Episode 9: John Dupré


Guest: John Dupré
Location: Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, NS Hispeed Lounge
Duration: 58 mins.
Keywords: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Biology, Feminism, Reductionism, Pluralism, Evolutionary Psychology, Darwinism, Wittgenstein.




John Dupré is the director of the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society and professor of philosophy at the University of Exeter. Dupré was educated at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge and taught at Oxford, Stanford University and Birkbeck College of the University of London before moving to Exeter. Dupré’s chief work area lies in philosophy of biology, philosophy of the social sciences, and general philosophy of science. Together with Nancy Cartwright, Ian Hacking, Patrick Suppes and others, he is often regarded as belonging to the “Stanford School” of philosophy of science. In 2010 Dupré was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of his work on Darwinism, and became President-Elect of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science.

Dupré’s seminal “The Disorder of Things” made a huge impact on me as a philosophy undergrad, and we spend quite some time discussing the background for the book as well as its advancement of a pluralistic model of science as opposed to the common notion of reductionism. We also discuss his complex path through academia, and his work on feminism, evolutionary psychology and other issues centred around the issue of essentialism and the disunity of science.

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2 thoughts on “Episode 9: John Dupré”

  1. Reductionism is one of my bête noires… I accept on the one hand that physics has not made any kind of progress on interesting bits like consciousness… at the same time I am showing a shocking lack of imagination by having to admit that I can’t actually think of anything non-matter that I would be willing to admit as a brute fact.

    1. Depends what you mean by “non-matter”. As long as you allow for “non-matter” to supervene on brute facts, you can operate with non-reductive materialism without postulating anything non-material … either the whole is simply larger than the sum of the parts (and I think this is largely a result of our ability for internal monologue that allows us to break out of determinism), or the problem of consciousness is simply a result of our inability to think beyond classical mechanics and the answer lies in quantum mechanics (cf Penrose) or (more likely) some as-of-yet undiscovered aspect of physics.

Questions, comments suggestions?