While Voltaire had many of the philosophical credentials of his fellow Enlightenment philosophers—namely, a belief in the power of reason, the importance of independent thought, and the rejection of religion as the sole bearer of truth—his perspective was somewhat less rosy. In Candide, Voltaire fleshes out his unique, and somewhat more pessimistic, perspective on human nature through the use of cutting satire.
Optimism was central to Enlightenment thinking, as philosophers believed that happiness could be achieved through human thought and action. In other words, the goal of life was not to achieve happiness on another plane but rather to achieve happiness in the present. Voltaire's Candide undermines that idea entirely though the satirical character of Pangloss, the optimistic philosopher.
Many Enlightenment thinkers believed that society should be governed by the "general will" of the people, usually through direct democracy. In Candide, Voltaire creates characters who are generally...
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