In his immortal composition called Candid, Voltaire managed to point out the deception of Gottfried Leibniz’s optimism theory. He revealed the hardships caused by the resulting inactivity in resistance toward the evil powers of the world. Voltaire’s use of satire as the main device, and also his exaggeration techniques, contrastive highlight of the brutality and evil of the war, alongside the whole world was employed to criticize the theories by Leibniz. In fact, he depicted in general, how men are humbly accepting their fates.
Leibniz, being a German mathematician and philosopher of times, when Voltaire was writing his novels, managed to develop the idea that the world people were living in at that very time turned out to be “the best of all possible worlds” (Durant). Such a systematic optimism displayed by Leibniz was considered to be the philosophical system. According to this very system, everything in the world was already only for the best, regardless of how horrible it seemed to be in fact. Thus, in this satire, Voltaire had a try to show the world filled with the common brutality, imperfection and natural disasters. Voltaire also resorted to using a contrast, especially in the characters personalities. In such a way he conveyed the main message: Leibniz’s philosophy was not at all serious in relations to the actual of life. It should not be taken seriously. Leibniz was very often regarded as Fatalist or Stoic because his philosophies were focused on the idea of irresistibility of the ordinary person to the fate. According to his philosophical teaching, everything on the world was determined by the fate.
In addition, Voltaire resorted to satire with intention to argue that God was actually “the best of all possible worlds” (Voltaire). The matter was that it was not perfect, and the world still was crammed with filth and brutality. The greatest Voltaire’s inclination was to joke Leibniz’s philosophy as ridiculous and senseless. “He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause and that, in this best of all possible worlds….” (Voltaire).
The author proves it by means of the main character named Pangloss. This character through the Voltaire’s own persuasions adhered to the idea that everything had its purpose and things were made for the best. For instance, the nose served to wear glasses (Voltaire).
Thus, Voltaire used Pangloss and Martin as contrasting characters, to point out the disadvantages in Leibniz’s philosophical teaching. One more example can be fined in the image of Eldorado. In fact, that was another scattering satire. Voltaire described it as an ultimately serene and peaceful and spot. Eldorado was a place “impossible” to find, without any laws, Wars, material goods depending and needs. In fact, the author exploited the image as an epitome for “best of all possible worlds” (Durant). It greatly contrasted the world of reality, outside world, where wars and sufferings, pains, hardships, horror was simply are everyday outcomes or occurrences (Durant).
However, it is important to notice that notwithstanding the fact that the novel was created in entertainment purposes, it was written mainly to scrutinize and then satirize the views of Leibniz’s philosophical theories. Voltaire took a look at the world with the thought that there always could be something done about all of the evil in the world. The person can resist the negative aspects in her life. The people are creators of their own destinies; they subdue the fate, but are not subdued by it. He achieved his aim in satirizing Leibniz by creating Pangloss and breaking down his well known philosophy. Voltaire using Martin as a contrastive person to Pangloss’s personality, showed the destruction that was caused by natural catastrophes, disasters, the brutality of war, lack of compassion, hatred. The whole evil of the world is produced by people first of all. Evil has a name. It is human. The fate has nothing to do with it at all. Thus, Voltaire sounds sober and rational in his critique of Leibniz’s “optimal philosophy.”
Durant, Will, Ariel Durant. The Story of Civilization: PartIX: The Age of Voltaire. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965.
Voltaire. Candide. In Candide, Zadig and Selected Stories.Trans. Donald Frame, New York: Penguin Group, 1961.