After Storamin's recent thread on Descarte, I decided to dive into voltaire a bit. Enjoy. :shades
Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire constructed the novella “Candide” partially for the purpose of entertainment, but mostly to satirize the fallacy of Gottfried William von Leibniz’s theory of optimism. Throughout the course of his saga, Voltaire juxtaposes the raw, unrepressed optimism of one character in the story with exaggerated real-world adventures of pessimism and gloom. From gruesome war to disease, sedition, and deceit, Voltaire misses none of the bad in the “best of all possible worlds”.
Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician in Voltaire’s time. He argued that our world was the epitome of perfection, and all evils that transpire are for the betterment and evolution of our ideal society. God, he believed, was perfect, and as Earth is the conception of God, it must maintain such sound imperfections. However Voltaire chooses to begin writing on these premises alone to further accentuate his satire, purposefully overlooking the inescapable evil that comes with the “best of all possible worlds”. Leibniz was actually not suggesting our world was perfect, but rather the best of all the worlds available to God. Voltaire disregarded this in “Candide”.
Dr. Pangloss is introduced as the literary symbolic representation of Leibniz’s theory. Conceived early in the novella, the then naive Candide reveres Pangloss as the supreme authority on all philosophical matters and follows his teachings without question. Candide enters the world with this very closed-minded philosophy to further exaggerate Voltaire’s satirical aim, but throughout the story he experiences a fierce internal conflict between his childhood schooling and the realities of society. Voltaire also created the character of Martin, a very pessimistic antagonist acting as the devil whispering palpable cynicism into Candide’s ear. As their journey progresses, Candide finds it harder and harder to support the unyielding raw optimism of Pangloss.
At one point in “Candide”, the characters arrive at Eldorado, a utopia designed to metaphorically represent the perfect society described as “the best of all possible worlds”, a quote used by Leibniz and Pangloss to portray our “perfect” society. This city is “impossible” to find, and is described with details to make it seem as distant from reality as possible. By materializing Leibniz’s ideological perfection without laws, jails, or the need for material goods, Voltaire is showing Leibniz’s theory as laughable. This allows Candide to see for himself the quintessential essence of Pangloss’s teachings, just before being submerged again headfirst into the icy waters of society’s realism when they leave. Eldorado is one of Voltaire’s strongest examples of the philosophical collision in the novella, since it reaches beyond speculation and rumor to show Candide hard, physical evidence of the Atlantistic notion brought forth by Pangloss.
Chapter Nine is a hard hit for Candide’s faith in Pangloss’ teachings. He is forced to murder two men in an attempt to protect his own life and that of his mistress Cunégonde. They die in the exact same way for a nearly identical cause, and still the Grand Inquisitor is given a grand burial and the civilian man is thrown on a dunghill. They were both human beings- were their lives worth different values? Candide questions the ideological perfection of society’s injustice.
Voltaire also adds an interesting touch of satire through his choice of character names. Pangloss is loosely translated as “all tongue” or “windbag", an ironically fitting name for one who offers no proof to support his claims. Candide is translated to “white”, a slightly deeper translation, but no less fitting. In the beginning of the novella, Candide is a very naive child, innocent and pure. He accepts the teachings of Pangloss, the only philosophy he is exposed to. As he makes his journey all over the world, his purity staggers in parallel with his maturity. He begins to question his personal beliefs, however always remaining true to his honesty, loyalty, and generosity… sparkling associations with the unblemished color white. His continued loyalty is apparent by maintaining his honest oath to always love Cunégonde, even after she grows old and loses her beauty. His generosity is illustrated when Candide offers some riches to the ousted king after hearing his tale from a world far less than the best possible.
In many ways, “Candide” is an allusion to Geoffrey Chaucer’s "The Canterbury Tales". Voltaire uses “Candide” to poke ridicule, even to the point of criticizing, the endless flaws of the world. From government corruption to inhumane warfare, Voltaire tends focuses more on the issues at large, rather than Chaucer’s focus toward individuals like merchants and friars… however there truly is no difference. Society is composed of merchants, friars, priests, physicians, knights, and pardoners, so essentially both authors are attacking the same body, but from different angles. Where Chaucer may compare the nun to a prostitute, Voltaire compares the Bordeaux police officer to a common thief. When juxtaposing both works, rather than seeing a contrast, you see a single large picture, seamlessly flowing from one source to the other. One might wonder how much influence Chaucer had on Voltaire.
