Contemporary Compatibilism: Mesh Theories and Reasons-Responsive Theories

Michael McKenna

in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will

Second edition

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780195399691
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Contemporary Compatibilism: Mesh Theories and Reasons-Responsive Theories


This article considers two of the most widely discussed types of new compatibilist theories under the headings of “mesh theories” and “reasons-responsive theories.” The first part of the article examines hierarchical theories, focusing initially on Frankfurt's theory, which is the most widely discussed of such theories. It considers three kinds of objections that have been made of Frankfurt's hierarchical theory—concerning manipulation, weakness of will, and“identification” with higher-order desires. The second part turns to reasons-responsive compatibilist views of free agency. Such views require that for agents to be free and responsible, they must be “responsive to reasons,” in the sense that they must be able to recognize and evaluate reasons for action, and be able to act in some manner that is sensitive to a suitable range of reasons.

Keywords: mesh theories; reasons-responsive theories; compatibilist theories; Frankfurt's hierarchical theory; free agency

Article.  12172 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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