Photo of Professor John Dupré

Professor John Dupré

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