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Ideas Challenge Winners



Congratulations to our Ideas Challenge winners in the Commonalities track! These applicants explore whether there is a shared structure, dynamic, or set of principles that operates across a range of goal-directed scales and systems. Learn more about them and their projects below.”

Donald Bruckner
Penn State University, New Kensington
This project seeks to understand the distinction between teleology and autopoiesisA teleologically organized entity, such as centrifugal governor, seeks some end or state. Autopoietic entities, such as animals and plants, take care of themselves by sustaining and maintaining themselves on an ongoing basis as the sort of things they are. Is autopoiesis just an especially sophisticated variety of teleology, or is it a different kind of phenomenon altogether? 
Justin Garson
Hunter College
What is it, philosophically, for an organism to “have a goal” or to be “goal-directed”? In the early twentieth century, having a goal was simply to have an intention. I have the goal of running a marathon if I intend to do so. By the mid-century, scientists and philosophers turned to more sophisticated, cybernetic ideas to explain what goal-directedness was. Given the failure of those attempts, I suggest a return to the old-fashioned idea that goals are simply intentions, that is, a certain kind of action-guiding inner representation. We can then use the tools of cognitive science and evolutionary reasoning to get a better understanding of how these inner representations are realized in the brain, and what their evolutionary purpose is.