Photo of Professor John Dupré

Professor John Dupré

BA, MA, DPhil (Oxon), PhD (Cantab)

Director of Egenis, Professor (Philosophy of Science)


01392 725127

Byrne House GF6

I am a philosopher of science, with a main focus on philosophy of biology.  I am the Director of Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences, which from 2002-2012 was the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society. 

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.

From May 2013 I will lead a major new project at Egenis, funded by the European Research Council (ERC). “A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology” aims 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. "Coming to terms with new developments in our understanding of biology requires that we take more seriously the ways in which life is dynamic at all levels, and that what we think of as living things - genes, cells, organisms - are more fundamentally processes, maintained in relatively stable conditions by yet further processes. The project will develop this thesis in relation to cutting-edge work in the philosophy of biology, and also in dialogue with emerging biological ideas in related scientific fields."

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, and I am a former member of the Governing Board of the Philosophy of Science Association.

Download full CV.

For online publications see my Google Scholar page:

Or ResearchGate:


Research group links

Research interests

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.

For the last ten years or so, my reserach has 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 will be working on the ERC-funded project, A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology. This project aims to articualte a process-centred ontology that, I argue, will be better suited to understanding the biological and biomedical sciences than traditional thing- or substance-based ontologies.

I have also collaborated with Egenis Research Fellows on the projects: Questioning the Tree of Life and New directions in genomics: Systems and Synthetic Biology and Metagenomics and Microbiology.

For more information on my books, see my 'Other' page.

Research supervision

  • Philosophy of science
  • Philosophy of biology
  • Philosophy and sociology of genomics
  • Philosophy of mind, especially evolutionary psychology
  • Philosophy of the social sciences and economics

Other information


Dupré, J. Processes of Life: Essays in the Philosophy of Biology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

ISBN: 9780199691982

Paperback edition, January 2014.

Reviews in Science; Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews; British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.

Cover image for product 1444333968

Parry S. and Dupré, J., Nature After the Genome, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2010.
ISBN: 978-1-4443-3396-1

thumbnail of book

Barnes, S.B. and Dupré, J., Genomes and What to Make of Them, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
ISBN: 978-0-226-17295-8

Paperback edition, 2013.

Dupré, J., The Constituents of Life (the Spinoza lectures), Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 2008.
ISBN: 978-9-023-24380-9

Value-Free Science? Ideals and Illusions

Dupré, J., with Kincaid, H. and Wylie, A., Value-Free Science: Ideal or Illusion, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
ISBN: 978-0-19-530896-9

Darwin's Legacy What Evolution Means Today

Dupré, J., Darwin's Legacy: What Evolution Means Today, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Paperback edition August, 2005.
ISBN: 978-0-19-928421-4

  • German translation, Darwins Vermachtnis, Suhrkamp Verlag, March 2005.
  • Spanish translation, El Legado de Darwin, Katz Editores, Buenos Aires, April 2006.

Humans and Other Animals

Dupré, J., Humans and Other Animals, Oxford University Press, 2002.
Paperback edition, August 2006.
ISBN: 978-0-19-924710-3

Human Nature and the Limits of Science

Dupré, J., Human Nature and the Limits of Science, Oxford University Press, 2001.
Paperback edition, September, 2003. Italian translation, Laterza Roma, 2007.
ISBN: 978-0-19-926550-3

The Disorder of Things PAPERBACK

Dupré, J., The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science, Harvard University Press, 1993.
Paperback edition, 1995.
ISBN: 978-0-19-926550-3

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.