Monday, August 23, 2010

Candide - Voltaire

Candide by Voltaire

In "Candide", Voltaire satirizes the idea of philosophical optimist, championed by philosophers like Gottfried Leibniz, who argued that at the point of creation, God had before him a choice of many possible worlds. God, in his infinite wisdom, necessarily chose to create the best of all possible worlds.

Through Candide's tribulations, Voltaire presents the reader with the many forms of evil and suffering in our world. He ridicules the notion that we live in the best of all possible worlds, illustrating plainly how individuals must endure unspeakable indignity in the course of their lives. Like Candide, we are forced to re-examine our personal philosophy of life when faced with evil.

What, then, is the cause of evil, original sin, or bad karma? Voltaire is not interested in that question. Instead, he focuses on the individual's response to evil, as he advocates a practical, pragmatic way of looking at life, one that is not caught up in "metaphysico-thelogo-cosmolonigology" ( la métaphysico-théologo-cosmolonigologie ) or needless philosophizing. The value of life is in the living. Only when Candide realizes this fact does he arrive at a state of emotional equilibrium.

Beneath its absurdist veneer, Voltaire's "Candide" masks a great deal of philosophical thought, which makes you stop and ponder.


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