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Candied, ou l'Optimisme is a French publication published for the first time in 1759 by the philosopher Soltaire. This book has had many translations such as that to English such as The Optimist, Candide and All for the Best. The book depicts Candide existing with a life sheltered in the biblical Edenic garden which is inspired by his mentor Pangloss. His mentor got his doctrines from Leibnizian optimism. Gottfried Leibniz harbored views that the world having been made by an all knowing and all powerful God, were supposed to be flawless and apparent flaws that were witnessed in it could be seen in all possible worlds. This is what was termed as theodicy and optimism. He and solitaire existed during the enlightenment age. He seeks to account for the world’s imperfections. Gottfried Leibniz was a religious and conservative philosopher whose philosophy was deep rooted in religion.

During this enlightenment age in the 17th and 18th century, philosophers  such as Isaac Newton, Voltaire and Gottfried Leibniz seek to challenge the traditional believes and faith with reason and intellect  especially science skepticism. This saw science overturn most traditional fallacies.

Voltaire was inspired by historical event to write this book most profoundly by the publication of Gottfried Leibniz’s Monadology which seeks to explain mind-body dualism. Other causes of inspiration were the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and the seven years war. These two are frequently mentioned in his book. The seven years’ war happened between 1756-1763 in Europe, north and Central America, North Africa, Philippines and India.  This was chiefly of strong empires fighting over empires and trade. This war is known by many other names in different regions. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake also referred to as the great Lisbon earthquake happened on 1st November 1755 on a Saturday at about 9:40 local time. This earthquake coupled with resultant fires brought the death toll from ten thousand to about a hundred thousand in Lisbon not to mention the total devastation of Lisbon making it one of the most devastating earthquakes in history.

These tragedies frustrated Portugal’s ambitions in so far as colonialism was concerned.  Particularly the earthquake happening on All Saints day drew so much attention from the philosophers and especially the theodicists who were disillusioned by then. This theory had the concept ’all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. ’It is after these disasters that Voltaire writes his book and viciously attacks the theory of optimism citing that if the world is to be viewed as flawless surely it ought to have been much better than it was. Therefore, Voltaire primarily writes to challenge the theory of optimism that suggested that humanity existed in the best possible ‘perfect’ world.

Summary of the book

The story begins in Westphalia where a young man Candide flees in the company of others. The book tells of their problems. At the time Candide is a student of Pangloss who is painted as a great philosopher of the Holy Roman Empire. The book states that distress is the order of the world as well and contrary to theodicy and optimism theory.  Candide was brought up in a magnificent castle but later expelled from it. He lives with the Bulgarians shortly before he escapes from them. It is after his escape that Candide meets his old master Pangloss. It is Pangloss that lectures Candide on optimism and theodicy.

Later in the book Candide together with Pangloss experience a ship wreck and a devastating earthquake. The Portuguese take measures to prevent another earthquake, and at some point Candide is publicly whipped. The old lady takes care of Candide. Later in the book, he meets his love Cunegonde. Candide is however separated from her, and the old lady and he moves all over the world and later is united with her. During his tour tragedy after tragedy befalls him and of course those accompanying him. These are the things that make him question his masters’ theory of optimism. These problems include conscription into the army, the Lisbon earthquake, a Portugal inquisition that hangs Pangloss, the prostitution of his lover and the El Dorado discovery.

Eventually Candide no longer desires to marry his beloved Cunegonde as a result of prostitution although due to circumstances he does. He finally realizes that in the world harmony was elusive. However even after going through so much his mentor Pangloss foolishly and adamantly so refuses to drop his optimistic views

Historical importance of Candide

The historical importance of this book is invariable. It is for this reason that this book still remains with us even after years of its publishing. Firstly having been published during the historical age, the book helps show the transition from traditional views to the scientific skeptical way of looking at things. This is because the age of enlightment seeks justice, tolerance, freedom and truth among other things.

Clearly Voltaire writes this book challenging the optimisms’ views of a flawless world by drawing attention to the fact that the daily happenings depicted otherwise. Most importantly he uses historical events such as the Seven Years’ War and the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. He baffles at how the optimists coupled depict the world as flawless while such a calamity would actually happen on a day like all saints day. The seven years’ war is not a fictional part. The war actually occurred making this book historically relevant by using coincidence of putting fictional characters in historical events

Voltaire satires religion on many occasions in this book which at some point causes the church to outrageously criticize his book. This makes history as many philosophers’ views have contradicted religion as well setting a certain trend. There were those philosophers in history that had their philosophies deep rooted in history and those who obviously were not such as Voltaire. It is for this reason that he down in history as a philosopher during the enlighten age who challenged the theodicy and optimism theories

Conclusion

This book remains relevant to readers today. Arguably if it was not it could be long gone from library shelves. The styles used in this book are many but satire profoundly stands out. This is because the book is primarily written to disapprove the theodicy and optimism theory. Voltaire looks at this as a fallacy in a highly satirical way. For instance the part where Candide muses over the reason why the world was made after going through a lot of problems and martin answers him that it was made to drive them mad. This satires the theory that the world was made by an all powerful and an all knowing God and thus was flawless.

The book also employs humor. When Candide arrives in England he asks if England has many fools as there are in France and he is told there are as many but in a different manner and shortly after the book talks of a being punished for not killing as many of his kind in battle.

Irony is also exhibited. Pangloss is expected to drop his views after going through so many problems. It is ironic that a man can hold such believes of a perfect world after the same world dishes him out the tragedy after tragedy. Pangloss is hanged still holding these views! Voltaire also uses muckraking or coincidence where events in history appear in his book. This is because his book contains fictional characters but the events in which his story is told are real. This allows him to narrate about a real event without mentioning people directly. For instance he attacks the optimist by directing his satirist to Pangloss whom he depicts as a philosopher who harbors optimism and theodicy views.

It is necessary to read this book as it sheds light on historical events as the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and the seven years’ way among other events. It is also prudent to do so as to follow the trend of philosophies surrounding various theories such as optimism and theodicy. The book also helps one to attain some bit of realism as some believes that were there then that were not practical are still around us.

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