Satire of Philosophy In Voltaire's Candide

Essay by istealpantsCollege, UndergraduateA, December 2007

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In the novel Candide Voltaire chooses to satirize several aspects of his society in order to point out the flaws in much of the philosophy which was popular throughout "The Enlightenment." One way in which Voltaire accomplishes this is through his use of Pangloss, who represents G.W. von Liebniz and the philosophy of optimism, as a constantly useless and ignorant character, and through his use of Pangloss's foil Martin, who despite being deceptively more convincing than Pangloss, is just as ignorant to the workings of the world around him. Voltaire furthers his criticism of the philosophers and their ideas through Candide's growth as a character which concludes with him rejecting both the philosophy of Pangloss and Martin, and instead accepting life as it is. Finally, Voltaire attempts to convey his belief of philosophy as a time wasting pursuit through his use of philosophical speculation at the most inopportune times throughout the novel and through the irony of the story's ending.

With the combination of these three techniques Voltaire weaves together his ridiculous satire and creates a successful criticism of Enlightenment philosophers, and proves his point that philosophy, while an interesting pastime, does not achieve any meaningful end and serves only to distract people from truly useful pursuits, such as hard work.

Voltaire begins his criticism of philosophy right as the story starts, by telling the reader that Pangloss is a teacher of metaphysico-theologo-cosmolo-nigology. By attaching such a ridiculous name to Pangloss' belief, Voltaire practically discredits Pangloss before he ever even speaks. Pangloss is used as a representation of the optimists of the Enlightenment, and more specifically G.W. von Leibniz who originated the idea that this world was the "best of all worlds" (Voltaire 10). He is also somewhat naive and believes that he could make the world a better...