Free Will In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

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Isaac Bashevis Singer once said, “We must believe in free will, we have no choice” (Brainy Quote). While many philosophers do not believe in free will, most, like Singer, acknowledge that the concept is useful for moral accountability, or “the status of morally deserving praise, blame, reward, or punishment for an act or omission in accordance with one 's moral obligations,” in a functioning society (citation). However, Vonnegut illustrates his opinion that even with the lack of free will, people can change their perceptions and are morally obligated to do at least that. In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim becomes “unstuck in time” as he revisits his traumatic World War II experiences over and over again. He is abducted by strange aliens from the planet Tralfalmadore who teach him their seemingly pessimistic views on fate and free will. Through Billy’s experiences, Vonnegut conveys his belief that while there are things that must be accepted as inevitable, people can change their perceptions because of the illusion of free will and thus can be held morally responsible for war and other traumatic events. During his trip to Tralfalmadore, the inhabitants explain to Billy that there is no such thing as free will from their perspective. The aliens are able to see into the fourth dimension of time, allowing them to see all of time at once. This ability suggests that “all events are structured” or preordained and no one has control over his destiny because
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