Pangloss Optimism Analysis

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Pangloss is meant not to attack Leibnitz, but rather optimism as a philosophy. Thus the reader cannot forget that all of Pangloss 's ramblings in some way represent an often-humorous characterization of the "typical" optimist, or Leibnitz follower. Pangloss, writes Voltaire, "Proved admirably that there cannot possibly be an effect without a cause, and that in this best of all possible worlds the Baron 's castle was the most beautiful of all castles and his wife the best of all possible baronesses" (319). Thus Voltaire establishes Pangloss as the champion of optimism. Yet just as quickly, Voltaire points out the absurdity of this doctrine. "Observe," says Pangloss, seeking to demonstrate that everything has a cause and effect, "noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles. Legs, as anyone can plainly see, were made to be breeched, and so we have breeches" (319). The sheer stupidity of these illogical conclusions will likely put a smile on the reader 's face, and points out Voltaire 's problem with most Optimists: the illogical degree to which they would carry their doctrine. Voltaire would argue that noses were not designed for spectacles, but rather spectacles were designed for preexisting noses. Pangloss 's interpretation of cause and effect (and via proxy, all Optimists)…show more content…
The Lisbon earthquake and resulting fire in 1755 led Voltaire to attack optimism with a renewed vigor. The earthquake, which "wiped out three quarters of Lisbon," killed 20,000. In seeking to explain this phenomenon, Pangloss attempts to console victims by proving that things could not be otherwise. "For, said he, all this is for the best, since if there is a volcano at Lisbon, it cannot be somewhere else, since it is unthinkable that things should not be where they are, since everything is well" (326). This complete nonsense does nothing to console the people of Lisbon; Voltaire indirectly makes his point that optimism, as spouted by most, is complete philosophical

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