Examples Of Optimism In The Age Of Enlightenment

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The Age of Enlightenment was a period of tremendous intellectual changes. The rational ideas of the Scientific Revolution several decades prior led Enlightenment thinkers to have new perspectives on humanity. Philosophers all across Europe worked to complete their worldviews, many of which were directly incompatible with one another. As such, people would attempt to further their own philosophical agenda through various media. An example was Voltaire’s 1759 satirical novel Candide, in which he repeatedly criticized a rival view through the character Pangloss. Pangloss was an advocate for philosophical optimism, a view in which “everything is for the best” (356). Voltaire began to attack this idea subtly in a single passage near the beginning of the text. It showed argumentative skill, successfully dismantled the opposition’s claims, and revealed information about the author’s circumstances, beginning with the character’s personal situation. Pangloss resided in a Baron’s castle in Germany, where he and his acquaintances lived in relative peace and seclusion. According to the narrative, he was an expert in metaphysico-theologico-cosmoloonigology, a clearly fictional and …show more content…
It was likely based on the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment itself. One of the prominent ideas of the era was that the human condition could be improved through human actions, without intervention by a higher power. Voltaire was a strong critic of the authority of the Church and a proponent of reason, and probably supported this idea strongly. Philosophical optimism, which implied humans could do nothing to change the course of history, was in direct contradiction to it. Thus, by attacking optimism, Voltaire supported the Enlightenment, indirectly threatened the power of the Church, and furthered his own philosophical

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