Man's Purpose in Candide

One of the primary objectives of the Enlightenment was to promote reason and rationalism as a method of achieving social and political reform. However, Voltaire, a powerful and renowned philosopher and writer during the period, often criticized particular aspects of Enlightment philosophy. In his short novel Candide, Voltaire rather sharply attacks the optimism that was so popular among philosophers such as Leibnitz, choosing instead not to ignore the pervasive presence of natural and human evil. In this work, the main character, Candide, undergoes drastic changes in thought and maturity. By the conclusion of Candide’s geographical and philosophical journey, it is apparent that Voltaire wished to stress that man’s purpose is not to idly speculate about philosophy. Rather, man should become an active member of a more realistic world that is better suited to his natural oscillation within physical and psychological states.

It becomes evident early in the work that Voltaire wishes to promote both material and mental independence within the individual: a task that can usually be achieved through travel. The novel itself is based entirely on a dynamic and complex journey undertaken by Candide, as well as portions of the paths taken...

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