On Purpose Philosophy Conference


he Purpose, Agency, and Field Theory Project at Duke University welcomes submissions of proposals to present at a conference on the nature of purpose. The aim of the conference is to bring together scholars from different disciplines, along with their unique perspectives, to consider questions related to purpose, broadly construed. The conference is premised on the idea that bringing together cutting-edge research in an interdisciplinary format has the potential to shed new light to what is, arguably, one of humanity’s oldest and most enduring questions: Is there purpose in the universe, and if there is, what is it?

The conference is organized by Gunnar Babcock (Philosophy) and Dan McShea (Biology) and will be held in person on May 5th – 7th, 2024 at Duke University, Durham, NC. We encourage submissions from areas such as philosophy (e.g. philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, moral psychology, history of philosophy), psychology (e.g. emotion, motivation, affect, wanting) and biology (e.g. evolution, embryology, physiology, behavior), in addition other disciplines, such as physics, literature, history, theology, etc. Successful abstracts will be those revealing both creativity, clarity of thought, and clarity of expression. Most conference speaking slots are reserved for early career scholars (starting at the graduate school level).

Examples of questions that fall within the scope of conference are:

  1. Is there teleology or goal directedness in biology?
  2. Does purposeful behavior require intentionality or emotion?
  3. How might purpose be empirically investigated?
  4. What are the hallmarks of purposeful systems?
  5. How has purpose been considered historically?
  6. How is purpose thought about across different cultures?
  7. Is purpose an all together mistaken notion?
  8. Does purpose depend on a divine entity?
  9. Can AI be purposeful?
  10. What is the relationship between function and purpose?

Submissions due by January 31st, 2024