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A Pluralist Approach: The Pragmatism of H. H. Richardson

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Interior of Oakes Ames Memorial Library, Henry Hobson Richardson

By William Glen Watson (M2 student) | Abstract: this case study examines the effect of early Pragmatist philosophical movements on the foundation of an American architectural identity. It examines an understudied aspect of late nineteenth-century architectural discourse, which supplements our knowledge of American architect’s exposure to transcendentalism and other forms of organicism. This essay argues that a clear link between American Pragmatism and architectural organicism can be constructed between the political philosophies of Charles Sanders Pierce, Henry James, Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson to the architectural works of Richardson, especially the Oakes Ames House and other period institutional buildings. The burgeoning American republic was in search of practical institutions to guide its way. As political theorists experimented with the limits of procedural democracy, architects gave physical form to these aspirations in both functional and ornamental terms.


Ralph Waldo Emerson in his address of the 1837 graduating class of Harvard warns of the condition of an individuated man, specialized in a particular characteristic without sufficient experience or knowledge of the world in which they inhabit. Emerson states,

The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man, — present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state, these functions are parceled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his.1

The statement echoes the same calls from Whitman and Thoreau, not only a warning of specialization in profession but also the blind eye towards the development of the individual, which has ignored the environment and community in which they live.2 These prominent artists are not in isolated company, examining the works of Charles Sanders Pierce, William James, Henry James, and John Dewey, the same sentiment for a more attentive eye towards the both the community and the environment in the generation of a truly American identity can be heard. These words were not ignored and can be seen in the works of H.H. Richardson, Robert Morris Hunt, and Louis Sullivan. I propose to establish a clear link to the works of

Pierce, James, Whitman and Emerson to those of Richardson, by examining his architectural contributions through a pragmatist’s lens.  Rather than viewing Richardson’s architectural works as Picturesque or Romanesque, I will argue here that Richardson works, in particular Winn Memorial Library and Oliver Ames Library, are examples of an emerging Pragmatist thought, thus exposing the need to reevaluate his oeuvre’s influence in constructing an identity of an American architecture.

The construction of Pragmatism lies within the meetings of the Metaphysical Club at Harvard. It was during these meetings that young scientists, artists, lawyers, and philosophers began compiling the knowledge gained through their educations and the world at large, into a distinctive approach to addressing the concerns of thought itself. The Metaphysical Club was organized by Pierce (Harvard graduate and occasional lecturer), at the urging of James (Harvard graduate 1869 and instructor of physiology and psychology) as well as Chauncey Wright (Harvard graduate 1859 and occasional lecturer). These three scientist/philosophers were then formalizing recognizably pragmatist perspectives. Other notable active members of the Metaphysical Club were two more Harvard graduates and local lawyers, Nicholas St. John Green and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., both of whom were advocating pragmatic views of human conduct and law. The conglomeration of diverse individual backgrounds/interests reflects equally in the examination of each member’s educational pursuits; with each of them studying many varied disciplines. The early members each became notable figures in their communities and disciplines, ranging from scientist and novelists to mathematicians and Supreme Court justices.3

The formalization of Pragmatism develops in the writings of William James and Charles Pierce. Early on, James aspired to be either an artist or a scientist, upon first choosing art his family returned from Europe in 1858, so that James could study painting in Rhode Island under William Morris Hunt, of whom the family had met in Paris a few years prior. William Morris Hunt himself had been in Europe while his brother, architect Robert Morris Hunt, the first American accepted to the École des Beaux-Arts, studied architecture. Pierce was the son of a Mathematician and had a particular fondness for science and philosophy from a young age. Both studied diverse disciplines and conducted research in the swamplands of Louisiana.4

Pragmatism originated in the United States namely at the Harvard Metaphysical Club meetings during the latter quarter of the nineteenth century. The assemblage of thinkers in the club provided a regularized and diverse forum in which arguments could be formulated, revised, and reformulated through group interaction. Pragmatism is most commonly defined as a “philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition  is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition  is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected.”5

