Director of Egenis and Professor of Philosophy John Dupré has secured European Research Council (ERC) funding for a five year research project entitled “A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology”.

Egenis €1.95m ERC research award

Director of Egenis and Professor of Philosophy John Dupré has secured European Research Council (ERC) funding for a five year research project entitled “A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology”.

It is an Advanced Investigator award of €1.95m which is aimed at exceptional established research leaders allowing them to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk projects that open new directions in their respective research fields or other domains. The ERC Advanced Grant funding targets researchers who have already established themselves as independent research leaders in their own right. 

The project aims, first, to rethink central issues in the philosophy of biology by elaborating an ontology for biology that takes full account of the processual nature of living systems. The goal will be to develop a concept of process adequate for addressing the multiple levels of interacting processes at different time scales characteristic of living systems. The concept of a stable biological thing will be analysed as a stabilised process relative to an appropriate time scale, and this conception should make possible a better understanding of familiar biological pluralisms (about genes, organisms, species, etc…) in terms of different ways in which distinct scientific practices intersect with biological processes.

Second, the concept of process developed will be used to rethink some further highly topical philosophical issues in contemporary philosophy of biology (and philosophy of science generally). The project will explore the potential of a processual perspective to provide a critique of the widely discussed recent versions of mechanism. The latter have been deployed to offer accounts of explanation and, eventually, causation. Such accounts will be assessed for the possibility of revision in the light of modifications suggested by a processual perspective. The project will explore generally the relevance of this perspective to influential contemporary accounts of causation and explanation.

Finally the project will apply the preceding ideas to several highly active and important areas of contemporary biology: systems biology, synthetic biology, and microbiology.

Vice Chancellor, Prof. Steve Smith has enthusiastically welcomed the announcement. “This is wonderful news for Egenis, the department and the university as a whole. It is the kind of grant that will underpin activities that can retain Exeter as a world leading centre for the philosophy of biology.”

Date: 17 January 2013

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