Critical Thinking (or Lack Thereof): The Nature of Thinking for Oneself in Voltaire's Candide College

Candide journeys through life with a childish naivete and shies away from making his own philosophical proclamations, often allowing others to do his thinking for him and serve as his surrogate brain. Instead of stepping back and truly pondering the world for himself, Candide is quick to accept Pangloss’ preposterous teachings and has great difficulty letting it go. Even when Candide is confronted with opportunities to rethink Pangloss’ doctrines, he still relies on others’ belief systems. While his attitude is pathetic, it is neither innocuous nor rare—far too often, people drift thoughtlessly through the world, attaching themselves to ideologies and ways of life without examining their reasons for doing so. What does it mean to think critically about the world and oneself, and why is Candide’s lack of analytical skill so dangerous? How is a lack of critical thinking manifested throughout the story and what might be the real-world implications?

Nearly every sentence Candide utters is prefaced with a reference to Pangloss and shaped around his tutor’s empty rhetoric, revealing Candide’s difficulty in letting go of his main lens of perceiving the world. Even when he begins to question Pangloss’ ideas that the world is in perfect...

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