|Alvin Huang No.24 IEP12
Philosophical optimism in Candide
Mr. De Groof
Grade 12 English Literature
In Candide, Voltaire bestows Candide pure, innocent and candid natures. Hence, once when Pangloss quotes “since everything was made fror a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose,” (ch1, p.16) which is fundamental idea throughout the play, Candide chooses to adopt it with curiosity and has since believed in optimism. In his little inexperienced mind, Candide considers the world is always good until the slave in chapter 19 tells Cacambo and Candide the brutality of the world. Meanwhile, Candide changes his optimism thought that god will provide the best conditions to the world to pessimistic view. At the end, Candide, who is not as candid as before, suspects Pangloss’s optimism theory. Eventually, Pangloss admits that the statement “since everything was made fror a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose” (ch1, p.16) is false.
Though perceiving optimism, Candide experienced numerous incidents showing the worst side of the world. In chapter 3, by using Leibniz’s idea “sufficient reason,” Candide considers the cause of thousands of deaths in military maintains some logical reasons. "All things are necessarily connected and arranged for the best. I had to be driven away from Cunegonde, I had to run the gauntlet, and I have to beg my bread until I can earn it; all that could not have been otherwise."(ch3, p.21) In this phrase, Candide ignores the horrible cases he suffers, but thinks that even the bad event is planned by the god who always tries to make the world best. Moreover, Candide may conclude “the more people suffer, the better things are” (BOOKRAGS) with his extremely optimistic view seeped by Pangloss in chapter 4. In chapter 5, both Candide and Pangloss are caught in danger by earthquake. “For all that is for the best. If there is a volcano at Lisbon it cannot be elsewhere. It is impossible that things should be other than they are; for everything is right.” (ch5, p27) Pangloss claims that the god has already scheduled the incidents well, and there is only one way to make the events happen, which is the intact plan. At the desperate moment, Pangloss’s theory, “since everything was made fror a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose,” was again contradicted since people and the world cannot do anything but pending for more painful moment, which is still defined as philosophical optimism. After it, Voltaire mentions the Fall, which describes the free will of Adam and Eve, penalized due to owning freedom. By analyzing the story, Voltaire mocks Pangloss’s idea and logic “without free will, original sin could not have existed,” (BOOKRAGS) contradicting to Pangloss’s optimism idea because the best quality of world should not exist the word sin, which includes the aroma of tragedy and pessimism. In chapter 11 and 12, the woman explains her apprehending experience; she was raped, suffering plague, witnessing people die, enslaved, beat by the nobleman and even tried to commit suicide many times. She states “In the countries where fate has led me, and in the inns where I’ve worked, I’ve seen vast numbers of people who loathed their lives.” (ch12, p.45) Despite the horrible incidents she experienced, she still appreciates the life. Therefore, she concludes that the qualification of living is to live with madness, contradicting optimism, which the god ought to make human life the best, instead of creating suffering situations. After listening to the woman’s life story, Candide begins questioning Pangloss’s optimistic theory. However, in chapter 17, Candide and Cacambo arrive in El Dorado, which is also recognized as utopia in modern term. In El Dorado, the government provides everything to people. Every citizen owns infinitely valuable things, right and free devotion of science and philosophy. At that moment, Candide is glad because he finally finds the place that matches “since everything was made fror a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose.” (ch1, p.16) But in Pangloss’s view, the military, the earthquake, the woman’s experience and monkey killing are more like the instances that are the best of all possible world. Therefore, logically, El Dorado should not be considered the instance of philosophical optimism because it is cataloged in different field when compared to those Candide experienced before. With Leibniz’s theory provided, El Dorado can still be developed, not the flawless region. Hence, the contradictory persuades that “since everything was made fror a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose” (ch1, p.16) becomes a more suspicious statement. In chapter 19, Candide starts to consider that he just tried to imagine all the worst things as the best things. Unsurprisingly, both when Candide and Martin visit France and England, Martin states “There are some where half the population is mad, others where the people are too crafty, others where they’re generally rather gentle and rather stupid, others where they pride themselves on their wit; and in every province the chief occupations, in order of importance, are love-making, malicious gossip and talking nonsense.” (ch21, p.74-p.75) After meeting some sneaky trickery, Candide fathoms the world is filled with dangers and the philosophical optimism does not exist in the world he is in. Furthermore, Martin’s reiterating words, “Your hanged philosopher was an arrogant jester,” said Martin, “Your shadows are actually horrible blemishes.” (ch22, p.82) deeply impress Candide, changing his view of world to much more pessimistic immediately. But still, to Candide, there is still little hope for him to regain the feeling of philosophical optimism, “In that case, I’ll be the only happy man in the world, when I see Lady Cunegonde again.” (ch25, p.97) In these sincere words, Candide stresses only in his sayings, indicating that there is no man living in happiness, echoing the woman in chapter 12, who has ever concluded that the qualification of living is to live with madness. In fact, in chapter 27, Candide becomes thoroughly pessimistic after he saw Cacambo’s loss of huge amount of money and the ugly appearance of Cunegonde, who tries to pursue Turkish Prince by gaining some additional benefits. These things truly show the inconsistency in philosophical optimism from the very beginning of the story that “since everything was made fror a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose.” (ch1, p.16) At the end, Candide is well-experienced and confident enough to retort Pangloss’s philosophical optimism. Observing Candide’s differences, Pangloss admits that “since everything was made fror a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose” (ch1, p.16) is no longer existed, becoming the largest contradiction of the whole play.
In Candide, Pangloss defines philosophical optimism initially, which does not exist in the world. After moving places to places, Candide fathoms how the real world system works and therefore refutes Philosophical optimism. Hence, Pangloss is the representation of the philosophical optimism since he defines it as “since everything was made fror a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose.” (ch1, p.16) However, Candide is the best emblem of the whole philosophy, which includes the optimism, pessimism, and experiences. After experiencing shocking journeys, as Seneca had ever said “Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body,” (Pangloss.com) Candide finally has his own idea and the ability of independently critical thinking. He changes his mind status from holistically optimistic to completely pessimistic by experiencing several frustrations. Consequently, Candide becomes the true delegate of the whole philosophical play. Through Candide’s experience, Voltaire possibly intends to not only mock the idea of philosophical optimism, but also conclude that the more experience the one has, the more pessimistic view the one holds, and, “since everything was made fror a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose” (ch1, p.16) will be removed from one’s unpurified mind gradually.