May 5th – 7th, 2024

Duke University, Durham, NC

On Purpose

The Purpose, Agency, and Field Theory Project at Duke University welcomes you to 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?

Keynote speakers:

Mariska Leunissen

(Philosophy, UNC Chapel Hill)

Michael Levin

(Biology, Tufts University)

Robert Brandon

(Philosophy, Duke University)

Alex Rosenberg

(Philosophy, Duke University)

Kent Berridge

(Psychology, Michigan)

Dan McShea

(Biology, Duke University)

Gunnar Babcock

(Philosophy, Duke University)

Conference Schedule

Rhodes Conference Room (#223)
Sanford School of Public Policy Building (201 Science Dr., Durham NC)
Duke University, West Campus

Day 1

Sunday, May 5th

8:00-8:30am
Breakfast (at conference venue, Sanford Building, Room 223)

8:30-9:00am
Welcome (Dan McShea & Gunnar Babcock)

9:00-9:45am
“Proper Functions in Society: Selectionist Arguments in Sociology”

Andrés Casto Araujo (Sociology, Duke University)

9:45-10:30am
“Do opaque algorithms have functions?”

Clint Hurshman (Philosophy, University of Kansas)

10:30-10:45am
Coffee Break

10:45-11:30am
“Quasi-Naturalistic Teleology in Aristotle’s Biology”

Mo Zhao (Philosophy, University of Bonn)

11:30am-12:15pm
“How to be a Teleologist: Comparisons of Teleological Explanations in the History & Philosophy of Biology & Cosmology”

Nichole Levesley (History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge) *remote presentation

12:15-1:15pm
Lunch

1:15-2:00pm
“Keeping the Telos in Teleology: A Pragmatist Suggestion”
Niall Roe (History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge)

2:00-3:15pm
“Did Darwin make purpose safe for science, or banish it from nature?”

Alex Rosenberg (Philosophy, Duke University)

3:15-3:30pm
Coffee Break

3:30-4:45pm
“Nature as a Craftsman in Aristotle’s Teleology

Mariska Leunissen (Philosophy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

4:45-5:15pm
Writing Exercise

6:30pm
Dinner at Lime & Lemon (811 9th Street #150, Durham, NC 27705)


Day 2

Monday, May 6th

8:00-8:30am
Breakfast (at conference venue, Sanford Building, Room 223)

8:30-8:45am
Welcome (Dan McShea & Gunnar Babcock)

8:45-9:30am
“Teleological Development and Synergistic Information”

Tiago Rama (Philosophy, University of the Republic of Uruguay) *remote presentation

9:30-10:15am
“A normative challenge for evolution-based moral realisms”

Jonah Branding (Philosophy & Biology, Michigan State University) & Matt Ferkany, (Philosophy, Michigan State University)

10:15-10:30am
Coffee Break

10:30-11:15am
“Toward a Descriptive Psychological Theory of Meaning and Purpose”

Jonathan Iwry (Harvard Law School)

11:15am-12:00pm
“Making Sense of Agency”

Cassandra Williams (Philosophy, University of Toronto)

12:00-1:00pm
Lunch

1:00-1:45pm
“The Human Affectome: A teleological framework of affective phenomena”

Alessandra Yu (Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai), Daniela Schiller (Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai) & Leroy Lowe (Neuroqualia)

1:45-3:00pm
“A Guide to the Problems of Teleology in Biology”

Robert Brandon (Philosophy, Duke University)

3:00-3:15pm
Coffee Break

3:15-4:30pm
“Desire and Prediction”

Kent Berridge (Psychology/Neuroscience, University of Michigan)

4:30-5:00pm
Writing Exercise

6:30pm
Dinner at Parizade (2200 W Main St, Durham, NC 27705)


Day 3

Tuesday, May 7th

9:00-9:45am
Breakfast (at conference venue, Sanford Building, Room 223)

9:45-11:00am
“Novel goals, diverse intelligences: the biomedical impact of philosophical frameworks”

Michael Levin (Biology, Tufts University) *remote presentation

11:00am-12:00pm
Workshop: On purpose

Dan McShea (Biology, Duke University) & Gunnar Babcock (Biology, Duke University)

12:00-1:00pm
Lunch

1:00-3:00pm
(continued) Workshop: On purpose

Dan McShea (Biology, Duke University) & Gunnar Babcock (Biology, Duke University)

Conference Format

All events will take place in person at the Sanford School of Public Policy building at Duke University.

We welcome in-person and remote participants! The zoom link is:

Please contact Gunnar Babcock if you plan to attend via zoom so that we know to let you in from the waiting room.

Conference Contact:

Gunnar Babcock
gunnar.babcock@duke.edu