4/13/2012

How does Voltaire make use of the literary particularities of the tale in his philosophical arguments against optimism and for reason?

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Why did Voltaire chose to use the format of a tale to present the story of Candide, why did he chose to use a tale to present his ideas of the world, how he perceive the world as true love does not conquer and religion will not save you, more precisely to say is that true happiness of the heart can only be fulfilled when one can ignore all the worldly desires and troubles, to be totally settle down to cultivate the fulfillment in mind through simplicity? A tale by definition is a malicious story, piece of gossip, or petty complaint; a deliberate lie; a falsehood; a narrative of real or imaginary events; a story. (American heritage dictionary) These definitions seems to fit into Voltaire’s idea to present Candide more like a comic story then as a real life situation, due to the fact that the characters in the story had all went through many deaths and miraculously escaped from the misfortune and came back to life. All the seemingly impossible adventures of Candide in the tale were creations of Voltaire’s fantasy and thus contributed to this malicious story or so called a deliberate lie as El Dorado is only a creation in the mind. The world where Candide had lived in is only a lie and the final peace in mind and harmony which they were able to obtain can never be achieved through modern live and thus all these fancies on a perfect world of Voltaire’s are just a tale to be told, or imagination went wild.


The attack on optimism was vulgar, he had not missed a single chance to criticize on Pangloss’s philosophy of ‘all is for the good’ and he was so satirical that the readers start to laugh at Pangloss’s nonsense of such philosophy.


“‘It is demonstrable,’ said he, ‘that things cannot be otherwise than they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end.’” (Candide 11)


Evcn Candide, his student started to question about the theory and at the end Pangloss himself didn’t believe it anymore but he had to insist on it as he’s a philosopher.


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‘Well, my dear Pangloss,’said Candide to him, ‘when you were hanged, dissected, whipped, and tugging at the oar, did you continue to think that every thing in this world happens for the best?’


‘I have always abided by my first opinion for after all, I am a philosopher; and it will not become me to retract my sentiments; especially, as Leibnitz could not be in the wrong; and that pre-established harmony is the finest thing in the world, as well as the plenum and the materia subtilis’ (Candide 7)


Voltaire seemed to believe that nothing is for the good and all happens happened for reason from the cause rather for the good. He was highly influenced by the Enlightenment movement and thus believed the use of reason rather than just faith in religion or another formally accepted traditions or doctrines. This is the main reason Voltaire tried to oppose the blinding optimism Pangloss had taught Candide. The pure influence exercised by Candide’s example showed that ‘pre-established harmony’ or these embedded doctrine can be harmful to a person’s common sense and judgment, thus enrooted the perspective of one; like Candide always follow the optimism theory rooted in his mind. The attack to this type of thinking that does not involve personal computation but rather the taught optimism to explain all had happened was detested by Voltaire. He detested all those old ways that people do not think for the reason, rather accept the fact in a passive way.


All those in Voltaire’s era were taught that imperfections occurred because people do not understand God’s plan as God must be perfect and will make the perfect world and decisions. Thus all happened must be for the best, however, Voltaire being a deist, doesn’t accept that any God has to exist and thus protest this idea through out the story. From the sufferings of Pangloss and his student Candide that are optimistic on every issue, they had been flogged, witnessed rapes, been robbed, was unjustly executed, caught diseases, experienced earthquake, been betrayed and all the other horrors. He showed them that these were unnecessary sufferings and witnessing and experiencing them were just to prove to them that not everything happens for good and wished to alter the stubbornness of the two. However Pangloss struggles till the end to prove that these are happened for good and Candide had given it up when he saw the suffering of the slave, the inhumanity and the indifference of the natural world.


Voltaire proceed his arguments on optimism by attacking it’s validity as what had been taught by Pangloss were all philosophical ideas that was generated in one’s mind and has never been proved with real life examples. On the contrary, all the real world evidence in the tale seemed to be going the exact opposite way from the theory Pangloss preached. The nonsense that Pangloss was engaged in had led to costs of live and resulted in a destructive way to treat the rest around him. These foolish optimism eliminate the common sense of a person or we may say had taken over a person’s common sense and became the direct reasoning to all the surroundings. One can no longer function as a reasonable person and this is what Voltaire was trying to bring out that these foolish old believes had corrupted our minds and disabled us from reasoning. Voltaire was trying to implant the idea of reasoning to his readers and to bring out this idea of reasoning to the rest through the foolishness of the optimists. The message is clear here, we should always use reasoning to explain things rather use believes or past-doctrine that would only make matters worse.


The perfect example for the foolishness being demonstrated was when Jacques was drowning, Pangloss had prevented Candide to save him because he believed that ‘by proving that the bay of Lisbon had been formed expressly for this Anabaptist to drown in.’( Candide) This just showed how foolish Pangloss had been, for the glory of sticking to his theory to prove to the world that he’s right, he doesn’t even care about one’s life. The precious human life that should have worth more than anything, and would have been saved if not the optimism idea was invented.


Voltaire tried all he can to protest against pure optimism, through out the tale he used all the sufferings and experiences to prove that without reason, there left only wrong doings and thus to warn us, he kept reminding us through Pangloss’s favorite ‘best of all possible worlds’ as an irony to what his message of reasoning should be the way to think, and by accounting real world evidence in order to understand the surroundings.


The elements of a tale were exercised fully to illustrate the imaginary adventures of the characters and through the usage of a tale. For only a tale can be as dramatic as what had happened to each of the characters, their sufferings and experiences were just intolerable by normal human beings, however, we would certainly accept them as it was a tale, and we will allow the space for imagination to flow. Voltaire had carefully chosen the medium to bring out his message and was successful introduced as Candide was view as one of his most celebrated works. His arguments against optimism and to reason were widely recognized through Candide and thus a success for the choice.


Bibliography


Works Cited


The American Heritage Dictionary


http//education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entries/10/e0151000.html


Wilkie and Hurt. Literature of the Western World. Volume II New Jersey Prentice Hall 001


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