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Liana Pellegrino


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Liana Pellegrino

M. Padaguan

Seminar 122

10 May 2010

                                     Voltaire’s Philosophies

       In Voltaire‟s Candide, the main character Candide was sheltered throughout most of his

life and believes the philosophies of his teacher Pangloss and that all he speaks is true even once

he ventures away from his previous life. However, at the end of the novel, lie two conflicting

philosophies that are presented by both Candide and Pangloss. One philosophy, stated by

Pangloss, reads that “…all events are interconnected in this best of possible worlds” (pg. 113),

which portrays an outside force that drives man‟s fate as well as having control over them. The

other, spoken as a response by Candide to Pangloss‟ says, “…we must cultivate our own garden”

(pg. 113), which expresses the complete opposite philosophy that man has control over his life

through the dominance he portrays. Although there are differences between the two philosophies

themselves, the differences can be attributed more to the differences two characters themselves.

       Previous to Candide‟s rejection of Pangloss‟ teachings, he had agreed mostly with his

philosophies as evident in this passage when he states, “There is no effect without a cause…All

things are necessarily connected and arranged for the best” (pg.21). This statement agrees with

Pangloss‟ teachings throughout the novel as well as his main philosophy presented at the end of

the book that all events are connected in the best possible worlds. Each share the idea of

connected events all arranged for the better, and suggests that all individuals should have hope in

the world they reside in. Other individuals Candide has encountered in this novel have supported

Pangloss‟ teachings as well making it easier for Candide to continue to agree with this
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philosophy. For example, when he came across the venerable sage he stated, “…We have

nothing to ask of God: He‟s given us everything we need. We constantly thank him” (pg. 63).

Here, the sage is implying that man need to do no work and that the force that decides our fate

can compare to God – a philosophy that completely agrees with both Pangloss‟ and Candide‟s


           However, Candide learned through all his events he experienced in the novel that

Pangloss‟ teachings weren‟t true, especially when Candide and Martin began reasoning with

each other as they approached the coast of France. On page 75, Candide asks Martin what reason

was the earth formed, which he replies with “To drive us mad...” Here, Martin is implying that

the world isn‟t the „best of all possible worlds‟ as Pangloss previously describes, and that it could

be the exact opposite. Candide than responds with what I believe is an epiphany for himself and

a huge turning point in the novel when Candide asks about the nature of men, and if they truly do

have flaws (pg. 76). Martin then replies with an example of a hawk when he states, “…if hawks

have always had the same character, what makes you think men may have changed theirs?” (pg.

76) and Candide realizes why men have this nature: “There‟s a big difference, because free

will…” (pg. 76) This idea that Candide describes as free will directly relates to his quote he

made at the end of the book where „men have to cultivate their own gardens‟ because in order for

men to want to achieve or do something in life, they must exercise their free will which Candide

is emphasizing here. Another experience that assisted the development of Candide‟s own beliefs

was when he came across the naked women who were running through a meadow while two

monkeys were following them, biting their buttocks. Candide felt pity for the two women and

killed the monkeys; however, the two monkeys were the girls lovers (54). He becomes so

shocked by this notion and states, “…I do not remember hearing Dr. Pangloss say that similar
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incidents had happened in the past, that such mixtures had produced Aegipans, fauns and satrys,

and that several great men of antiquity had seen them; but I regarded all that as fable” (pg. 56).

Cacambo offers reason to Candide‟s words by saying, “…you can see how people behave when

they‟ve been given a different upbringing…” (pg. 56) Through Cacambo‟s words, Candide

balanced the negative of Martin‟s words, evident in his previous quote, and the positive of

Cacambo‟s quote to assist in the disappearing of Candide‟s naivety. This characteristic is

disappearing because of Candide‟s experiences and their philosophies as well as the people he

has come across, while Pangloss‟ beliefs lack experiences which reveal the obvious difference in

their both characters.

        Despite the differences in both the two characters as well as in their philosophies, both

compare to Machiavelli‟s treatise The Prince in their idea of fortune and fate as well as in men‟s

control over the situation. On page 28, Machiavelli discusses how a leader should act when

dealing with a force like fortune when he states: “…the man who thus becomes a prince of such

great genius as to be able to take immediate steps for maintaining what fortune has thrown into

his lap, and lay afterwards those foundations which others make before becoming princes.” In

both statements, he is emphasizing that a leader must be able to adapt to every situation

presented to the leader or these leaders may not be successful at their duties as a leader. This

idea compares to Candide‟s philosophy that „men must cultivate their own gardens‟ because

although Machiavelli does mention fortune in his explanation, he does emphasize that a leader

should take his own action to adapt to that fortune rather than waiting for fortune to do good for

him. Another statement by Machiavelli supports a leader being able to adapt when he uses the

metaphor of the wind and says, “…he must have a mind disposed to adapt itself according to the

wind, and as the variations of fortune dictate, and, as I said before, not deviate from what is
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good, if possible, be able to do evil if constrained” (Machiavelli 73). Machiavelli also addressed

Candide‟s philosophy of free will when he states on page 71 that, “…men love at their own free

will, but fear at the will of the prince, and that a wise prince must rely on what is in his power

and not on what is in the power of others, and he must only contrive to avoid incurring hatred…”

Here, he expresses that men have the freewill to grow fond of a leader as well as to hate their

leader as well which raises fear. Even though Candide just mentioned free will of men in general

and not in a specific situation like Machiavelli did, both raise the fact that included in the human

nature of men is free will in every situation they can come across.

       As I have shown above, both philosophies differ in a man‟s ability to control his life as

well as his situation, however, I believe that the differences are greater in regards to themselves

as their own characters and how they came to their final philosophies at the end of the novel. For

example, Pangloss‟ teachings don‟t rely on any experiences from his past or realistic evidence

that the world is „the best possible world‟ and that all events are connected can be explained by

his character because in the novel he didn‟t experience situations and people like Candide did

throughout the novel. Candide came across people who had different point of view than he did

and who created their own philosophies rather than relying on believing that another teacher

preaches, i.e. Pangloss. With Pangloss expressing that there is a force that does control your faith

in life, Machiavelli also agrees with him when he acknowledges the role of fortune in his treatise.

However, he also addresses Candide‟s philosophy as well when he talks about man‟s ability to

adapt to that fortune that can be thrown onto a leaders lap, and how one would handle any

situation given to him.

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