In Candide, Voltaire sought to point out the fallacy of Gottfried Leibniz’s theory of optimism and the hardships brought on by the resulting inaction toward the evils of the world. Voltaire’s use of satire, and its techniques of exaggeration and contrast highlight the evil and brutality of war and the world in general when men are meekly accepting of their fate.
Leibniz, a German philosopher and mathematician of Voltaire’s time, developed the idea that the world they were living in at that time was “the best of all possible worlds.” This systematic optimism shown by Leibniz is the philosophical system that believed everything already was for the best, no matter how terrible it seemed. In this satire, Voltaire showed the world full of natural disasters and brutality. Voltaire also used contrast in the personalities of the characters to convey the message that Leibniz’s philosophy should not be dealt with any seriousness. Leibniz, sometimes regarded as a Stoic or Fatalist because his philosophies were based on the idea that everything in the world was determined by fate, theorized that God, having the ability to pick from an infinite number of worlds, chose this world, “the best of all possible worlds.” Although Voltaire chose that simple quality of Leibniz’s philosophy to satirize, Leibniz meant a little more than just that. Even though his philosophy stated that God chose “the best of all possible worlds,” he also meant that God, being the perfection he is, chose the best world available to him, unfortunately it was a world containing evil. It seems as though Voltaire wanted to ridicule Leibniz’s philosophy so much that he chose to satirize only the literal meaning and fatal acceptance of evil of Leibniz’s philosophy.
To get his point across in Candide, Voltaire created the character Dr. Pangloss, an unconditional follower of Leibniz’s philosophy. Voltaire shows this early in the novel by stating, “He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause and that, in this best of all possible worlds….(16)” Pangloss goes on to say that everything had its purpose and things were made for the best. For example, the nose was created for the purpose of wearing spectacles (Voltaire 16). Because of his “great knowledge,” Candide, at this point a very naive and impressionable youth, regards Pangloss as the greatest philosopher in the world, a reverence that will soon be contradicted by contact with reality (Frautschi 75).
Essay on Voltaire’s Candide: Visualizing Perfection
Visualizing Perfection in Candide
“All is for the best…in the best of all possible worlds.” To picture greatness, perfection and brilliance all intertwined into one splendid world — a utopia, infers visualizing absolute beauty, harmony, and a universal tolerance amongst mankind. Would not such “perfection” designate the “best of all possible worlds?” How could we possibly conceive the sinister world portrayed in Candide to be conveyed as “utopia?” Since the best of all possible worlds indicates that “all is for the best” is it not safe to derive at the conclusion that since our world is clearly not “perfect” it is therefore implied that “all” is not for the best? Who determines the “right” from the “wrong,” the “beautiful” from the “hideous,” the “strong” from the weak?” How does one know if they are right? How does one ever know if they chose “correctly?” How does one allow themself to be infatuated with an idea as to blindly (correctly or incorrectly) follow it and believe? When do you question yourself? Doubt and “double-guess” yourself? Such correlating topics of an ambiguous solution are sought to be explained in Candide.
Voltaire’s masterpiece Candide recounts the journey of a young man as he ventures the world and faces reality, deals with it, is guided, transformed, and eventually defined by it. Voltaire’s story tells the tale of Candide as his character matures from the naivete of a child to the extensive temperament of a distinguished man.
Born and raised in the castle of the Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, in the land of Westphalia, Germany, Candide is firs…
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…n the best of possible worlds; for short, had you not been kicked out of a fine castle by the backside for the love of Miss Cunegund, had you not been put into the Inquisition, had you not traveled over America on foot, had you not run the Baron through the body, and had you not lost all your sheep which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts.”
Voltaire therefore exhibits both sides of the spectrum, Pangloss, the unchanging, and Candide the “developed.” These adventures broadened the horizons of Candide, and with him, the reader also undergoes many thought provoking dilemmas, cultivating himself in many of the same ways. This tale doesn’t flounder all hope of “perfection,” but it does present, in laymen’s terms the ideas behind Murphy’s Law.