Participants

Participant Group
Christopher Austin

Christopher Austin

Cluster:
(Re)Conceptualizing Function and Goal-Directedness
Project:
Mistakes in living systems: a new conceptual framework

Dr. Christopher J. Austin's research specialization is in Metaphysics and Philosophy of Science, with a particular focus on ontology, modality, and causation in the context of evolutionary developmental biology. He has written on a diverse range of topics including natural kind theory, process ontology, mechanistic explanation, information theory, structuralism, dispositional causation, persistence and identity, truthmaking theory, biological essentialism, and dynamical systems theory. He is the author of Essence In the Age of Evolution: A New Theory of Natural Kinds (Routledge), as well as a number of chapters in edited volumes including Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science (Routledge) and Evolutionary Developmental Biology: A Reference Guide (Springer). His work has been published in a wide range of philosophical journals including Synthese, Analysis, The European Journal for Philosophy of Science, Biology and Philosophy, Ratio, and Metascience.

drawing of Matthieu Barbier

Matthieu Barbier

Cluster:
(Re)Conceptualizing Function and Goal-Directedness
Project:
Open-ended evolution and organizational closure
Role:
Subaward Principal Investigator

Matthieu searches for simplicity in macroscopic phenomena in theoretical ecology, often relying on ideas from statistical physics. He graduated in theoretical linguistics and physics, pursued a PhD in the latter in Paris, and explored various interfaces with economics and ecology in Incheon, Princeton and Moulis. He co-founded the interdisciplinary nonprofit Institut Natura e Teoria en Pirenèus, and is now employed as a researcher at the Plant Health Institute in Montpellier, France. His variegated experiences have left him with two major archetypes for how he thinks about intriguing phenomena in life, cognition and society: from physics, the duality and equivalence between causal (force-based) and acausal (variational) explanations; from linguistics, the separation of concerns between historical (etymological) and functional (grammatical or semantic) subfields. He hopes to use these archetypes to better understand, and formalize mathematically, the equivalences and tensions that he has encountered between various modes of scientific explanation of biological phenomena.

Ingo Bojak

Ingo Bojak

Cluster:
(Re)Conceptualizing Function and Goal-Directedness
Project:
Mistakes in living systems: a new conceptual framework

I am a theoretical physicist by training but have worked as a computational neuroscientist for the last two decades, being particularly interested in modelling the collective activity of neurons. For applications, I have focused on general anesthesia, brain connectivity, multimodal neuroimaging, and advanced data analysis. I have recently started working on projects in computational psychology, e.g., reinforcement learning. Privately, I have maintained an active interest in philosophy, in particular in Aristotelian metaphysics. My work has been interdisciplinary in nature, and I have worked in physics, (bio)engineering, medical neuroscience, and psychology in Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, and now the UK. I am currently a Professor in the School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, and its Deputy Head. In our project I will be responsible for turning our philosophical ideas into computational structures that can deal with empirical data.

Head shot of Francois Cinotti

François Cinotti

Cluster:
(Re)Conceptualizing Function and Goal-Directedness
Project:
Mistakes in living systems: a new conceptual framework

François is a post-doctoral researcher initially trained as a computational neuroscientist specialised in behavioural modelling. His PhD (2016-2019) was focused on a form of metalearning, in other words dynamically tuning parameters of a reinforcement learning model to simulate long term changes of rat behaviour in a bandit task. He has also developed a novel statistical Bayesian method of quantifying connection rates between neurons and a model of foraging behaviour during two postdoctoral positions. His current role as member of this team is to develop models of haemostasis as a case study of mistake making in organisms.

James DiFrisco

James DiFrisco

Cluster:
(Re)Conceptualizing Function and Goal-Directedness
Role:
Cluster Coordinator
Institution:
KU Leuven

James DiFrisco is a researcher at KU Leuven (Belgium). His work has focused on general issues in biological theory and philosophy of biology such as homology, individuality, functions, and levels of organization. Recent projects include a broad investigation of the constructive conceptual role of dynamical systems theory in evolutionary-developmental biology ("Hierarchical evolution of dynamical systems"). Currently he is working on a project on the individuation of biological characters entitled "Character individuation in development and evolution."

Justin Garson

Justin Garson

Cluster:
(Re)Conceptualizing Function and Goal-Directedness, Agential Behavior and Plasticity in Evolution
Project:
Putting representations back into goal-directedness
Role:
Subaward Principal Investigator

Justin Garson is Professor of Philosophy at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is the author of Madness: A Philosophical Exploration (Oxford, 2022), What Biological Functions Are and Why They Matter (Cambridge, 2019), A Critical Overview of Biological Functions (Springer, 2016), and The Biological Mind: A Philosophical Introduction (Routledge, 2015; second edition 2022). His main interest is thinking about teleology in the life sciences and developing its implications for debates in the philosophy of mind, medicine, and psychiatry. His aim for the John Templeton Foundation Science of Purpose Initiative is to explain goal-directedness in living creatures in terms of their capacity to make and use inner representations. In this way, he seeks to place the study of goal-directedness within the context of naturalistic, evolutionary accounts of representation.

Jon Gibbins

Jon Gibbins

Cluster:
(Re)Conceptualizing Function and Goal-Directedness
Project:
Mistakes in living systems: a new conceptual framework

Jon Gibbins is Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Reading, UK, where he is Director of the Institute for Cardiovascular & Metabolic Research. He has spent the last 25 years figuring out how blood clotting is controlled, how and why this is may occur in disease, and how the blood cells that trigger this process, platelets, might be controlled to prevent heart attacks and strokes. This work involves a combination of cell and molecular biology, through models of disease, to clinical studies with patients. Jon’s work has led to the discovery of new systems of blood cell regulation and the development of new therapies to combat thrombotic disease. In this study Jon will be responsible for exploring and testing our philosophical ideas with data from the study of platelets – a relatively simple biological system with plenty of scope for mistake making with substantial physiological consequence.

Mary Guzowski

Mary Guzowski

Cluster:
(Re)Conceptualizing Function and Goal-Directedness
Project:
‘Function’ in biology and bio-inspired design

Mary Guzowski is a Professor in the School of Architecture where she teaches and conducts research related to daylighting, solar, biophilic, and sustainable design. Her publications include the books Art of Architectural Daylighting, Towards Zero Energy Architecture: New Solar Design, and Daylighting for Sustainable Design, a variety of web-based design resources, and professional articles. She chaired the development of MS Sustainable Design Program in the School of Architecture, was a co-author of the first edition of the Minnesota Sustainable Design Guide (with John Carmody), and the Carbon Neutral Design Project (with Jim Wasley and Terri Boake). Her current research is focused on biophilic and bio-inspired approaches to daylighting and architectural design. Mary has received awards for design education from the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment, American Institute of Architects Minnesota, and the Associated Collegiate Schools of Architecture.