Candide is the character in a young man raised under a life sheltered from the difficulties and the unpleasant reality of the real world, in an Edenic castle where he is only exposed to a one sided reality of life. In this glorious environment he is introduced to the Leibnizian Optimistic philosophy of his mentor and teacher Pangloss. However later in life; Candide disagrees with Pangloss’ lifestyle and philosophy following the numerous painful experiences of hardship and encounters he meets, especially outside the castle life. The major theme of the encounters of the two is the conflict resulting from the absolute rejection of the optimistic philosophy of Pangloss; adoption and advocating for an enigmatic precept against the ‘all is for the best of all possible worlds’ view of Pangloss(Voltaire, 1991).
The main cause that led to Candide losing faith in Pangloss was the philosophical and religious theoretical conflict professed by Pangloss. The primary philosophy that resulted to the conflict that made Candide loose faith in Pangloss is the Leibnizian optimism; based on the occurrence of unending calamity. According to Pangloss; everything that takes place does for the best of all realizable good. One argument he gives to support his ideas is that things can not work out otherwise than they have always done, as everything is fashioned for some end and the best for that matter. As an example he argues that the nose is designed and fashioned for eyeglasses, and that it is the reason we wear them. As opposed to these views the questions leading to the conflict are whether the irredeemable evils in society like murder, rape, and crime; are for the best interest of the wellbeing of humanity. Candide further questions whether these societal ills play any role in ensuring the wellbeing and good of life. The conflict further raises the question as to whether there is any theological justification of such occurrences within the society (Voltaire, 1991).
The philosophical conflict is seen in the reaction developed against Pangloss’ first teachings of the account that ‘absurdity mix up cause and effect’. In these teachings against the views of Candide is that; everything is meant to be just the way it is as it is made and fashioned like that for some end, which is the best of all that could result from the order. As an example here he argues that a body part like the nose was designed for the best end of the role it plays when one wears glasses. But according to Candide’s views, the optimistic philosophy does not give an explanation for these ills and social evils that are witnessed in the society. Candide was exposed to these experiences of difficulty in life through witnessing peoples suffering and from the difficulties he underwent, after he was forced out of the Castle he grew up in (Voltaire, 1991).
The philosophical conflict between the two that eventually led to Candide loosing faith in Pangloss; was the flawed reasoning used by Pangloss to defend his Optimistic view. As an attempt to justify the evils in society he gives an example of syphilis and argues that, it exists to contaminate the source of generations creating chocolate and cochineal. Against the optimistic philosophy of Pangloss; Candide based on the occurrences and instances he witnesses happening to him and to others gives up to adopt a pessimistic view, as he is seen to support the feelings of that the hope for a better world is impossible. From other views of Candide it can also be argued that the melioristic philosophy is advocated for; as Candide is of the view that the good of humanity and society can only be achieved through metaphorical gardening of the society, to reflect the kind of occurrences desired while trying to avoid the undesirable ones (Voltaire, 1991).
Against the philosophy of Pangloss that the society is the ‘best of all possible worlds’ and that all is destined for the best; is questioned from the experiences Candide goes through that makes him question the reality of Pangloss’ ideas. One of these instances is the affair Candide engages Paquette in; making him get evicted from the castle. From Candide’s view the experience of falling in love with this girl was good but it turns out disastrous when it makes him get evicted from the comfort he was used to. Candide after the eviction he is captured and recruited into military service where he is lashed; almost executed and compelled to participate in a certain battle. From these experiences of war, flogging, death and execution Candide disapproves the teachings of Pangloss that all that happens does for the best of all human interest (Voltaire, 1991).
The conflict is further cemented when Candide meets Pangloss being a victim of Syphilis and beggar hood. Pangloss further explains to Candide that the castle had been destroyed by burglars leaving Cunegonde and her whole family dead. From all these experiences, the grief that comes with them and the unintended impact they yield; Candide concludes that the views of Optimism embraced by Pangloss were not realistic. He further concludes this when Pangloss the proponent of the Panglossian optimism looses his eye and ear, which he barely accepts as being for the best of interest. The dualism that Candide comes to associate with the real happenings of the world as opposed to the single sided view of the instances and events of life by Pangloss; also lead to the conflict of ideas and the consequent loss of faith in him. Candide points out that the dualisms that will always exist as a reality of life includes; pessimism against optimism as shown from the experience he had with the all pessimistic Martin; evil against good; and perception against the reality, which do not often conform. This dualism makes Candide question the real reason why the world was made like that; as opposed to the contented illusion of perfection in a world full of imperfect incidences and experiences. Candide also comes to a conclusion contrary to the illusions of Pangloss; that the past incidences and occurrences of conduct including the past in general, are reflected in the events of the present that include consequences, effects and reality acting as a mirror of the past in today (Voltaire, 1991).