Although it has significantly influenced non-philosophers—notably in the fields of law, education, politics, sociology, psychology, and literary criticism— it was equally engendered by the contributions of non- philosophers from those very same fields. This infusion of diversity is reflected in the writings of Pierce, James, and Dewey; and authors such as Scott Pratt have argued that the assemblage need include influences from Native Americans as well as early colonists.6

The term “pragmatism” itself was first allocated to designate a philosophical outlook over a century ago when William James (1842-1910) engendered the term during an 1898 address entitled “Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results,” delivered at the University of California (Berkeley).  William James conscientiously swore, however, that the term had been coined almost three decades earlier by his chief instigator and friend C. S. Peirce (1839-1914).7  The third major figure in the classical pragmatist pantheon is John Dewey (1859-1952), whose wide-ranging writings had considerable impact on American intellectual life for a half-century. There is no clear distinct decisive pragmatist creed; that is, no neat list of articles or essential tenets endorsed by all pragmatists  and only by pragmatists. Nevertheless, what then makes these philosophers pragmatists? The answer lies in turn away from Continental philosophical inquiry and the focus on practicality, falliablism, and communal intellect.8-9

The philosophical endeavors of these young Americans are a clear departure, perhaps more accurately a complete estrangement from that of their European English speaking counterparts. Just as Pierce was decreeing the necessity of the pragmatist maxim, his adversaries were quietly distancing themselves from science and the examination of nature in their quest for understanding.  The nature of this schism in not clear, the accumulation of thinkers that have become associated with continental philosophy was a post- process assemblage therefore complicating any clear cut distinction.  Nevertheless, there are clear process prescribed by each party that stands in opposition to their counterparts. At the cost of being reductionist, as this is not a complete assessment, it may be helpful to lay out a few of the differences here. Continental thinkers called to abandon empiricism, favor the debate of the abstract, and predominantly focus upon individual focused transcendence; while pragmatists champion empiricism, seek the practicality and application of their inquiries results, and declare the necessity of community and difference.10

While difficult, it is nevertheless possible to identify concurrent themes that lie at the heart of the pragmatist tradition—although that is not to posit that these ideas are the exclusive property of pragmatists, nor that all pragmatists  endorse them. However, these themes were inscribed by the three figures listed above: first, a scientific method approach to belief and a maxim that dictates a tangible practical outcome be obtainable; second, a Kantian inspired Anti-Cartesian approach; and lastly a non-spectator theory of knowledge. Without delving into the intricacies of these themes, the key perspectives to obtain here are the unbiased methodical approach to belief verification, as well as being open to revising any prior held belief within the pretext of that no single perspective is complete in its understanding.11 These three aspects will be examined both through the works of those that develop these ideas, but also through the architectural works of Richardson.

Pragmatism is perhaps best presented as a way of clarifying and dissolving intractable metaphysical and epistemological arguments, Peirce questioned, “What concrete practical difference would it make if my theory were true and its rival(s) false?”12  The pragmatist maxim is a distinctive rule or method for becoming reflectively clear about the contents of concepts and hypotheses: we clarify a hypothesis by identifying its practical consequences. This is demonstrated in Peirce’s canonical statement in How to Make our Ideas Clear, “Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of those effects is the whole of our conception of the object.”13

Pierce defines the process as a method to obtaining a distinct “disposition… to think of everything just as everything is thought of in the laboratory, that is, as a question of experimentation.”14   Thus Pierce places great emphasis on science, but namely the experimental method. Pierce is concerned with the concretized and dogmatic thought. In an essay titled The Fixation of Belief, Pierce posits the pragmatic maxim as a means to challenge the quick, possibly unexamined, or commonly accepted beliefs of not only the individual but the entire community. He asserts the necessity of reevaluation, as well as how pragmatism is to be used when stating that, pragmatism  is “How to fix belief, not in the individual merely, but in the community.”15   The formulation of any belief then requires one to not only rigorously verify new information acquired, but to also continuously question and verify previously held positions.

