A process perspective on human life

The RSE Gifford Seminar in association with Professor John Dupré’s Gifford Lectureship Series 2023

This year, Professor Dupré’s RSE Gifford Seminar is on?‘a process perspective on human life.’ 

Human life is constantly dynamic and active. It is not, as it is often thought, composed of things made of smaller things that are arranged into mechanisms. 

The RSE Gifford Seminar allows audience members to explore some of the bigger questions asked across the Gifford Lecture Series and provides the opportunity to hear alternative voices on the subject area. This year, Professor Dupré, a distinguished philosopher of science and the Consulting Director for Centre for the Study of Life Sciences at the University of Exeter, explores taking on a process perspective on human life. 

He has looked at the implications of taking on a process perspective, asking questions such as:

  • What is the difference between a world of process and a world of things?
  • What are the implications of a process philosophy for our theory of evolution?
  • How should we think about the trillions of microbial passengers that the human body hosts?
  • If humans are open-ended processes, does this offer an answer to the free will question? 

Join this panel discussion, featuring Professor John Dupré, to reflect on this perspective, discuss the implications of considering a process perspective, hear responses from a panel and ask bigger questions touched on across the Gifford Lecture Series

Book now

About the RSE Gifford Seminar

The RSE and the University of Edinburgh regularly come together to deliver the RSE Gifford Seminar, providing an overview of the Gifford Lecture Series for the year. The seminar provides an opportunity for the audience to ask questions to the speaker on the series topic as a whole; encouraging new thinking, ideas and conversations.

In his May 2023 series of lectures, Professor John Dupré will explain why we should understand life not, as composed of things made of smaller things, the latter arranged into mechanisms, but as processes. Indeed, life is constantly dynamic and active. The series will then explore the implications of this thesis for various topics with increasingly direct relevance to human life, starting with evolution and symbiosis, and moving to personal identity, human nature and human kinds, and free will.

You can read more about it here

This event may contain upsetting or distressing content related pregnancy/childbirth as one of the lectures discusses the stage at which an unborn human becomes a person, and personal identity including gender.


Professor John Dupré smiling for the camera - Gifford
Professor John Dupré


Professor John Dupré

Professor of Philosophy of Science and Consulting Director, Centre for the Study of Life Sciences (Egenis), University of Exeter

Professor John Dupré is a distinguished philosopher of science, with special interests in the philosophy of biology. After finishing his PhD in Philosophy at Cambridge, he was a Junior Research Fellow at St John’s College Oxford and then spent 14 years in the Philosophy Department at Stanford. In 1996 he returned to the UK to take up posts at Birkbeck College, London and Exeter University, and since 2000 he has worked full time at Exeter. He is the Consulting Director of the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society, and in Spring, 2006, he held the prestigious Spinoza Visiting Professorship at the University of Amsterdam.

Mona Siddiqui standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera
Professor Mona Siddiqui


Professor Mona Siddiqui

Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, Assistant Principal for Religion and Society and Dean international for the Middle East, University of Edinburgh

Professor Mona Siddiqui is a well-respected public intellectual and speaker on religion, ethics and public life. Her primary research areas are Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), ethics, and Christian-Muslim relations. She has held several prestigious research grants and visiting professorships, serving as a Humanitas Professor at the University of Cambridge and a Visiting Professorship at Hartford Seminary in the US. In 2011, she was awarded an OBE for her interfaith work. She is a regular commentator in public life and the media, having spoken at the World Economic Forum and being listed in the Debretts top 500 list of the most influential people in the UK. She currently chairs the BBC’s Religious Advisory Committee in Scotland.

A woman smiling for the camera
Dr Mazviita Chirimuuta


Dr Mazviita Chirimuuta

Senior Lecturer in the School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh

Dr Mazviita Chirimuuta is a philosopher who examines topics at the intersection between psychology, neuroscience, and biology. Outside Color, her book on the philosophy and science of colour vision, was published by MIT Press in 2015. Her new book, The Brain Abstracted, is on the importance of simplification in neuroscience, past and present.

A person smiling for the camera
Dr Bethany Sollereder


Dr Bethany Sollereder

Lecturer in Science and Religion, The University of Edinburgh

Dr Bethany Sollereder is a Lecturer in Science and Religion at the University of Edinburgh. She specialises in theology concerning evolution and the problem of suffering and is currently working on the theological aspects of climate change. She is also interested in the intersection between psychology and faith, particularly how different approaches to theology can affect people’s experience of suffering.

Professor John Dupré smiling for the camera - Gifford


Wednesday May 10th, 2023 17:30-18:30


The Royal Society of Edinburgh


Professor John Dupré
Dr Mazviita Chirimuuta