CFP: On Purpose

Submission deadline: January 31, 2024

Conference date(s):
May 5, 2024 - May 7, 2024

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Conference Venue:

Duke University
Durham, United States

Topic areas


The Purpose, Agency, and Field Theory Project welcomes submissions of 500 word abstracts to present at the On Purpose conference at Duke University. 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  cutting-edge research presented 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), Caleb Hazelwood (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).

Confirmed keynote speakers include Mariska Leunissen (UNC Chapel Hill), Michael Levin (Tufts), Robert Brandon (Duke), Alex Rosenberg (Duke) and Kent Berridge (University of Michigan).

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?

All submissions must be sent either via the form available on the project's website or through email. If sending by email, please submit a single Word document entitled “(Last Name): Duke Purpose Conference” to [email protected] no later than January 31, 2024.

Be sure to include:

  • An abstract (500 word max)
  • A short bio
  • Your full name, email address, and affiliation
  • Use “Purpose Conference Duke” in the email subject line

Participation in this conference is free. Some funding will be provided to the authors whose abstracts are accepted and who attend the full conference.

Applicants will be notified of acceptance by March 15th, 2024.

Supporting material

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Custom tags:

#Biology, #Teleology, #Function, #AI, #goal directedness, #emotion