The core of pragmatism was the pragmatist maxim, in the work of Peirce and James, the most influential application of the pragmatist maxim was to the concept of truth. But the pragmatists have also tended to share a distinctive epistemological outlook, a fallibilist anti-Cartesian approach to the norms that govern inquiry.  When William James published a series of lectures on Pragmatism: A New Name for an Old way of Thinking in 1907, he began by identifying “The Present Dilemma in Philosophy,” a fundamental and apparently irresoluble clash between two ways of thinking about things. He promised that pragmatism would show us the way to overcome this dilemma and, having thus shown us its importance, he proceeded, in the second lecture, to explain ‘What Pragmatism Means’.  William James thus presented pragmatism as a “method for settling metaphysical disputes that might otherwise be interminable.”16 Unless some ‘practical difference’ would follow from one or the other side’s being correct, the dispute is idle.  Therefore, all ideas must be ‘live’ and all belief be fallible and examined as long as there is a ‘practical consequence’ of the inquiry. This approach therefore requires some knowledgeable ground to begin the inquiry upon. This is in contrast to Descartes philosophy, as well as provides prominence (albeit open to revision) to the senses and the natural world. This distinction will provide architectural opportunities to be discussed upcoming.

Pragmatists often resemble Kant in respect to: “they, too, ferociously repudiate the Lockean idea that the mind resembles either a blank slate (on which Nature impresses itself) or a dark chamber (into which the light of experience streams).”17 These stately metaphors seem intended to express is the idea that “observation is pure reception, and that the mind is fundamentally passive in perception.”18  This is what Dewey designates as “the spectator theory of knowledge.”19   According to spectator theorists (who range from Plato to modern empiricists), knowing is parallel to seeing or beholding, the viewer’s aim is to reflect or duplicate the world without altering it—to survey or contemplate things from a practically disengaged and disinterested standpoint. Pragmatists, James specifically, refutes this in his assertion,

Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide an option between propositions, whenever it is an genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds; for to say, under such circumstances, “Do not decide, but leave the question open,” is itself a passional decision—just  like deciding yes or no—and is attended with the same risk of losing the truth…20

For James, Dewey, Peirce, and concurring pragmatists, knowledge is the product of inquiry, a problem- solving process by means of which we move from doubt to belief. Inquiry, however, cannot proceed effectively unless we experiment—that  is, manipulate or change reality in certain ways guided by our own perspectival arrangements. Since knowledge thus grows through our attempts to push/pull/bend/break the world around us through inquiry, it follows that knowers as such must be agents. The result then is a world of inquiry wherein experience, inquiry, and knowledge go hand in hand.

This abandonment of the passivity of observation is a major theme in pragmatist epistemology. According to James and Dewey, for instance, to observe is to select—to be on the lookout for something, be it the known or unknown, a form of hypothesizing prior to initiating the act of inquiry.  Hence our observations and perceptions are highly perspectival and do not reflect Nature with passive impartiality. Observers are bound to discriminate, guided by interest, expectation, and theory because we cannot observe unless we act. Nevertheless,  if experience is inconceivable apart from human interests and agency, then perceivers are truly explorers of the world—not mirrors superfluously reproducing it. In addition, if acceptance of some theory or other always precedes and directs observation, we must break with the classical empiricist assumption that theories are derived from independently discovered data or facts. This will play a key aspect within examining Richardson’s work.

These assertions echo from Emerson’s address, as well as Whitman’s, Democratic Vistas, neither of which have been addressed as pragmatist.21   However, as Scott Pratt suggests the lineage of pragmatism need be expanded to include the forerunners of ‘American’ thought, “the immigrant Europeans were never alone in America and were never free of the diverse influences of those they encountered, enslaved, and dispossessed.”22   This aligns with the pragmatist’s proclamations, as William James states, “Our account of truth is an account of truth in the plural, of process of leading, realized in rebus.”23  James, Pierce, and Dewey have all made similar arguments stating the need to understand knowledge as a compilation of influence, fluid in nature, with plastic foundations offering reevaluation and revision at every moment. James describes the breadth and fluidity of knowledge as a process constantly borrowing from the past, “All human thinking gets discursified; we exchange ideas; we lend and borrow verification, get them from one another by means of social intercourse.   All truth thus gets verbally built out, stored up, and made available for everyone.”24 This process of storing up, building out, and making available for everyone is exactly what Emerson and Whitman are speaking of in their addresses.

