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Essay on Voltaire's Candide - Voltaire's Opposition to Optimism

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Voltaire’s Opposition to Optimism in Candide


Philosophy is a means by which humans search for a general understanding of the world and its concepts. Through experience, thought, and observation, one can arrive at a conclusion that forms the basis of his ideas. However, if one simply thinks and does not act, this conclusion does not make any significant difference on his life. This is a major point that Voltaire tries to make in Candide. He is trying to change society by demonstrating the absurdity of optimism. Voltaire attacks optimism by pointing out the evils of the world, criticizing actual people and events of the time, and criticizing Pangloss' philosophy.

In Candide, Voltaire often criticizes war, denial, and religious views. He opposed violence and this is evident in many situations in Candide. For example, he used the war of the Bulgarians and the Abarians to point out the pointlessness of war. He believed that optimism was unnecessary and unjustified. If this were the best of all possible worlds, war would not have a purpose. Voltaire believed that God created the world and simply left it alone. Therefore, evil is inevitable because human nature leads people to perform evil actions. Voltaire strongly condemns "optimistic theories, for him they deny reality." (Juan Zerolo) Voltaire does not believe that by saying something, it will come true. Therefore, denying the existence of evil is not logical and does not amount to any greater good. Voltaire also denounced other's religious beliefs and intolerance. He criticized the belief that the world is in its best state because a higher being created it from the best of all possible worlds. He did not appeal to the corruption of the church, whi...


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...g impractical goals on people who have demonstrated that they will never obtain them. This will only end in unhappiness and disappointment. These people have shown that there is a slim chance that their behavior will drastically change to reflect the goals imposed on them.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bottiglia, William. "Candide's Garden." Voltaire: A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Frautschi, R.L. Barron's Simplified Approach to Voltaire: Candide. New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1968.

Jonas, Eric, from: http://www.ericjonas.com/ Accessed via the Internet 2/25/03

Kahn, Ludwig W. Voltaire. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.

Voltaire. Candide. New York: Viking Publishers, 1998.

Zerolo,Juan. Voltaire's Candide and the Critics. California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.



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