Voltaire, 'Candide'

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253


Candide, who beheld all that passed and saw his benefactor one moment rising above water, and the next swallowed up by the merciless waves, was preparing to jump after him, but was prevented by the philosopher Pangloss, who demonstrated to him that the roadstead of Lisbon had been made on purpose for the Anabaptist to be drowned there. While he was proving his argument a priori, the ship foundered, and the whole crew perished, except Pangloss, Candide, and the sailor who had been the means of drowning the good Anabaptist. The villain swam ashore; but Pangloss and Candide reached the land upon a plank.
"The Aga, being very fond of women, took his whole seraglio with him, and lodged us in a small fort, with two black eunuchs and twenty soldiers for our guard. Our army made a great slaughter among the Russians; but they soon returned us the compliment. Azoff was taken by storm, and the enemy spared neither age, sex, nor condition, but put all to the sword, and laid the city in ashes. Our little fort alone held out; they resolved to reduce us by famine. The twenty janissaries, who were left to defend it, had bound themselves by an oath never to surrender the place. Being reduced to the extremity of famine, they found themselves obliged to kill our two eunuchs, and eat them rather than violate their oath. But this horrible repast soon failing them, they next determined to devour the women.

"We had a very pious and humane man, who gave them a most excellent sermon on this occasion, exhorting them not to kill us all at once. 'Cut off only one of the buttocks of each of those ladies,' said he, 'and you will fare extremely well; if you are under the necessity of having recourse to the same expedient again, you will find the like supply a few days hence. Heaven will approve of so charitable an action, and work your deliverance.'"
"But, pray, Monsieur Martin, were you ever in Paris?"

"Yes, sir, I have been in that city, and it is a place that contains the several species just described; it is a chaos, a confused multitude, where everyone seeks for pleasure without being able to find it; at least, as far as I have observed during my short stay in that city. At my arrival I was robbed of all I had in the world by pickpockets and sharpers, at the fair of Saint-Germain. I was taken up myself for a robber, and confined in prison a whole week; after which I hired myself as corrector to a press in order to get a little money towards defraying my expenses back to Holland on foot. I knew the whole tribe of scribblers, malcontents, and fanatics. It is said the people of that city are very polite; I believe they may be."

Voltaire, Candide, 1759.



http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/voltaire/candide.html

Open for discussion Sunday, 28 February, 2010.

Enjoy.
 
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Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
Re: Candide I - Chapters 1 to 10


OPEN FOR BUSINESS
... no dues, no fees, batteries included ...

all are welcome to join in the discussion.
There are two rules, (1) read the book and (2) keep comments to the chapters indicated.
We start with chapters one through ten.

A free copy of the book is here http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl3...e/candide.html



Random thoughts as introduction

When man’s mind was first able to hold more than one thought he brooded upon the problem of good and evil and became a philosopher; yet, after all these millennia man still has not arrived at a consensus. What mankind has arrived at are the inadequate guides of pessimism and optimism. These two schools of thought may, and will, continue to argue if our world ‘is the best of all possible worlds’ yet all agree that Voltaire’s Candide is the sharpest of attacks on the excesses of optimism, there are even claims that it is the best piece of satirical wit to fall from any pen.

Candide is a literary achievement that has not been surpassed in the 250 years since its publication in 1759. No doubt other writers will come along in the next 250 years and be as relentless and unsparing in their attacks; even to the selecting of the same targets of corruption and hypocrisy in places high and low, but it is very doubtful anyone will do it with the wit and informed intelligence that sprung from a mind so unique, so universal, so informed that we can only call it by itself: Voltairian.

When reading Candide one might be a little uncomfortable at such a tragic procession of predicaments. The only relief is to mis-read Candide, by which I mean seeing Candide as an individual and not representing, as I think he does, ‘everyman’; i.e. you and me, the reader. Go ahead and laugh. You have permission. But remember you laugh at yourself. Could Voltaire have intended anything less?

This pessimistic ‘morality play’ was written, when Voltaire was 65 years of age, as a biting attack on the philosophical optimism currently in fashion. This weltanschauung of optimism found its greatest expression in the German metaphysics of Gottfried Liebniz; in England its poetic expression was to be found in Alexander Pope, and the political-theologians had their Shaftsbury and Bishop Warton.

Just what is this Theory of Optimism, this philosophy of "All is for the best"? According to Leibniz, “God is the perfect monad*; He created a world to show His perfection; He chose this out of an infinite number of worlds; He was guided by the principium melioris and therefore this world is the best of all possible worlds.”

[*for a complete definition see the blog at http://leibniznotes.blogspot.com/ ]

Shaftesbury wrote that he believed in "one God whose most characteristic attribute is universal benevolence, in the moral government of the universe, and in a future state of man making up for the imperfections and repairing the inequalities of the present life."

Shaftesbury's views were made widely popular by Pope's Essay on Man, from which the following well-known lines are taken :

"Cease then, nor order Imperfection name:
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: This kind, this due degree Of blindness, weakness, Hear’n bestow on thee.
Submit. In this, or any other sphere. Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear:
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see;
All Discord, Harmony, not understood
All partial Evil, universal Good:
And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, whatever is, is right."

Upon this passage Bishop Warburton provides the following gloss :
"... Nature being neither a blind chain of Causes and Effects, nor yet the fortuitous result of wandering atoms, but the wonderful Art and Direction of the all-wise, all-good, and free Being ; whatever is, is right, with regard to the Disposition of God, and its ultimate tendency."

