Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. How does Voltaire clarify his beliefs on the futility of war or aggression between Protestant and Catholic believers?
2. Does Voltaire make aggression and war between believers of different faiths ever seem reasonable? Does he suggest that any interaction is more reasonable?
3. How can philosophical beliefs about determinism and Free Will be of more practical use than Pangloss' oversimplified assertion that this is the best of all possible worlds? How does philosophy serve us in daily living?
4. What does Candide learn about the merits of charitable acts? Who benefits from charity? Do believers in Free Will or determinism have different attitudes towards charity?
5. How does the human race benefit from acts of war and aggression, even as individuals suffer? Are such benefits lasting and worthwhile? Can similar benefits be found under other conditions?
6. In Voltaire's opinion, how can one serve one's own needs best? What else does one serve at the same time? What is necessary to live a good life?
7. Compare Candide's adventures with Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. Both are works of satire, but the effect is very different. Discuss the authors' differing targets and methods, and what conclusions a reader can draw about the authors' opinions of political and religious conflicts.
8. Voltaire makes use of fantasy elements as well as realism in Candide. In what ways are these elements contradictory? Is the story made more effective by including the fantasy? What do the authentic and realistic elements bring to the story?
9. What were Voltaire's direct and overt contributions to the French Revolution? What effects were associated with his writing in general? Did he bear any responsibility for the deaths that occurred during the Revolution?
10. Who were the writers who served similar roles in the Russian Revolution and the American Revolution? Do they have any similarity to the Nazi propagandists? What is the role of a writer or artist in a culture facing revolution or reappraisal?