Humanities 4: Lectures 7-8

Humanities 4: Lectures 7-8
Voltaire’s Candide
Voltaire’s Candide
• Intellectual Background
• Historical Context
• Biographical Sketch
• Candide
Literary Form
Official topic (optimism)
Targets of its criticism
Positive causes
Intellectual Background
• Pierre Bayle
• Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
• French Enlightenment: The Philosophes
Pierre Bayle
Skeptical Atheist or
Dictionnaire historique
et critique (Historical
and Critical Dictionary)
Gottfried Leibniz
Universal genius
As a philosopher
Free will & determinism
Principle of Sufficient
Theodicy (1710)
Leibniz’s Optimism
Claim: This is the best of all possible worlds.
- God is omniscient.
- God is omnipotent.
- God is omnibenevolent.
- Thus, God created the best possible world.
• Objection: Why, then, does evil exist?
- moral vs. natural evil
• free will
• privation and permission
French Enlightenment
Anti-cleric and anti-establishment
The Philosophes
Montesquieu (1689-1755)
Diderot (1713-84) & D’Alembert (1717-83)
La Mettrie (1709-51) & D’Holbach (1723-89)
Salons and Literacy
Historical Context:
18th Cent. France, Ancien Régime
Political structure of the Ancien Régime
Absolutism: Louis XIV (1643-1715) & Louis XV
Three Estates
Economic structure
Taxes for military purposes & court at Versailles
Taxes obtained in inefficient and arbitrary ways
Military Conflicts
War of Austrian Succession & Seven Years’ War
Voltaire’s Life (1694-1778)
• European-wide residencies
• Occupations
• Relationships
• Literary Range
• Temperament
• Lisbon earthquake
Candide as a Literary Work
- Definition: a literary technique that exposes the
follies of its subject (individuals, organizations, or
states) to ridicule, often as an intended means of
provoking or preventing change.
Picaresque novel
- Definition: a subgenre of usually satiric prose
fiction that depicts in realistic, often humorous,
detail the adventures of a roguish hero living by
his or her wits in a corrupt society.
Candide’s Main Characters
• Candide
• Pangloss
• Martin
• Cunégonde
• Cacambo
Candide’s Literary Structure
•Several possible divisions:
-Three Parts: Old World (Chs. 1-10), New World
(11-20), Old World (21-30), or
-Two Parts: before and after Eldorado, or
-Entrance & Exit of Candide’s companions: Pangloss,
Cunegonde, Cacambo, Martin, or
-Quest: Quester, Place to go, Stated Reason,
Challenges, Real Reason (Self-Knowledge)
•Accelerated Plot
-“work our land”
Candide: The Official Topic
Possible Philosophical Consequences
Denial of the relevance of philosophy?
Rhetorical device
Foil for criticisms of particular issues
Voltaire’s Targets
Organized Religion (I and II)
- Clergy (various orders)
- Inquisition
- Muslims
- Jews
• The State
• The Military
• Man
V’s Targets: Organized Religion
The Clergy
Having sex (repeatedly) & passing on syphilis (e.g., 8)
Pope Urban X fathering a child (who becomes the old
woman helping C & C) (20)
Franciscan friar steals Cunegonde’s diamonds (19) and
informs on C & C’s travels when caught (29)
Benedict. friar buys C & C’s horse at bargain price (19)
Jesuits in Paraguay encourage tribes to resist the kings of
Spain and Portugal (19, 29)
Theological debate in Europe is likened to syphilis (9)
BUT, Jacques, the Anabaptist (6-7) is generous.
Monks “teach, argue, rule, conspire and burn people who
don’t agree with them” (39) & Parisian abbot (53-5)
V’s Targets: Org. Religion II
The Inquisition
Auto-da-fé. To prevent further earthquakes,
Pangloss and C. are punished, “the first for having
spoken, and the second for having listened with
an air of approval” (13).
Inquisitor “shares” Cunegonde with Issachar (16),
BUT C kills the Inquisitor.
Fight vicious civil war, but still pray 5 times a day
(23) and other absurd judgments (73-74)
Religious views aren’t target, financial deals are.
Voltaire’s Targets: The State
• Courts’ inefficiency and cost (45)
• Police corruption (57)
• Policies (58)
• Deposed royalty at dinner in Venice (68)
Voltaire’s Targets: The Military
• C’s time in the Bulgar army (pp. 4-6)
Cunegonde’s treatment (15)
• Various atrocities justified by “the law
war” (25) or “international law” (22)
• Knowing the “Bulgar drill” is sign of special
expertise (19, 28-9)
• Plymouth Execution (58-59)
Voltaire’s Targets: Man
“public miseries” vs. “secret sufferings”: envy, anxiety,
disquiet (47)
Power relations:
“weak loathe the powerful, while cringing before
them, and the powerful treat them like sheep whose
wool and meat go to market”
“A thousand assassins organized in regiments run
from one end of Europe to another, carrying out
murder and robbery”
Three main preoccupations:
“love, speaking ill of each other, and talking
nonsense” (48)
Voltaire’s Positive Causes
•The treatment of women
-The old woman (20ff.)
-Paquette (60)
•Work (menial labor)
-To relieve boredom?
-To avoid theorizing?
Voltaire & the Enlightenment
Highly critical of prevalent institutions
Esp. church in all of its forms
Satire as his method presupposes rational standards
No clear, positive proposal for progress