Primarily Emerson and Whitman have been examined as transcendentalists, the early 19th century movement that demanded a reformulation of foundations, and expulsion of dogmatic institutions, though principally on the efforts of individuals reforming the community. The pragmatist turn however is in the development of a community that spawns reformation and development of individuals as well as the community at-large. The commencement speeches stand apart from Emerson and Whitman’s more traditionally examined works on this hinge, the reevaluation and dualism of individual and environment. This arrangement spawned in vicarious ways the practice of post-modern philosophers as argued by Larry Hickman in his text, Pragmatism As Post-Postmodernism Lessons from John Dewey.25   The post-modern meta- physicist Giles Deleuze examined the works of James, Pierce and Whitman and builds upon their lineage, “Much like stones stacked in a dry-fit wall, the one supporting the other so close at times they individually become indiscernible.  Yet their difference creates the space between, a space of becoming, one reliant upon the other.”26  Therefore, the engagement of the community within the development of the individual and society alike plays a significant role through simultaneity and difference equally. Just as the transcendentalist explored the link between nature and individualism, pragmatism explores the link between individualism and community through nature.

The investigation here is a reexamination of an American architectural style through the pragmatic lens, thusly proposing the possible influence of an age of thinkers onto architectural works of Richardson. His life though brief, spanned several cultures, two continents, and two halves of a nation. Richardson was one of several young Americans that received educations abroad; brothers Richard Morris Hunt and William Morris Hunt spent time in France as the aspiring architect Richard became the first American to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, followed secondly by H. H. Richardson.  As mentioned prior, William James studied painting under William Morris Hunt, of whom he had met in Europe prior.  These four men were in Paris at the same time with each finding themselves in the northeast subsequently for the remainder of their careers.27 It should as well be mentioned that Hunt, James, Pierce, and Richardson attended Harvard, with Peirce and Richardson both in the class of 1859.28-29 This is not to be misleading, as mention of this is only to expose common ground, both in place and education as well as possible similarities in interest and pursuits. While contact, similar coursework, shared classrooms, or close interaction has not been obtained in my research, it is not a huge leap to establish the possibility of such given the proximity of these individuals as well as the relatively small class of 91 who graduated from Harvard in 1859. James and Pierce were well acquainted as well as James and the Hunt’s; the latter of which Richardson during his training at the École des Beaux-Arts would have been acquainted as well.30   Another link to all these men is Ralph Waldo Emerson, which is made available to us through his journals in which he documents meeting or being well acquainted with each of them.31

As mentioned prior, H.H. Richardson was admitted to the French art academy École des Beaux-Arts in 1860 and returned to the states in 1862.32 Richardson’s career was moderate to start, yet eventually took a significant upturn and spread roots throughout New England that eventually reached to the Midwest.  His work expressed a desire to create an architectural style that communicated the American environment.  Of interest here to me, as well as several others,33 is Richardson’s small public libraries, particularly Winn Memorial Library and Oliver Ames Library.  At the onset of these two libraries, the Winn Library completed in 1877 and the Ames Library awarded in 1877, Richardson’s career was already well established.  Many critics found fault within the massing and details of the Winn Library, however Breisch argues that by this phase he was able to “rectify many of the shortcomings inherent in his first foray into public libraries.”34   The shift in these two examples is quite extraordinary in the fact that the two structures contain similar plans, and have widely been argued as a “process of simplification.”35 However, Breisch extensive research provides a significant contradiction to most critics’ accounts of Richardson’s libraries, which is the order of their design, does not follow their time of construction.36  Thus the order does not have linear “process of simplification,” or complication.  It does however show a process of things in the making, as William James stated,

What really exists is not things made but things in the making. Once made, they are dead, and an infinite number of alternative conceptual decompositions can be used in defining them. But put yourself in the making by a stroke of intuitive sympathy with the thing and, the whole range of possible decompositions coming into your possession, you are no longer troubled with the question which of them is the more absolutely true. Reality falls in passing into conceptual  analysis; it mounts in living its own undivided life, it buds and bourgeons, changes, and creates.37

Richardson’s pragmatic approach to the adapting his designs is an act in the making, much as Breisch argues that this is a formulation of a typology.  While there are variations, the adherence to the similarities their primary functions arrayed along a central axis, vestibules denoted by simple but large imposing arches, towers, and shifted entrances; displays codified elements, a signal of “things that work” as James would say. That is to say, there is not a fixed or constituted arrangement that solves the problematic of community library/memorial, but a combination of possibilities that engenders a making.

