divisions, whilefirstness is "monogenous", it is going on by iteration. The first generation of three