Candide Issues - Languages Resources

(François-Marie Arouet: 1694-1778)
Key Issues of the 18th Century
• How would you define ‘Evil’?
– Man-made evil
– Natural evil
• “Evil is the name we give to the forces of chaos that do not
just oppose but utterly negate the basic principles by which
we live as individuals and as part of a society. It does not
• “…the violator of ethical rules constantly escapes the
punishment which he deserves; that the wicked flourishes
like a green bay tree, while the righteous begs his bread…”
What’s the problem?
• The paradox of Epicurus (4BC): God is good
and therefore cannot wish to harm his creatures.
God is also all-powerful and therefore able to
protect them. But Evil exists and his creation is
harmed. We must conclude that…
• …either God wants us to suffer, in which case
He is not good; or that he cannot prevent our
suffering, which means that He is not
omnipotent. If God has both the will and the
power to prevent Evil, then where does it come
18th Century solutions…
• Bayle (1697) “Dictionnaire historique et critique”: The
Manichean thesis – the world is controlled by two
opposing forces, one good and one evil, God and Satan,
light and darkness; life on earth is a constant conflict
between the two.
• King (1701) “De Origine Male”: evil is neither God nor
man-made, but a necessity. God is perfect and only He
can be so, otherwise there would lots of other gods.
Hence all that exists must, by logic, be imperfect. This
‘imperfection’ is what we term ‘Evil’. We should accept
all natural and human imperfections and any resultant
‘evil’, and worship the perfect God as our divine creator.
18th Century solutions…
• Leibniz (1710) “Essai de Théodicée”: Creation
is by definition imperfect, resulting in Evil. But
why, if Evil is unavoidable, did God create
anything at all?
• Since He is good, He would obviously have
created a Universe as good as could be made.
He did not omit the imperfections, since that
must not have been the best option. Therefore,
this world must be the best of all possible
worlds, which God might have created.
18th Century solutions…
• Pope (1733) “An Essay on Man”: Despite scientific
progress of recent years – Newton, Galileo, Harvey – we
are only just beginning to understand our Universe; we
can recognise some parts, but certainly not yet the
whole. The rhythm of the seasons, day and night, a
butterfly wing all indicate the governance of a supreme
being, which we do not yet understand. Everything
must, therefore, have its part to play.
• An individual cog may appear small and ugly, but it
contributes to the overall beauty and intricacy of the
clock in which it operates. Therefore…
• “Whatever is, is right.”
Other ideas…
• Deism: a belief that all in Life is pre-destined,
according to God’s master plan. The only
problem with this is…
• … that the original Fall of Man and his expulsion
from the Garden of Eden was the result of Free
Will – God’s unique and controversial gift to
humanity; the ability to choose Good or Evil.
• …if mankind is blessed with Free Will and the
ability to choose, how can his future be already
Other ideas…
• Compensation: Life is defined as a
continual balance between two sides. Just
as there is day and night,
• male and female, hot and cold, black and
white, joy and pain, life and death,
• so there is Good and Evil.
• One cannot exist without the other
• …each defines the other.
Other ideas…
• Optimism: Put simply, Optimists recognised that Evil
was a necessary part of existence, but sought not to
over-exaggerate it. The focus on the positive aspects of
life resulted in a positive spin being applied to any
apparently negative event –
• a flood may kill hundreds and devastate villages, but the
land will be made more fertile as a result, which will
produce better harvests for future generations…
• By the mid 18th century, Optimism had become a popular
and superficial response to society’s many complex
problems, perpetuated by Pope’s slogan “Whatever is, is
right” and Leibniz’ “This is the best of all possible
The Historical Context
• Science: The 18th century was known as the
Age of Enlightenment – a time of increasing
Reason, Cause & Effect and Empiricism.
• Lisbon: In 1755 (November 1st – All Saints’ Day)
the Lisbon earthquake destroyed large parts of
the city and killed 20000 people.
• War: The 7 Years’ War (France/Austria/Russia v
Prussia) began in 1756 and was noted for
several brutal massacres and much irrational
• Voltaire wrote Candide in 1759, within this
philosophical and historical context.
• It is known as a ‘conte philosophique’:
“Je veux qu’un conte soit fondé sur la
vraisemblance, et qu’il ne ressemble pas
toujours à un rêve… que, sous le voile de
la fable, il laissât entrevoir aux yeux
exercés quelque vérité fine qui échappe
au vulgaire.”