Personal Response on Candide by Voltaire

After reading Candide by Voltaire, I think the book is bittersweet, and it leads me to wonder about the difference between the two philosophies raised in the book and how it relates to Xunzi’s philosophy. 

I found myself entertained and confused throughout reading the book. For example, the book is very adventurous; multiple events and incidents happen in just a tiny chapter. Therefore, sometimes it gets out of hand and I lose track of what happens. Besides that, satire is used a lot by Voltaire. I enjoy how Voltaire raises serious problems and criticizes other religions, cultures and books. For example, the bible is often used as a reference, “for when man was placed in the Garden of Eden he was put there ut operaretur eum, so that he might work: which proves that man was not born for rest.” (P.170). Using other books, cultures and religions as a reference can make readers feel more comfortable; it helps raise questions and opinions from the readers. But I do not have a lot of background knowledge on a different culture, historical events, and books; thus, sometimes, I will get confused and not understand the problem raised using satire. 

In Candide, Voltaire brings up two different philosophies through the two characters, Pangloss and Martin. Martin is used as a foil to Pangloss, and his philosophy is entirely different from Pangloss’s. Pangloss’s philosophy is extreme optimism. He believes that we live in the best of all possible world, and “everything is for the best.” (P.58) On the other hand, Martin is the exact opposite of Pangloss. He believes that the world is evil, expects everything for the worse, and what appears to be happy is certainly not. For example, “Until now in all the inhabitable world, except for El Dorado, I have come across only unfortunates. But for this girl and monk, I will wager that they are truly happy creatures.” 

“I will wager that they are not.” (P.90)

Martin and Pangloss’s philosophy reminds me of Xunzi, an ancient Chinese philosopher. Xunzi argues that if human nature is good or bad, he believes human nature is evil, and they are born to care about their interests. This is similar to Martin’s philosophy. Still, Xunzi believes that people can be good and selfless with the proper nurturing and teachings from teachers and parents. 

For me, I absolutely disagree with Pangloss’s philosophy. Growing up, I have always been told that it is “God’s Plans” whenever something unfortunate happens, but it still does not change the fact that it happened, and there is nothing that is beneficial. Like Candide, Pangloss would say it is for the best whenever something terrible happens. I think one of the reasons people would say everything is for the best is that they refuse to accept that bad things are happening, and it would make them feel safe thinking that it has a good reason for terrible things to happen. In other words, they are in denial. Though I do not entirely agree with Martin, Xunzi’s philosophy is a better fit to describe people; I believe that human nature is flawed, and we are born to care about our own self-interest. I agree with Xunzi that we can be kind and selfless if we have a good influence or nurturing.

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