Based on the experiences of Candide it is evident that Pangloss’ optimistic views do not work in real life; as can be seen from the time he is evicted from the castle everything that takes place proves not to be for the best and in all possible worlds. The experience of being captured, recruited into military service and forced to fight in a main war did not seem to be for the best of all interests. The cost that Pangloss has to bear so as to be healed of his disease which happens just after they meet again with Candide; to Candide does not seem to be in the best of all good for him. After the two start the journey to Lisbon, they are hit by misfortunes, which leave the ship they were using wrecked and Jacques drowned. This further act as evidence to Candide that everything does not happen for the best of all interest like Pangloss believed. On arriving at Lisbon, the experience Candide is exposed to is that of an Earthquake, a Tsunami and a fire which leaves thousands of people. From all these experiences the conviction and philosophy of pessimism is further strengthened in Candide; against the optimistic ideas of Pangloss (Voltaire, 1991).
Based on revolting to believe in the optimistic philosophy of Pangloss; Candide adapts a pessimistic view towards life based on which he believes that the situation in the world can not be corrected and one that amounts to disparity. However conflicting to the pessimistic views of Candide; an earthquake intervenes the execution Candide and Pangloss were awaiting after being arrested for heresy, allowing them to escape proving that the earthquake disaster may have been meant to play the role of bringing the good of letting them escape the execution. After his escape Candide is led by a woman to Cunegonde who he believed was dead; after which he encounters the people who had detained her freeing her after he kills them. After saving the women, the three moved to Buenos Aires where Candide is pursued for killing the grand inquisitor. After this attack Candide flees to an unknown destination; where he meets a commandant who happens to be Cunegondes brother that had been revived by the Jesuits. After the series of occurrences that were enough to make Candide despair fully in life having killed so many people and encountered many bad things; he arrives at a place he refers to as being one of serenity. In this land of serenity Candide is welcomed by virtually everyone including the king; who helps him start his adventure of going back to look for Cunegonde. From these experiences it is evident that the series of events disapprove the pessimistic view towards life that Candide had developed; as the uncertainties and unforeseen events turned out to be of great help to him (Voltaire, 1991).
The significance of the change and criticism leveled against the philosophies professed by Pangloss was that; the ideas due to the sharp wit and intuitive depiction of the human circumstances, have acted as a basis for the artistic works of other artist like Leonard Bernstein. The ideas of this book further acted as a source of a great scandal and success; as the ideas contained therein were critiqued and fought on the grounds that it portrayed political sedition, intellectual antagonism and religious blasphemy (Mackay, Hill, Buckler, Crowston, & Wiesner, 2008).
The significance of the work and the information contained in it is that, it helped level questions regarding the real world vices and experiences that the human race has been exposed to; to an extent that they start believing or imagining that they are always meant to be or from part of reality. From this, many of the ideas contained in this conflict of thoughts; force towards embracing reality with its negative and positive sides; and helps portray the levels of religious intolerance that thrived during that time. Other areas of question that the conflict of ideas addressed is the reality regarding European colonialism, which had been socialized to appear like a predestined way for life and an inevitable part of life. The other area of question was the issue of slavery which had formed the orientation of the then people, to make them understand it as a constituent aspect of life and not a vice (Mackay, Hill, Buckler, Crowston, & Wiesner, 2008).
The other area of significance covered by the conflicting ideas as opposed to the optimistic philosophy is that; it addressed through criticism the contagious areas of superstition, aristocracy, religion; the church’s abuse of power; the ungrounded concepts of God, and the unbecoming nature of the clergy (Mackay, Hill, Buckler, Crowston, & Wiesner, 2008).
Mackay, J., Hill, B., Buckler, J., Crowston, C. & Wiesner, M. (2008). A History of Western Society, (9th edition). Bedford Books. 45-67.
Voltaire. (1991). Candide, 2nd edition. W. W. Norton & Company. 12-54.