OPTIMISM Alex Krupski, Frank Krol, Julia Janka, & Melissa Tussing OUR QUESTION 2. Research the eighteenth century idea of “optimism.” Read briefly about the “great chain of being” and the concept of “plenitude,” which are closely related to this optimism. Explain these concepts briefly and then discuss why you think Voltaire mocked this “optimism.” Be specific and use examples from Candide to support your main ideas. THE GREAT CHAIN OF BEING Don Issachar Slave/Servants Candide Pangloss Martin Jacques the Anabaptist Outcast Baron Cunégonde Middle Class Grand Inquisitor Nobility Clergy/Catholic Church Every existing thing in the universe had its “place” in a divinely planned hierarchical order, which was pictured as a chain vertically extended. Old Woman Cacambo PRINCIPLE OF PLENITUDE In his classic study, The Great Chain of Being, Arthur Lovejoy delineated a complex set of concepts and assumptions which referred to the perfection of God and the fullness of creation. In attempting to distil the basic or “unit idea” which constituted this pattern of thought, he focused on the assumption that ‘the universe is a plenum formarum in which the range of diversity of kinds of living things is exhaustively exemplified.’ He called this the “principle of plenitude.” Basically, everything that can happen, will happen. WHAT IS OPTIMISM? “Optimism,” said Cacambo, “what is that?” “Alas!” replied Candide, “it is the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.” The most striking quality of the 18th century was its optimism. It was a time that celebrated the excellence of the human mind. All creation was believed open to scrutiny. With wealth, thinkers began to turn from a Europe of want, depravity and need to a Europe characterized by abundance -- and with abundance, new possibilities were about to become reality. As a result, a new optimism pervaded the age. This optimism had the ultimate effect of changing man's opinions about human history. Instead of viewing human history as the story of the steady decline from the Garden of Eden, men now began to view life as full of promise and hope. VOLTAIRE’S LIFE, WHY HE MOCKS OPTIMISM, EXAMPLES. ANGERED BY THOSE WHO ASSERTED THAT THIS WAS THE ‘BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS’ • The viewpoint did not match his own life. He had been twice imprisoned in the Bastille and was later exiled to England. His prestigious entry into the Royal courts of France and Prussia both ended in humiliation. The French state and church struggled to suppress his ideas. • He did not believe the events of history allowed an optimism viewpoint. • In 1755 the tragedy of the Lisbon earthquake, particularly made Optimism seem a cruel misrepresentation. REJECTED THE ARGUMENTS OF THE OPTIMIST SCHOOL “Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles; therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings; accordingly we wear stockings. Stones were made to be hewn and to construct castles…” (Chapter 1) He mocks the impenetrable, abstract principles on which the Optimist school based their thesis. He believed that the ideas of the optimists were invalid because they were a priori arguments. The Optimists started with a conclusion about the nature of existence which they accepted as an incontrovertible truth and then set about theorizing to prove it right. WORKS CITED Yeo, Richard R. "The Principle of Plenitude and Natural Theology in Nineteenth-Century Britain." The British Journal for the History of Science 19.3 (1986): 263. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. "Voltaire Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story - Biography.com." Famous Biographies & TV Shows - Biography.com. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. "English Literature :: The 18th Century-Age of Reason -- Kids Encyclopedia | Children's Homework Help | Kids Online Dictionary | Britannica." Kids Encyclopedia | Children's Homework Help | Kids Online Dictionary | Britannica. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. Kreis, Steven. "Lecture 9: The Triumph of Science and the 18th Century Philosophe." The History Guide -- Main. Web. 02 Dec. 2011. "General Characteristics of the Renaissance." Brooklyn.CUNY.edu. City University of New York, Brooklyn College, 30 Mar. 2009. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.