“Candide” is a remarkable literary work written by the very embodiment of the 18th century enlightenment. Voltaire forever shifted the paradigms of modern satire through a witty, yet pointed assault on Leibniz’s blind theory of optimism. Devouring Leibniz’s premises with colorful, yet blatant, real-world contrasts, Voltaire reflects the sheer lunacy of such a theory. Moral of the story? If Voltaire disagrees with someone, he lets the world know it. ;)
All that reading. Now I have to go back to sleep :lol
ok, I tuned out after paragraph 2.:sleep
go ahead, grow up, have kids, and you won't care what voltaire thinks about the world in which you live. Fuck him, if he was so smart why is he dead?
philosophy is for people who can't be trusted to work for a living. Philosphers have only 1 question to answer and those lazy bastards still havn't done it yet.
so true, I read Candide in 10th grade, it sucked ass, no bimmers.
I have recently been getting quite a bit of traffic to the article I wrote comparing Voltaire’s Candide with Leibniz. As such, I’ve decided to publish another paper I’ve written on Voltaire. Enjoy.
Worldly and Personal Influences on Voltaire’s Writing
Voltaire’s satirical style of writing is greatly influenced by worldly events occurring during the eighteenth century, in addition to personal afflictions encountered throughout the course of his life. Evident in the majority his philosophical volumes, his personal life and opinions of the world around him manifests itself throughout his work, usually presented with scientific reasoning and logical backing to either contradict or confirm the viewpoints of other published philosophers during his time.
Voltaire’s plays are “mainly classical, embodying the unities and dealing with highborn heroes” (Critical Survey 3305). This can be attributed to Voltaire’s home life, raised by his father who was a successful notary. From this, “Young Voltaire grew up surrounded by wealthy, influential people” (UXL 1). He was always interested in social classes higher than his own, often writing about nobility, such as in “LeSiecle de Louis XIV”- a piece demonstrating his dedication through immense research. From this one paper alone, Voltaire can be classified as a major historian (Critical Survey 3305). Voltaire’s Godfather, Abbe de Chateauneuf, also played a major roll in Voltaire’s exposure to the wealthy and successful. At the age of twelve, Abbe took Voltaire to visit the Society of the Temple, which stood for all that was proper and worldly. “Voltaire’s taste for witty irreverence and for luxurious living was definitely encouraged by his company” (3307).
Voltaire, very outspoken and bold, was imprisoned at the Bastille for aiming satirical writing at Regent and Poet Antoine Houdar de la Motte (Critical Survey 3307). While in prison, he finished reading Oedipus, and promptly began writing La Ligue, pulling in Socratic philosophies (3307). He left prison in exile to go live in England for what would become three of the most malleable years of his life.
In England, Voltaire became friends with Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope (World Literature Criticism 3767). He respected them and studied their work, “[drawing] on his extensive reading as well as his experience of life” (Aldington 3773) in writing Letters Concerning the English Nation in 1773 (World Literature Criticism 3767). This piece showed a rare, impressionable side of Voltaire, as he painted a “highly sympathetic portrait of the English” (3767), something unusual for the satirical sharp-tongue. Also in England, he became very familiar with William Shakespeare’s work, which is evident in “Brutus”- a play he produced upon returning to France (Critical Survey 3307). In reading Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire was so intrigued by it’s structure and layout (even though it was modeled after Montesquieu’s story, Persian Letters [Critical Survey 3311]), he used it as a skeleton for his philosophical imitation, Micromegas (3311).
In Micromegas, the protagonist is exiled from his planet by the courts for writing about something as negligible as insects (Critical Survey 3311). This parallels his own personal experiences of getting exiled from France for his satirical attack on Regent Antoine Houdar de la Motte (3307). When the protagonist reaches his destination planet, Saturn, he finds a small dwarf, maliciously symbolizing Voltaire’s personal enemy Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (3311), though borrowed almost exactly from the Brobdingnagians in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (Aldington 3775). There is speculation that the entire work Micromegas was entirely malevolent against Fontenelle, despite the other small pieces of philosophical discussions that is sprinkled throughout it (Critical Survey 3311).
