The Irony in Optimism College

Voltaire’s Candideis a critical satire, focusing on the Age of Enlightnement and its central themes, including reason, philosophy, and theology. He specifically critiques optimistic philosophy, which argues that this world is the best of all possible worlds, famously expounded by Gottfried Leibnitz. The novel itself depicts the adventures, or perhaps misadventures, of a young boy named Candide. Early in his life, Candide is subjected to the optimistic philosophical teachings of Pangloss. Candide’s tendency towards blind faith leaves him susceptible to the teachings of Pangloss. As a result, Candide initially agrees with Pangloss that the world he lives in is the best of all possible worlds. Yet, as Candide travels through the world with a sense of hope and optimism, he is face with perpetual violence, horror, and anguish. Through his adventures, Voltaire exaggerates the existence of evil within the world, in order to undermine the claim that this world is the best of all possible worlds. The work is a satirical exaggeration of the absurdity of subscribing to an optimistic philosophy, in which one regards this world as one of pre-established harmony. In this paper, I will argue that Voltaire’s Candide is a carefully calculated...

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