Many critics and the architect himself have described Richardson’s style as a revival of the Romanesque. However, in a very rare discussion of his work, Richardson stated in 1886 during his proposal for the Hoyt Library,

A FREE treatment of the Romanesque has been followed throughout, as a style especially adapted to the requirements of a civic building; for while it maintains a great dignity together with a strong sense of solidity, it lends itself at the same time most readily to the requirements of utility, especially in the matter of light.  To strengthen this feeling of dignity and to express the civic character of the building, a monumental treatment has been followed throughout.38

Richardson’s statement displays an interest in employing the past traditions, but does not simply repeat it. There is an attention to place, adaptation, and an experiential effect, that has been cultivated by empirical information refined from previous works. Thusly, Richardson employs a revisionist approach to formulating a solution to a given problematic, that of creating a thing in the making, an American architectural identity.

Borrowing from the past is obviously nothing specific to Richardson, however his particular interest in a style afforded him palette of expressions that was conducive to the materials of the place and his time. Richardson’s travels exposed him to great deal of architectural styles and typologies, the convergence of these archetypes along with Richardson’s own desires yielded anew. This is evident in his acknowledgement of a “FREE treatment of the Romanesque.” Despite the similarity in plan and program, the libraries elevations vary greatly from one to the next. This element of variation is not reflective of a stylistic reformulation, however is reflective of the place in which the libraries are constructed and at points presumably thoughtful expressions of memorial.

Watson_figure 1

Richardson’s architecture displays several pragmatic tendencies as noted by authors James F. O’Gorman and Thomas Hubka, however without exploring the similarities with the prescription of pragmatist procedures. O’Gorman notes, Richardson’s ability “to discipline the picturesque,” and provide “an underlying order to his vigorous compositions (that) contributed  significantly to his greatness.” Richardson’s library architecture is regulated by an underlying pragmatist ethos that transcends mere stylistic details to align the social, political, and aesthetic purposes of the nation’s architecture.  The small public library is an apt architectural program to examine since it operates (both socially and functionally) as a place for building scholarly communities and testing ideas.  The laboratory and other ‘scientific’ or ‘scholarly’ building typologies may also have contributed to this purpose. Perhaps the interest in the Romanesque  is an endeavor to refute Cartesian method, a return to a knowing through a revisable perspective that is inclusive of acknowledging the perspectival arrangement of the author.39  As Hubka presents, when Richardson’s architecture is carefully examined “as solutions that evolved from a sequence of steps in design development, they consistently reveal Richardson’s attempt to use good logic and order of the plan to tame and discipline… the compositions.”40   Just as Hubka and O’Gorman posit, there is a clear process of reformulation and pragmatic development that is at play, that is absent from the scholarship and Richardson’s own writing.  This trait is not Richardson’s alone, as O’Gorman presents in Three American Architects, however the pragmatic bend, the continual reexamining/reformulation of the foundation (the plan) to project new possibilities and insights through elevations, stems from Richardson and is exemplified in his influence on Sullivan and subsequently Wright.41

While numerous scholars have examined H. H. Richardson, Richard Morris Hunt, and Louis Sullivan as constitutive of a community of scholars within architecture. No scholarship to date has surveyed their works in parallel with that of the American Pragmatists, despite the commonalities in background and era. Within the discipline of architecture, this scholarly community was committed to establishing a practical solution for visually expressing American character and was subsequently labeled as the ‘Chicago School.’ Perhaps a more intensive investigation (than a short research paper can allow) into identifying an underlying pragmatist ethos to nineteenth century design may work to include a broader range of period practitioners that run parallel to pragmatism’s development.

