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Posted on April 19th, 2012, by

The problem of freedom of will always was one of the central problems of any philosophy people dealt with. Personal freedom of will was and remains one of the cornerstones of philosophies regardless their basic principles and ideas.

Nowadays, there are still a lot of discussions concerning the problem of freedom and there is still no common view on the definition of this phenomenon. Naturally, each philosopher and researcher has his own idea concerning the notion of freedom or what is also widely used the notion of liberty. Nonetheless there may be found some concepts that are common for different philosophers. For instance, nowadays specialists over and over again speak about positive and negative freedom or liberty and about so-called third ways’ of defining the notion of freedom. In this respect, it is possible to refer to Kurt Vonnegut’s book Slaughterhouse Five, where the author explores the problem of the freedom of will and choices and opportunities the main character has got in this regard. At the same time, the author lays emphasis on the absence of absolute freedom of will, but it is portioned and limited by circumstances.

Now, it is obviously necessary to a few words about two basic and contradicting views on freedom both positive and negative, i.e. on the one hand the freedom of will is supposed to exist, while, on the other hand, it is believed to be nonexistent. Negative view on freedom of will implies the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints to the realization of human free will.

As for a positive view on freedom of will, it is on the contrary the possibility of acting, or the fact of acting, in such a way as to take control over one’s life and realize one’s fundamental purposes. Furthermore, negative freedom is traditionally attributed to individual agents, positive freedom is sometimes attributed to collectivities, or to individuals considered primarily as members of given collectivities. It means that negative freedom is basically focused on individuals while positive freedom is rather concentrated on collectivities and individuals within them.

Taking into consideration the fact that practically everybody needs freedom of will, it would be possible to realize what the role this notion plays not only in philosophy but in life of ordinary people as well. At the same time,  on analyzing the book Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, it is possible to estimate that the author tends to an intermediate view on the concept of freedom of will. In fact, the main character of the book, Billy, being kidnapped by aliens, learns the absolutely different philosophic view on freedom of will, according to which people cannot change their entire life due to their freedom of will, but, instead, they can focus on specific moments in their life, which they can concentrate on. The main character accepts this philosophy and gets an opportunity to relive certain parts of his life he chooses, including the last moment of his life when he is shot dead.

In this respect, it should be said that the author suggests quite an original view on the concept of the freedom of will.

He stands on the ground that human freedom of will cannot be so powerful or, in other words, human’s will cannot so free that it could change their life absolutely. Instead, people have to live the life they have and they have no real opportunities to define their own fate through action or inaction on the basis of their free will. Nevertheless, the author admits the possibility of the existence of a limited free will. In actuality, the author admits that people are still responsible for their life but they should focus on specific moment in their life which can define their further life and, in such moments, people apparently have certain freedom of will as they have a choice. At the same time, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that it is during these key moments of their life, people have free will to make a decision or choice, but the decision or choice cannot define the entire life of an individual but rather its part until the next meaningful and significant event. Consequently, it is possible to view the entire life of an individual as a chain of meaningful events or moments, when he or she has free will and he can take decisions which define the further stage of his or her life. Hence, the chain of moments and choices unfolds in the course of the life of an individual until the end, which, though an individual cannot change and human life always ends to death.

Thus, taking into consideration all above mentioned it is possible to conclude that freedom of will is a very complicated concept and it is possible to argue whether freedom of will exists or not. However, Kurt Vonnegut suggests an original concept of freedom of will, according to which free will is limited to certain moments when an individual has to take a decision, but an individual is not free to define his entire life.

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