Analysis Of Voltaire's Philosophy In Candide

1213 words - 5 pages

In Candide, Voltaire uses sarcasm to explain his viewpoint of "reason plus action". His philosophy is that it is not enough simply to believe in certain values and morals, but it is more important that the actions a person takes reflect those beliefs accurately. In addition, Voltaire argues that life experience is necessary to the function of reason, meaning that the more experiences someone has had in their life, the more knowledge they will have, and the more accurate that knowledge will be. These principles can still be applied to life today, because what good are beliefs if they are never exercised?In the beginning of the novel, we see Voltaire's beliefs expressed through Candide, a young, naïve man whose sole knowledge comes from that of Dr. Pangloss. Pangloss is a philosopher who believes that "everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds" (319). Without much experience living outside the Baron's castle in Westphalia, Candide has no other choice but to believe his philosopher and his stories. The reader can immediately see that Voltaire is mocking other philosophers of this era because Pangloss' ideals reek with sarcasm. However, no matter how ridiculous Pangloss' truths seem (i.e.: "noses were made to support spectacles, hence, we have spectacles" [319]) Candide believed them until he had enough life experience to have reason to think otherwise. This supports Voltaire's opinion thatJohnson 2knowledge is not based on stories or philosophies, but rather on actions and experience.Voltaire exhibits his belief that life experiences help to gain knowledge through the old woman and her story. In chapters 11 and 12, the old woman explains to Candide and Cunègonde the horrors that she has experienced in her life. Her story helps to shape Candide's view of life, and helps persuade him to change his way of thinking. She does not pity Candide or Cunègonde for their misfortunes, nor does she try to find an explanation for their adversity, but instead, claims that that is just how life is. She argues that of the sailors on their ship: "if you find a single one who...has not often told himself that he is the most miserable of me, then you may throw me overboard" (337). Her outlook on life was that people spend too much time feeling sorry for themselves, when they should be thankful that they probably have it better than the man next to them. After all the suffering that the old woman has gone through, she is still able to able to appreciate her life. Unlike Pangloss, whose philosophy on life was based on what he thought, the old woman's philosophy on life was based on life experience and things that had actually happened to her. She was still an optimistic, however, because she believed that there is always someone who has it worse than you do.It is not until Candide meets Martin that he sees the true outlook of the pessimist. Martin represents the negative side to Voltaire'sJohnson 3philosophy, because his life...

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