Enlightened Absolutism and the Value of Voltaire’s “Tending One’s Own Garden” Metaphor in Candide College

Familiarizing oneself with philosophical ideas of 18th century Europe means understanding the ways in which writers during this time dealt with the unique philosophical problems - social, political, scientific and religious - of the Enlightenment period. In the writings of Voltaire, one of the most vocal and adamant reformist philosophers of the Enlightenment era, the story of Candide stands out as emblematic of changes to philosophy, unique to the 18th century. Published in 1759, Candide belongs to the format of the philosophical novel. In it, Voltaire parodies the gradual disillusionment of the main character, Candide, who signifies an emerging rejection of optimism - notable in the work of Leibniz - in a quickly moving plot that trace’s the main characters struggle with events, such as the Seven Years War, as well as natural disasters, like the devastating earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755. It also deals head on with what is known in philosophical discourse as “the problem of evil,” developed well before the Enlightenment, by religious scholars and theologians such as Augustine, which positions Atheism as a plausible explanation for the qualitative existence of evil in the world.

In terms of politics, the character of...

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