On Purpose

May 5, 2024 - May 7, 2024
Duke University

130 Science Dr.
United States

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  • John Templeton Foundation


Duke University
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Duke University


Duke University
Duke University

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The aim of the On Purpose 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?

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?

The conference is organized by Gunnar Babcock (Philosophy), Caleb Hazelwood (Philosophy), and Dan McShea (Biology) and will be held in person on May 5th – 7th, 2024 at Duke University, Durham, NC. Confirmed keynote speakers include Mariska Leunissen (UNC Chapel Hill), Michael Levin (Tufts), Robert Brandon (Duke), Alex Rosenberg (Duke) and Kent Berridge (University of Michigan).

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