The philosopher, the politician, the poet and the bishop all make large assumptions and, in spite of some artful qualifications which are obvious, involve themselves in the perplexities of the problem of moral and physical evil. Their deity is anthropomorphic, their universe is anthropocentric. If their deity is all-powerful and all-good and perfectly free, how do they explain the presence of moral and physical evil?

Some might be satisfied with the explanation that it was really not evil at all, and that everything in the long run is made for good. Whatever is, is right. Others might reject this explanation and feel that so many difficulties arise that the wisest course is to abandon these grandiose theories altogether.

A universal calamity like the Lisbon earthquake (1755) is a severe blow to the assertion that “ whatever is, is right." It was that earthquake in which 15,000 lives were lost that made Voltaire pen his poem on the Desastre de Lisbon. The publication of the poem provoked the famous Lettre M. de Voltaire of J. J. Rousseau, and the counter-attack upon Rousseau, Leibniz and Shaftesbury came in the form of Candide.

When Candide hit the book stalls tongues started to wag. The title page states that it was translated from the German of a Doctor Ralph. Why this flight into anonymity? Surely he couldn’t have feared criticism after 65 years of throwing barbs at those with half his wit. Perhaps it had something to do with his showing the manuscript to the Duchesse de la Valltere, who returned it to him with the comment that he should “have abstained from including in it so many indecencies, having no need to resort to such a means of obtaining readers”. Others were also scandalized, for despite Voltaire’s denial of authorship it was no secret he was the true author. In a letter he claimed Candide was written by the brother of the translator. When his ruse was to well known to be maintained he dismissed the book as a ‘bad joke’.

It is difficult for us in this era of public vulgarity to understand the Duchesse de la Valliere’s deprecating comment and her offense at the indecencies as unnecessary irrelevancies. I prefer to consider the Duchess’s reaction as marking the strong accents of a full harmonic indictment of optimism, that in the book we have a veritable masterpiece, characterized throughout by cadenced wit which is never off key.

Is Candide the best of all possible books on the subject? At the risk of sounding optimistic, I like to think so, for whatever it is, it is right.



For a little more information and a short bio with five important areas of Voltaire’s thought, click on this:
http://voltairenotesforhistorum.blogspot.com/2010/02/voltaire-francois-marie-arouet-de.html






 
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Cicero

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,829
Tennessee
Re: Candide I - Chapters 1 to 10

Checking in here having finished the assignment and read Pedro's great introduction. I didn't know very much about Candide beforehand other than it is considered a classic by one of the masters and that Bernstein did an operetta about it.

First thoughts:
1. Candide is Job.
2. Voltaire didn't care too much about geographic accuracy as Wetphalia is in central Germany and I don't think there was an organized country of Bulgaria when this was written. Even if there was, it is a long way from Westphalia.
3. Arabes are I guess Arabs and they are further away geographically.
4. Pangloss seems to have some of the ideas of Aristotle in that everything has its place and seeks its own level in the world. I understand that Pangloss is Leibnitz.
5. I picked up on the connection with the great earthquake in Lisbon on my own and figures that like Augustine writing The City of God to explain the sack of Rome, Candide must be some attempt to come to grips with the Lisbon earthquake.
6. I am trying to figure out the significance of Pangloss having syphylis. Paranthetically, there wasn't a cure then!

I'll check back in thruout the day here.

This is indeed fun!
 

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avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
Re: Candide I - Chapters 1 to 10

1. Candide is Job.
That had never occurred to me before. Interesting line of thought.

2. Voltaire didn't care too much about geographic accuracy as Wetphalia is in central Germany and I don't think there was an organized country of Bulgaria when this was written. Even if there was, it is a long way from Westphalia.
The Bulgars that press Candide into service are Prussians. Where he writes 'The King of the Bulgars joined battle with the King of the Abars', the Bulgar king is a veiled reference to Frederick the Great's rumoured homosexuality (Bulgar/bugger).
 

Cicero

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,829
Tennessee
Re: Candide I - Chapters 1 to 10

Who are the Abars then?
Is the Baron of thunder-ect. a specific historic figue that is being lampooned?
Is there a specific significance to Syphylis? It came from the new world and its transmission is traced nicely from Columbus to Pangloss ( kind of like the begats in Genesis) and I know that Candide and Cunegard go to the new world next.
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
Re: Candide I - Chapters 1 to 10

2. Voltaire didn't care too much about geographic accuracy as Wetphalia is in central Germany and I don't think there was an organized country of Bulgaria when this was written. Even if there was, it is a long way from Westphalia
And he wouldn't stop to ask for directions either. Finally (sigh!) something I have in common with his genius. . .:)
 

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
Re: Candide I - Chapters 1 to 10

Who are the Abars then?
Is the Baron of thunder-ect. a specific historic figue that is being lampooned?
Is there a specific significance to Syphylis? It came from the new world and its transmission is traced nicely from Columbus to Pangloss ( kind of like the begats in Genesis) and I know that Candide and Cunegard go to the new world next.
Abars, Thunder-ten-tronckh, Syphilis ... I know of no specifics concerning any of them. :eek:

The Abars - described as Scythians - are probably just meant to denote Asiatic Russians or possibly Arabs. Voltaire also wrote a beautifully colourful account of the life of Charles XII of Sweden, so he had some kind of strong mental picture of Arabs and their war with Russia. I think Thunder-ten-tronckh is simply a play on the sound of the German language. I reckon that the mention of Syphilis, like the recurring mention of 'plague', is just to add to the list of worldly pestilience.
 
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