From 1734 to 1744 Voltaire lived in the Du Chatelet Castle with his mistress Madame du Chatelet (Critical Survey 3307). She was very interested in physics, chemistry, and astronomy, which eventually led to Voltaire’s writing The Elements of Sir Issac’s Philosophy (3307). Around then, Voltaire started to get into more trouble with the courts for his controversial publishings. The king and queen distrusted him, and in rebuttal Voltaire begins work on Zadig, one of his most famous pieces that satirized the courts (Critical Survey 3307). Zadig is a very optimistic work, with Madame du Chatelet by his side, he pulls from the philosophical studies of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz and Friendrich August Wolf saying “this is the best of all possible worlds” (3310).
“I was sent to execution because I had written verse in praise of the king; I was on the point of being strangled because the queen had yellow ribbons; and here I am a slave to you because a brute beat his mistress. Come, let’s not lose heart, perhaps all this will end” (Voltaire 162). This quote from Zadig summarizes Voltaire’s reserve against the legal system and feeling of outward injustice from prejudice courts. The last sentence of the quote emphasizes the philosophical optimism this story carries with it, however that’s all about to change. In 1747, Madame de Chatelet died during childbirth (Critical Survey 3307).
After Madame de Chatelet died, Voltaire felt there was no purpose in staying in France anymore, so he moved to Prussia, then Les Delices (near the Swiss border)(3307). Just three years after he wrote the optimistic philosophy Zadig, he began work on his famous story Candide (3307). The theme of Candide contradicts Zadig, losing hope for a perfect solution (3307). The philosophical question regarding the Lisbon Earthquake of 1756 as to why innocent and guilty people are simultaneously killed without cause greatly influenced Candide (World Literature Criticism 3767). Voltaire even went as far as writing a separate paper on the earthquake alone entitled “Poeme sur le Desastre de Lisbonne” (3767). The deadly earthquake and the “atrocities” recorded in the Seven Years War greatly influenced Candide (3767), leaving it with pessimistic underlying messages.
In the final 18 years of Voltaire’s life following the creation of Candide, he was very active, “writing as many 6,000 letters, pamphlets, and plays” (Critical Survey 3308). Most of them were “directed against Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, and the priests,” due to Voltaire’s disagreements with the church operations (Aldington 3778). The poem “Henriade” analyzes Henry IV’s struggle against the Catholic League… also paralleling his personal beliefs (Critical Survey 3305). A large percentage of his writings around this time were in the aid of a few large scale court cases going on (Calas and Sirven families, and La Barne), trying to free them from injustice or religious persecution (3308). Voltaire had many run-ins with French courts, causing him to form a prejudice against injustice which worked as motivation in these legal works (World Literature Criticism 3767).
Voltaire was one of the most influential philosophers of the eighteenth century. His works are still celebrated today, including Candide, which is often considered “one of the most entertaining prose satires ever penned” (World Literature Criticism 3774). Living in a world with the Seven Year War raging, the Lisbon Earthquake killing, and the French courts ruling against him… Voltaire stepped out in front of all other authors of his time and described the world as he saw it.
Richard Aldington. “Voltaire.” World Literature Criticism: 1500 to the Present. Ed. James P. Draper. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. 3772-3778.
“Voltaire.” Critical Survey of Long Fiction. Ed. Carl Rollyson. Vol. 7. Pasadena: Salem Press, 2000. 3304-3314.
“Voltaire.” U*X*L Biographies. U*X*L, 2003. Student Resource Center. Thomson Gale. 29 April 2005
Voltaire. Voltaire, Candide, Zadig, and selected stories. New York: New American Library, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1961. 102-172.
“Voltaire.” World Literature Criticism: 1500 to the Present. Ed. James P. Draper. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. 3766-3768.
Harry, u have to much time on ur hands......
too much reading. summ it up into 2 sentances, or one cartoon
^^^ That rules :uphaha :lmao :laugh
excellent! less reading!
If there's anyone who was at all interested (doubtful), I just posted a few other writtings on my blog, namely this one:
Dante's Inferno and the Seven Deadly Sins - Poetic form written in loose Shakespearean Sonnet
Here's the beginning of it (very long) to give you an idea of if you'd like it or not. It took me a while to write, and I think it turned out quite well. :)
I was born with a gift of infallible vex,
living to see Hell’s own rancid thirst,
the sight of perdition, a diabolic hex.
Innate with this apparition of the dammed and cursed,
forever knowing my terminating blight,
I called for salvation in the form of a verse.
To my cry, Gabriel descended from above in light,
gliding down the beam of his angelic sleigh,
immersed in a radiance of all that is right.
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