Pragmatists have for the most part, thought of themselves as reforming the tradition of empiricism; the possible implications of the outcome this reformulation, whether it be to restructure ontology, psychology, or democracy is socially and culturally significant in the formulation of an American identity.  As this difference of opinion suggests, there is no pragmatist orthodox canon to adhere to, there is no such thing as the pragmatist party line. Not only have pragmatists taken different views on major issues (for example, truth, realism, skepticism, perception, justification, falliablism, realism, conceptual schemes, the function of philosophy, etc.), they have also disagreed about what the major issues are. While such diversity may seem commendable in keeping with pragmatism’s professed commitment to falliablism and pluralism, detractors have urged it only goes to show that pragmatism stands for little or nothing in particular. This gives rise to a question as awkward as it is unavoidable—namely, how useful is the classification of a philosophical pragmatism and in this instance a pragmatist architecture?  That question is as wide open as James and Peirce would have it. Equally, this indistinguishable line of what a pragmatist architecture would be is open as well.

Pragmatism’s development runs parallel with the invention of an American identity as a nation and an architectural style, as Deleuze describes, “Their vocation was not to reconstitute – a nation, a family, a heritage, or a father. It was above all to constitute a universe, a society of brothers, – a community of anarchist individuals.”42 As we have examined, the work of Richardson does not reconstitute a heritage, it was an attempt to provide an equal voice to place, people, and event through inquiry of place, reformulation of practice and the acknowledgement of individuality/community.  Rather than viewing Richardson’s architectural works as Picturesque or Romanesque, Winn Memorial Library and Oliver Ames Library, are examples of an emerging Pragmatist thought, thus exposing the need to reevaluate his oeuvre’s influence in constructing an identity of an American architecture.


1 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The American Scholar.

2 Whitman, Walt. Democratic Vistas.

3 Ayer, A. J. The Origins of Pragmatism: Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce and William James. San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper, 1968.

4 A.J. Ayer, 1968.

5 Misak, C. J. Pragmatism. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1999.

6 C. J. Misak. 1999.

7 Peirce, eager to distinguish his doctrines from the views promulgated by James, later relabeled his own position “pragmaticism”—a name, he said, “ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers.”

8 C. J. Misak. 1999.

9 Continental philosophy, in contemporary usage, refers to a set of traditions of 19th and 20th century philosophy from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy loosely includes the following movements: German idealism, phenomenology,  existentialism (and its antecedents, such

as the thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French feminism, the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism, and psychoanalytic theory.

It is difficult to identify non-trivial claims that would be common to all the preceding philosophical movements. The term “continental  philosophy”, like “analytic philosophy”, lacks clear definition and may mark merely a family resemblance across disparate philosophical views. Simon Glen Dinning has suggested that the term was originally more pejorative than descriptive, functioning as a label for types of western philosophy rejected or disliked by analytic philosophers.

10 Michael E. Rosen has ventured to identify common themes that typically characterize continental  philosophy.

First, continental philosophers generally reject scientism, the view that the natural sciences are the only or most accurate way of understanding phenomena. This contrasts with analytic philosophers, many of whom have considered their inquiries as continuous with, or subordinate to, those of the natural sciences. Continental philosophers often argue that science depends upon a “pre-theoretical substrate of experience” (a version of the Kantian conditions of possible experience or the phenomenological concept of the “lifeworld”) and that scientific methods are inadequate to fully understand such conditions of intelligibility.

Second, continental philosophy usually considers these conditions of possible experience as variable: determined at least partly by factors such as context, space and time, language, culture, or history. Thus, continental philosophy tends toward historicism. Where analytic philosophy tends to treat philosophy in terms of discrete problems, capable of being analyzed apart from their historical origins (much as scientists consider the history of science inessential to scientific inquiry), continental  philosophy  typically suggests that “philosophical argument cannot be divorced from the textual and contextual conditions of its historical emergence”.

Third, continental philosophy typically holds that conscious human agency can change these conditions of possible experience: “if human experience is a contingent creation, then it can be recreated in other ways”. Thus, continental philosophers tend to take a strong interest in the unity of theory and practice, and tend to see their philosophical inquiries as closely related to personal, moral, or political transformation. This tendency is very clear in the Marxist tradition (“philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”), but is also central in existentialism and post-structuralism.

