Candide - Essay Example

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[Name of Student] [Name of Instructor] [Course] [Date] Interpreting the World: A Study of Philosophy in Candide Voltaire’s Candide is a satiric, often vicious, parody of the deterministic model of the world. Through the philosopher Pangloss and his gullible, unfortunate follower Candide, Voltaire reveals how an optimistic worldview based on nothing but blind faith can serve to misinterpret the world…
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Interpreting the World: A Study of Philosophy in Candide Voltaire’s Candide is a satiric, often vicious, parody of the deterministic model of the world. Through the philosopher Pangloss and his gullible, unfortunate follower Candide, Voltaire reveals how an optimistic worldview based on nothing but blind faith can serve to misinterpret the world. If Candide was not so foolishly optimistic at the start, he might have avoided getting into as much trouble as he did. Candide, published in 1759, satirises in some ways the Enlightenment ideals of a positivist, determinist conception of the world. Voltaire, through his novel, saves his most vicious attacks for Leibniz and his followers of optimism. Leibniz’s primary argument was that since the creator of the universe, namely God, was essentially a good and positive force, His creation must also necessarily follow in the same suit. Leibnizian optimism holds that this world exists in the best possible situation and that all misfortunes occur merely as a result of flawed perception. True misery does not exist except in the mind of the humans inhabiting the world and experiencing it. This unshakeable faith in a higher power, divesting humans of all free will is one way of trying to make sense of life. By accepting whatever life has to offer, the followers of Leibnizian optimism found some sort of a solution to life’s often meaningless and unfair trials. Voltaire, possessing an intellectual capacity that refused to recognise such naivety, spares no punches in his book criticising this philosophy. Pangloss, and his student Candide, are made to suffer innumerable tragedies through the course of the novel as if to test the veracity of their refrain that all is best in this “best of all possible worlds”. The degree of their misfortune is stretched to ridiculous levels that leave no room for ambiguity as to where the author’s own sympathies lie. For instance, in Chapter 4, when Candide discovers that the beggar is Pangloss himself and despairs to find his master ravaged by the disease Syphilis, he says: "O sage Pangloss," cried Candide, "what a strange genealogy is this! Is not the devil the root of it?" "Not at all," replied the great man, "it was a thing unavoidable, a necessary ingredient in the best of worlds; for if Columbus had not caught in an island in America this disease, which contaminates the source of generation, and frequently impedes propagation itself, and is evidently opposed to the great end of nature, we should have had neither chocolate nor cochineal (Voltaire, 15). Pangloss’s obstinate faith in his flawed philosophy and his refusal to doubt it serves only to make the workings of the world even more confusing for his student, Candide. Philosophy aims at applying a coherent structure and meaning to a world that refuses to recognise it. With the advent of Absurdist philosophy and before it, Existentialism, efforts at rationalising life have diminished in contemporary times. But during Voltaire’s career, Enlightenment positivism, with its faith in empirical knowledge and Reason, was still the popular mode of thinking. Applying logic to an illogical substance always entails compromises. These compromises of logic, of seeing the truth, are attributed to faith. Faith is enshrined as the guiding light and the reward of its followers, the promise of a good afterlife. Optimism therefore, appears to solve the problem by simply asking its followers to accept everything. What Voltaire reveals in Candide, however, is that such a philosophy only misinterprets and further convolutes our understanding of the world. In Candide, Pangloss has a foil in the form of Martin, the old philosopher that Candide meets in Suriname. Martin, who calls himself a “Manichean”, represents the polar opposite of Panglossian optimism. He claims that all his suffering has made him lose faith in a higher order. When Candide cites the drowning of Vanderdendur as an act of justice and reiteration of his philosophy, Martin refutes it by replying that the others on the ship who died with him did not deserve the same treatment. Voltaire’s criticism of Optimism and related philosophies, therefore, is not monolithic. He introduces contrasts, doubts and challenges his own claims to make his argument more substantial. Candide is not a unipolar rant against Leibniz, but instead a much more profound observation and criticism of how human beings fail to understand the world. There is a note of underlying irony in the novel that escapes Pangloss himself. Irony is perhaps a necessary device to use when showing human beings’ incapacity to process the world. By showing the actions of a group of people, convinced that they are right, the author is allowed to share a joke with the reader without overtly emphasizing his criticism. Irony allows a criticism that is subtle and that saves the writer undue explanation of his story. This strain of irony comes to its most satisfactory conclusion at the end when Candide, now perhaps wiser, pointedly retorts to Pangloss’s reveries: "but let us cultivate our garden." Candide’s ironic comment shows that he has finally understood his master’s failings but indulgently allows it. Works Cited Voltaire. Candide. Boni & Liveright: New York, 1918. Print. Read More
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The topic of "Candide" is quite often seen among the tasks in university. Still, this paper opens a fresh perspective of seeing the problem. I’ll use the style for my own document.


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