The Importance Of Rationalism In Voltaire's Candide

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Ever since humans began to question the nature of things, the existence of evil in the world has been a debated topic. The Enlightenment era encompasses many different principles to explain this problem. The experiences of the horrific events of Europe in the 1700s affected Voltaire’s judgement on Gottfried Leibniz’s philosophy. Voltaire blatantly criticized the concept that a perfect God created the best world for us to live in, and that general misfortune creates general welfare. Despite being a philosophical tale, Voltaire uses his satiric skills in Candide to demonstrate through a sequence of despairs how speculative optimism is absurd and the only way to manage life is through rationalism.
At the beginning of the novel, Candide establishes
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After hearing the slave’s story, Candide cries, “Oh, Pangloss! This is an abomination you never dreamed of! It’s too much; I’ll have to give up your optimism at last” (73). He explains to Cacambo that optimism is an obsession toward believing that everything is alright even though everything is clearly wrong. Shortly after that incident, Candide is robbed by the slave’s master, Mynheer Vanderdendur. To grieve with his sufferings, Candide ultimately hires another philosopher, Martin, to replace Pangloss, and Martin explains his opinions of human nature. Both a pessimist and Manichean, Martin believes that the earth was created to “drive us mad” (80). He supports the idea that men have always been evil and horrible to one another and that no one is happy in this world. While Candide blames Vanderdendur’s behavior on “the Old World” (75), Martin makes it clear that evil is inherent in all people. Although Candide is now skeptical about optimism, he is not yet ready to accept Martin’s pessimism, but his experiences with the trickery and deceptions in Europe and his efforts to find happiness in Paquette and Brother Giroflée only fail him and further validate Martin’s concepts. The doubt that began with the slave is reinforced by Martin’s attitude, however, Candide is uncomfortable with Martin’s cynicism; thus, Candide searches for a new …show more content…
The whole group settles in cultivating their own garden without theorizing about any philosophy. While it takes the entire plotline for Candide to realize this idea, Cacambo has always been representative of rationalism. It is apparent that Cacambo never speaks about philosophy in the novel and he merely knows what needs to be done and sets about doing it. With this mindset, Cacambo has become a man of many talents- “a choir boy, a sexton, a sailor, a monk, a commercial agent, a soldier and a servant” (52). He is able to speak many languages, reason out of death with the Oreillons, and make the rational suggestion to send the baron back into slavery. As Ervin Beck argues, the success that Cacambo brings with him essentially makes him the true founder of the garden colony (Beck). Cacambo’s intelligence and moral virtue suggests that through reason and experience, humans can escape the corruption of

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