Funding Agency:
John Templeton Foundation

Ancient philosophers such as Aristotle viewed living things as pursuing various ends or goals. Today, our mainstream biological sciences seldom use such concepts in their explanatory theories, though biologists often use descriptive language that imputes purposiveness to living systems, and some scholars have expressed dissatisfaction with the neglect of goal-directed processes in an otherwise comprehensive theoretical framework. Life itself seems to make use of a variety of strategies that achieve its purposes, and a number of natural phenomena are puzzlingly difficult to describe or account for without the use of purposive language. Is it time to resuscitate purposiveness in biology? In what ways might purpose-related concepts be useful or even necessary for scientific research into artificial intelligence, origin of life, development, macroevolution trends, ecology, and other areas? How might greater attentiveness to purposive categories such as goal-directedness, agency, and directionality catalyze novel theory development and scientific discoveries?

This Ideas Challenge is aimed at exploring novel theoretical, philosophical, or scientific ideas useful for advancing the study of goal-directed, goal-seeking, or goal-suited phenomena in nature. We invite bold thinking that asks how such exploration might open new avenues for inquiry.  This is the general area of interest for this Ideas Challenge.

Deadlines: August 31, 2020

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

The Ideas Challenge is open to anyone whether inside or outside of academia, who otherwise meets all eligibility requirements as set forth in the Official Rules, found at https://www.templeton.org/ideas-challenge-official-rules

Amount Description

The Foundation will recognize fifty (50) of the most deserving entries with individual awards of $1000 USD.

Funding Type



Grad/Prof Students


Arts & Humanities
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Medical - Basic Science
Medical - Clinical Science
Medical - Translational
Social Sciences

External Deadline

August 31, 2020