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Voltaire Exposes the Fallacy of Optimism in Candide Essay

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Voltaire was the French author of the novella Candide, also known as "Optimism" (Durant and Durant 724). Famous as a playwright and essayist, Voltaire’s Candide is the book where he tries to point out the fallacy of Gottfried William von Leibniz's theory of Optimism. He uses satire, and techniques of exaggeration to 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 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.

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...ell. When Candide is reunited with both he realizes that he was
right not to lose hope. In essence, it was Candide's optimism that keeps him from a state
of total dejection, maintaining his sanity during troubled times. Candide eventually
achieves happiness with his friends in their simple, yet full, lives. The book's ending
affirms Voltaire's moral that one must work to attain satisfaction. Work helps Candide
overcome his tragedies and enables him to live peacefully and in contentment. The
message of Candide is: "Don't rationalize, but work; Don't utopianize, but improve. We
must cultivate our own garden, for no one is going to do it for us" (Richter 161).


Works Cited

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

Richter, Peyton. Voltaire. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.


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