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Essay about The Pitfalls of Philosophical Absolutes in Voltaire's Candide

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As a novel which ingeniously skewers the fashionable misinterpretation of doctrinal optimism, Candide succeeds in disgusting, amusing and surprising its audience. With unending bounds of irony and sarcasm, Candide thrusts us into a world where we meet numerous characters that endure rather exaggerated misfortune. As a result, we see several doctrinal beliefs, such as that of Pangloss and Martin. Pangloss, Candide’s mentor and philosopher, is a man of optimistic sentiment. Maintaining the belief that all is for the best in this “best of all possible worlds” (1.4), Pangloss is later found to be rather fool headed in his complacency. In a stark opposite to our rather sanguine philosopher, we come across Martin, a well traveled and experienced scholar who holds stock in extreme pessimism. Though a more honest rendition of Candide’s philosopher, Martin’s unenthusiastic outlook on the world doesn’t consistently serve him right. As can be seen throughout the text, both doctrines of thinking contain imperfections, due to the extremities that they are pushed. Rather than mold to dogmatic declarations based on generalizations, it is beneficial to adopt a flexible philosophy so that a reasonable and less erroneous stance can be taken.

Throughout this novel we witness the naïve protagonist Candide, and later on his mentor Pangloss, venture into a world of horrors. Holding close to his mentor’s beliefs, Candide’s innocent nature and mentality fail to realize the wrongheadedness of Pangloss’s optimistic and causal philosophy. Having been ravaged by syphilis, nearly hanged, dissected and incarcerated, Pangloss’s doctrine is spearheaded with overwhelming evidence from the real world, though to it he remains true. In the midst of incredible co...


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...ide’s once faithful friend will have changed motives and will most certainly deceive him. Yet Cacambo’s unbending honestly to Candide succeeds in defying Martin’s pessimistic doctrine.

Because of Pangloss and Martin’s closed-minded philosophies, an overabundance of indifference and irrationality were allowed to spew forth. Absolute optimism and absolute pessimism both fall into the category of dogmatic assertions based on concepts which aren’t meant to be rigid. Rather than admit no exceptions, it is important to carry a flexible philosophy based on real evidence. In holding an absolute belief, Pangloss and Martin believed in something that encouraged them toward a lackadaisically skewed outlook. In this novel, rigid philosophical speculation repeatedly proves to be useless and destructive, an important point Voltaire was trying to make through satirical means.


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