A final characteristic trait of continental philosophy is an emphasis on meta-philosophy. In the wake of the development and success of the natural sciences, continental philosophers have often sought to redefine the method and nature of philosophy. In some cases (such as German idealism or phenomenology), this manifests as a renovation of the traditional view that philosophy  is the first, foundational, a priori science. In other cases (such as hermeneutics, critical theory, or structuralism), it is held that philosophy investigates a domain that is irreducibly cultural or practical. In addition, some continental philosophers (such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, the later Heidegger, or Derrida) doubt whether any conception of philosophy can coherently achieve its stated goals.

11 A.J. Ayer, 1968.

12 Peirce, Charles S., Writings of Charles  S. Peirce 1884-1886. Bloomington,  IN: Indiana University Press, 1993.

13 Peirce, 1993.

14 Peirce, 1993.

15 Peirce, 1993.

16 James, William. Pragmatism. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1975.

17 A.J. Ayer, 1968.

18 A.J. Ayer, 1968.

19 Dewey, John. The Public and Its Problems An Essay in Political Inquiry. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012.

20 James, 1979 p. 131

21 Whitman, Walt. Democratic Vistas. In which he “demands two main constituents, or sub-strata, for a truly grand nationality — 1st, a large variety of character — and 2nd, full play for human nature to expand itself in numberless and even conflicting directions — (seems to be for general humanity much like the influences that make up, in their limitless field, that perennial health-action of the air we call the weather — an infinite number of currents and forces, and contributions, and temperatures, and cross purposes, whose ceaseless play of counterpart upon counterpart brings constant restoration and vitality.) With this thought — and not for itself alone, but all it necessitates, and draws after it — let me begin my speculations.

22 Pratt, Scott. Native Pragmatism, Rethinking the Roots of American Philosophy. 2002.  p. xi.

23 James, William. PRAGMATISM A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking. “Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth.

24 William James.

25 Hickman, Larry A. Pragmatism As Post-Postmodernism Lessons from John Dewey. New York: Fordham University Press,


26 Deleuze, Gilles. Essays: Critical and Clinical. 2002. p. xxiii.

27 Baker, Paul R. Richard Morris Hunt. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1980.

28 C. J. Misak. 1999.

29 Van Rensselaer, Schuyler. Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works. New York: Dover Publications, 1969. p. 4.

30 C. J. Misak. 1999.

31 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, and William H. Gilman. The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960. p. 280.

32 Schuyler Van Rensselaer, 1969. Pg. 6-9. However Breisch claims Richardson’s return was 1866.

33 Breisch, Kenneth A., Henry Hobson Richardson and The Small Public Library in America: A Study in Typology. MIT Press: Cambridge, Ma. 1997.

34 Kenneth Breisch, 1997. p. 5, 152.

35 Schuyler, Montgomery. American Architecture, And Other Writings. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University

Press, 1961.

36 Kenneth Breisch, 1997.

37 William James, 1909/1996,  p. 263-264

38 Kenneth Breisch, 1997. p. 171.

39 This is pure speculation on my part, as there is nothing other than Richardson’s acquaintance with James and Peirce that would suggest that this is a possibility. However, Richardson famous photograph as a medieval monk shows an interest in a time and tradition that precludes Descartes’ epic, Meditations on First Philosophy in 1639.

40 Meister, Maureen. H.H. Richardson: The Architect, His Peers, and Their Era. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1999. p. 5

41 O’Gorman, James F. Three American Architects: Richardson, Sullivan, and Wright, 1865-1915. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. (Wright mentions this process in a recollection of a conversation that he had with Sullivan in which Sullivan expresses his admiration for Richardson and his methodical creativity.)

42 Deleuze. 1980.


Ayer, A. J. The Origins of Pragmatism: Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce and William James. San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper, 1968.

Breisch, Kenneth A. Henry Hobson Richardson and the Small Public Library in America: A Study in Typology. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1997.

Deleuze, Gilles. Essays Critical and Clinical. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Dewey, John. The Public and Its Problems An Essay in Political Inquiry. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012.

Eaton, Leonard K. American Architecture Comes of Age; European Reaction to H. H. Richardson and Louis Sullivan.Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1972.

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