Optimism In The Novel 'Candide' By Voltaire

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Candide by Voltaire is one of the most well-known satirical pieces written. The novel takes the Protagonist Candide on a series of adventures that questions the accepted theory of “Philosophical Optimism” during the 18th century. Philosophical Optimism was created by a philosopher named Gottfried Leibniz, and is defined as waiting for the good to come out of a disaster or a bad situation. Many people during the enlightenment era came to accept this theory because it provided reasoning to many disasters that occurred in the 18th century. Unlike many during his time period, Voltaire chose not to accept this theory,instead he used his disapproval to write Candide, which criticizes philosophical optimism. In Voltaire’s novel Candide, he uses many…show more content…
As the book progresses Voltaire continues to point out the foolishness and absurdity of philosophical optimism.
The attack on the philosophy “all is for the best” is present throughout the novel. The earthquake at Lisbon is one of the first places Voltaire attacks. During Candide’s travels we learn the earthquake at Lisbon wiped out “Thirty thousand inhabitants of all ages and sexes were crushed under ruins”(Voltaire 20). Trying to explain this phenomenon, Pangloss attempts to offer reason for the earthquake by saying “all is for the best. If there is a volcano at Lisbon it can not be elsewhere... for everything is right.”(Voltaire 20).Voltaire is using satire to attack philosophical optimism by having a horrible disaster occur in what he claims to be the best of all
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Pangloss justifies the Anabaptist death by saying”the bay of Lisbon was made on purpose for the Anabaptist to be drowned”.(Voltaire 19). Voltaire is attacking philosophical optimism through the character of the Anabaptist because he shows how absurd Pangloss thinking was. We as the readers know that Pangloss reasons for not saving the Anabaptist is illogical and doesn't make sense. Voltaire uses Pangloss’s ignorance to show how absurd philosophers were during his time period.Voltaire expands on Pangloss’s ignorance,using some absurd logic to explain how he contracted syphilis. Pangloss recalls he contracted the disease from Paquette(A prostitute), and this was a” necessary evil” in order for the continent of Europe to obtain chocolate and Cochineal. Even after Pangloss has lost one of his eye,and an ear from syphilis, he still claims that “all is for the best” because the Anabaptist gives him a job as a bookkeeper. Pangloss continued optimism is significant because it show the extreme lengths philosopher went through to prove Gottfried Leibniz theory correct.Pangloss’s philosophy has served as a guided for Candide up until he meets Cacambo. When Candide first meets Cacambo, Cacambo says he was sold into slavery as a young child, and as punishment he had one of his leg and arm chopped off. Voltaire uses Cacambo’s interesting backstory to attack philosophical optimism because
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