David Heering

David Heering

PhD student




Research Project

An actual-sequence account of free will as reasons-responsiveness

The guiding question of my research is: What is free will? I understand this questions to be partially about the metaphysical grounds of free will. It asks: In virtue of what are our actions free if they are free.

My project focusses on a type of answer to this question that connects free will with rationality. According to these theories, what distinguishes free from compulsive actions is that the agent possesses the rational ability to respond to reasons correctly. Abilities, in turn, are spelled out by most of these theories as complex dispositional properties, analysable in terms of counterfactual conditionals. That S possesses the ability to respond to reasons with regards to action A, on this view, means roughly that S would not have A-ed had sufficient reasons against A-ing obtained

All rational-ability views that follow some version of this type of counterfactual analysis are committed to the position that free will partially depends on essentially modal properties. Essentially modal properties are properties that necessarily involve reference to alternative possibilities.

I argue against these conceptions of the ability to respond to reasons that free will with respect to particular actions cannot be solely grounded in modal properties. It must also be grounded in so called actual-sequence properties, properties that can be found in the actual sequence of events leading to the action. Apart from the possession of the ability to respond to reasons, this ability must also be exercised on my view. To exercise the ability to respond to reasons is, in part, to act for the reasons actually present. I therefore maintain that agents have free will with respect to actions because they perform those actions for reasons.

Research Interests

My particular interest is in the intersection between metanormativity and the metaphysics of agency. This includes issues about the rational explanation of action, acting for reasons and the link between action and normativity. I am consequently also interested in the traditional problems of both metanormativity(the connection between reasons, rationality and reasoning, the sources and nature of normativity) and the metaphysics of agency(the individuation and nature of actions, the connection between agent and action).

I am further more generally interested in the problems of metaethics, such as the realism/antirealism and the cognitivism/noncognitivism debates.

I also have some background in the philosophy of science and metaphilosophy.


Ulrike Heuer and Helen Steward



I am grateful to be a recipient of the Leeds University Research Scholarship.



MA Philosophy, Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin (2016)

Thesis: Rational Abilities and Control

Supervised by Thomas Schmidt and Barbara Vetter.


BA Philosophy, Eberhard Karls Universitaet Tuebingen (2013)

Thesis: Desires, Dispositions, and Reasons: On a Confusion about the Notion of Teleology.

Supervised by Sabine Doering.



  • (2015) „Breaking good: Is there a patent recipe for cooking up the moral pill?“, Grazer hilosophische Studien 92, pp.137-145.