Reflections on Pragmatism as a Philosophy of Architecture


  • David Macarthur Philosophy Department,The University of SydneyNSW 2006AUSTRALIA



Two recent collections on architectural theory and practice invoke the name of pragmatism as marking the hope of a new more intimate alignment of theory and practice after a period of what I call ‘philosophical vampirism’.  This paper examines what role the philosophical tradition of pragmatism might play in relation to architecture. I argue that pragmatism is best understood as a method of overcoming intellectualist and metaphysical obstacles to clear thinking as opposed to a philosophical ideology of some kind. Against Rem Koolhaas’s argument for post-criticality I show that we are always already critical. Pragmatism’s task is to make criticism better. I end by invoking the craft ethos as articulated by Richard Sennett in his book The Craftsman (2008), as perhaps the best model of what a pragmatist architecture might look like.

Author Biography

David Macarthur, Philosophy Department,The University of SydneyNSW 2006AUSTRALIA

David Macarthur is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Sydney. He works at the interface of contemporary pragmatism, Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language and psychology and the philosophy of art. In addition to these topics, he has published articles in leading philosophy journals and books on liberal naturalism, metaphysical quietism, skepticism, common sense, perception, ordinary language, philosophy of architecture, and philosophy of photography and film. He has co-edited three collections of papers with Mario De Caro (Roma Tré): Naturalism in Question (Harvard, 2004); Naturalism and Normativity (Columbia, 2010); and Philosophy in an Age of Science: Physics, Mathematics and Skepticism (Harvard, 2012); and is currently editing Hilary & Ruth-Anna Putnam, Pragmatism as a Way of Life: The Lasting Legacy of William James and John Dewey (Harvard, 2017).


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