Born november 21st 1694, Francois Marie Arouet eventually changed his name to the well known philosopher, Voltaire. Voltaire was a philosopher in the age of enlightenment, who was well known for famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and separation of church. One of Voltaire’s best works, Candide, would eventually be published in 1759.
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In the 1750’s, Voltaire had already become outraged by the injustice and havoc around him. What influenced his work of the Candide was the catastrophic earthquake in Lisbon, in 1755, killing 60,000 people and destroying much of the city. Voltaire ended up writing a poem about it. The Seven Years’ War was present when he was writing book, which he criticized for the many lives lost, and for there being no reason present. Voltaire created a estate just over the Swiss border in a village called Ferney, where he can stay away from authority. There is where he wrote his famous book, Candide.
Candide demonstrates Voltaire’s loathing of the Church and the egotism of the nobility, along with opprobrium towards optimism that struggles to surmount the idea of using rationalism. The novel begins with the young boy Candide who was taught by his optimistic teacher, Pangloss. Pangloss claims that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds”. Throughout the novel Candide goes through many hardships such as earthquakes, war, rape, theft, hanging, shipwrecks, cannibalism and slavery. These experiences would weaken Candide’s optimistic beliefs. In the novel Voltaire’s reveals that if we looked clearly at the world around us, we’d see that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds after all. Rather, we live in a world that can actually be improved. This idea of rationalism and that we can improve the world around us was a common philosopher concept throughout the enlightenment. Another important philosophy is the faith in the power of human reason and equality between men which is best displayed by the garden in the end of the story. In addition Candide critiques almost all powerful institutions at the time.
Characters like the Grand Inquisitor, the Bulgarian Captain, and the haughty Young Baron showcase the prejudice and irrationality of the powerful leaderships at the time. In addition he criticizes Leibniz and Pope Alexander, who both were optimistic with religion, and relied on religion to explain things. During the enlightenment it wasn’t uncommon to criticize the church and because Voltaire did just this he consequently showcases ideas brought by the enlightenment. Throughout Candide Voltaire displays enlightenment ideas, which at times he criticizes, and demonstrates his own philosophical beliefs.
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