A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology (PROBIO)
Learning from science communication's past: a historically informed approach to reciprocity, citizenship and diversity in a social contract for science.
Questioning the Tree of Life
The Leverhulme Trust
When Beliefs Become Realities: Motives and Strategies for Essentialising Intergroup Differences
Claims-making in nutrigenomics: A policy-driven analysis of marketing and media
The Wellcome Trust
The Gene and its Legacy: Historical and Philosophical Issues in Genetics and Genomics
British Council (Egypt)
The use of family history in the risk assessment and primary prevention of heart disease
Department of Health
Professor John Dupré
MA (Oxon), PhD (Cantab), FAAAS, FRSA
Director of Egenis, Professor (Philosophy of Science)
Byrne House GF6
I am a philosopher of science, with a main focus on philosophy of biology. For 20 years, 2002-2022, I was Director of Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences, which from 2002-2012 was the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society. I now serve as Consulting Director.
I received my Ph.D at Cambridge in 1981 after spending two years studying in the U.S. as a Harkness Fellow. I was then a Junior Research Fellow at St. John’s College, Oxford, for two years before taking up a post in the Department of Philosophy at Stanford University, where I taught until 1996. I then returned to the U.K. to take up posts as Professor of Philosophy in Birkbeck College, University of London, and as a Senior Research Fellow at Exeter.
At Exeter I have headed the reintroduction of philosophy, which has been dormant at Exeter since the department was closed in the mid-eighties. Several undergraduate philosophy degrees were launched in 2000, at which time I resigned my chair in London and was appointed at Exeter as Professor of Philosophy of Science. In 2002 I assumed the full-time directorship of Egenis, the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society.
During the period 1st April to 15th June 2006 I was the Spinoza Visiting Professor at the University of Amsterdam, duties of which included two public lectures as well as leading a series of seminars with staff and graduate students at the University. In Autumn 2013 I spent a term in Cambridge as Diane Middlebrook and Carl Djerassi Visiting Professor of Gender Studies, where I worked on rethinking ideas about sex and gender from a processual perspective.
In 2010 I was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For 2011-13, I was President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science. From Jan 1, 2019 to December 31, 2022, I have been Vice-President, President and President-Elect of the Philosophy of Science Association, serving as President for 2021-22. In 2020 I was eleced an Honorary International Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In November 2022 I delivered a Gifford lecture at the University of Aberdeen. In May 2023, I shall deliver a series of six Gifford lectures at the University of Edinburgh.
For online publications see my Google Scholar page:
Research group links
- College of Social Sciences and International Studies
- Department of Sociology and Philosophy
- Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences
My research career has been in the philosophy of science, but especially the philosophy of biology. Particular interests include: biological classification, the relation of technical to everyday biological kinds and to traditional problems of essentialism; adaptationism and optimality; reductionism; indeterministic accounts of causality; evolution and the limitations of evolutionary psychology; and the biological basis of sex and gender. I also worked for several years on issues in the philosophy of economics.
My book The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science (Harvard University Press, 1993) articulates a non-reductive, indeterministic, and pluralistic metaphysics, and argues that this is much better suited to understanding contemporary science, especially biology, than is the monistic physicalism assumed by most contemporary philosophers of science. This general picture provided the background for extended critical discussion of evolutionary psychology and rational choice theory in Human Nature and the Limits of Science (Oxford University Press, 2001), in which I also insist on the necessity of a pluralistic understanding of human nature. Humans and Other Animals (Oxford, 2002) collects a number of papers on issues very broadly related to the classification of organisms. And my book, Darwin’s Legacy: What Evolution Means Today (Oxford, 2003) provides a brief and sometimes provocative account of the contemporary implications of evolution, addressed to a general audience.
From 2002-12, as Director of the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis), my research focused on philosophical issues concerning the interpretation and implications of genetics and genomics. I have written a book in collaboration with Professor Barry Barnes on a sociological and philosophical introduction to contemporary genomics: Genomes and What to Make of Them (University of Chicago Press, 2008). A number of my recent papers on these topics are collected in Processes of LIfe: Essays in the Philosophy of Biology (Oxford University Press, 2012).
From 2013 to 2018, I was working on the ERC-funded project, A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology. This project aimed to articualte a process-centred ontology that, I argue, is better suited to understanding the biological and biomedical sciences than traditional thing- or substance-based ontologies. The key output of this project was the book, co-edited with Daniel Nicholson, Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology, available open access from Oxford University Press. A more recent output from the project is a book co-edited with Anne Sophie Meincke, Biological Identity: Perspectives from Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Biology (Routledge, 2020).
My most recent research project following from the ERC project is Representing Biology as Process, a collaboration between myself, Artist Gemma Anderson, and Cell Biologist James Wakefield. A book, co-edited with Anderson, is in press with Intellect Press, and will appear in 2023.
I am currently continuing to work on the implications of a process ontology for our understanding of human existence. The results of this research will be presented as the Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh in 2023.
For more information on my books, see my 'Other' page.
- Philosophy of science
- Philosophy of biology
- Philosophy and sociology of genomics
- Philosophy of mind, especially evolutionary psychology
- Philosophy of the social sciences and economics
The Metaphysics of Biology
Cambridge University Press (Cmbridge Elements in the Philoophy of Biology), 2021
Anne Sophie Meincke and John Dupré (eds.), Biological Identity: Perspectives from Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Biology
Nicholson, Daniel J. and J. Dupré, Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology
Oxford: Oxford University Press (open access), 2018
Dupré, J. Processes of Life: Essays in the Philosophy of Biology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Paperback edition, January 2014.
Reviews in Science; Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews; British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
Parry S. and Dupré, J., Nature After the Genome, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2010.
Barnes, S.B. and Dupré, J., Genomes and What to Make of Them, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
Paperback edition, 2013.
Dupré, J., The Constituents of Life (the Spinoza lectures), Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 2008.
Dupré, J., with Kincaid, H. and Wylie, A., Value-Free Science: Ideal or Illusion, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Dupré, J., Darwin's Legacy: What Evolution Means Today, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Paperback edition August, 2005.
- German translation, Darwins Vermachtnis, Suhrkamp Verlag, March 2005.
- Spanish translation, El Legado de Darwin, Katz Editores, Buenos Aires, April 2006.
Dupré, J., Humans and Other Animals, Oxford University Press, 2002.
Paperback edition, August 2006.
Dupré, J., Human Nature and the Limits of Science, Oxford University Press, 2001.
Paperback edition, September, 2003. Italian translation, Laterza Roma, 2007.
Dupré, J., The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science, Harvard University Press, 1993.
Paperback edition, 1995.
Excerpts reprinted as "The Disunity of Science", in Readings in the Philosophy of Science: From Positivism to Postmodernism, ed. Schick, T., Mayfield Publishing co., 1999.