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Drawing from the passage, describe what you see as Voltaire's vision of human nature in...

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latinlover | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted August 26, 2010 at 3:39 PM via web

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Drawing from the passage, describe what you see as Voltaire's vision of human nature in Candide.

In particular, consider his stance on original sin, the human capacity for violence, the human capacity for reason, and society's potential for reform.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 15, 2010 at 2:42 PM (Answer #1)

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In this satirical piece, the ridiculous nature of man is exposed.  The philosophy Pangloss teaches Candide is that whatever happens, it is all for the best, and whatever happens, it is the "best of all possible worlds."  Things exist or occur for a reason, and we must do the best we can as there is nothing that could be better than what is.  Pangloss' foolishness is exhibited with statements like, 'We have legs because we have trousers; without trousers, we would have no need of legs.'

Pangloss' philosophy preaches predestination: man has no choice; all is ordained before he is born.  In this case, original sin was planned and could not have been avoided as Adam and Eve had no choice in the garden; it was all mapped out for them.

In terms of the human capacity for reason, Voltaire seems to be saying that man can learn, but it generally takes several swift kicks before people "get" it.  This is seen with Candide.  So many terrible hardships beset him and he still believes it is all for the best.  It takes a long time for Candide to start to question Pangloss' ludicrous precepts.

Voltaire's sense that humanity can reform is closely tied to the human capacity for reason.  It is not until the individual can think clearly on his own, refusing to be controlled and led by what the masses think, that humanity can reform.  It is not a simple task, and one will experience great challenges of belief before coming to the realization that optimism does not create a realistic basis for perceiving the world.  Individuals must learn to think for themselves to truly achieve all that humanity is capable of.  Without this change, what is truly the "best of all possible worlds" cannot be realized.

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