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Alexander Pope’s Essay Essay

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Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man and Voltaire’s Candied adopted opposing views on how reason should be used during their time. They had varying opinions about taking man’s life in general with Pope adopting a pessimistic view of life while Voltaire expounded on scathing remarks about things and events which he observed. Pope elucidated that he had two reasons for writing his essay and that was first, he thought that “principles, maxims, or precepts so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first and are more easily retained by him afterwards.

” The second reason was because he knew that he could express himself more using the poetic style instead of prose itself. First, Pope uses this reasoning ability to work on his references and regard for God as well as His great domain. It was a requirement then that the writers would regard the religious authority in such a high regard. It seems that Pope uses reason in order to dwell on the fruitlessness and meaninglessness of life.

Pope reasons that this maze of life has a reason for being so and believes that there is a plan for everything and that there is no haphazardness in what happens to man: A mighty maze!

But not without a plan; a wild, where weeds and flow’s promiscuous shoot; Or garden, tempting with forbidden fruit. Together let us beat this ample field, Try what the open, what the covert yield! Born in 1694 to a middle-class family in Paris, Francois-Marie Aroused, later known as Voltaire, grew up at a time when the majority of the people in France lived in abject poverty. When he came of age, Voltaire witnessed the iron-fist rule of the aristocracy, and at the same time, the spread of the Enlightenment and its ideas of equality and basic human rights, as well as the importance of reason and scientific objectivity.

It is not surprising then that he will devote his time writing biting satire which eventually garnered him a solid reputation in France. So scathing were some of his writings that it caught the ire of its target, the government, which unhesitatingly meted out punishments, ranging from exile to imprisonment. In fact, it was during his incarceration in the infamous Bastille that he acquired his nom de plume. Thus, he uses reason in another kind of biting way in order to effect changes.

Aside from the government, Voltaire also criticized the Church with equal fervor and in with perfect reason he could ever think of. Indeed, he became a lifelong champion of the poor and the downtrodden, and used the power of the pen to further his cause, writing with a rare kind of passion against both tyranny and religious persecution. In the 1750s, greatly dismayed by the injustice and disaster that surrounded him, Voltaire set out to write what would become his signature work, Candied, where he simultaneously criticized the nobility and the Church, and the people’s misguided optimism (Spark Notes).

Candied, the protagonist of the novel was an illegitimate child of a German baron who grew up under the tutelage of the philosopher Dr. Pan gloss who taught him about unconditional, and often misguided, optimism: “It is demonstrable that things cannot be other than they are, for since everything is made to serve an end, everything necessarily serves the best end. Observe: noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles. Legs, as anyone can plainly see, were made to be breeched, and so we have breeches.

. . . Consequently, those who say everything is well are uttering mere stupidities; they should say everything is for the best (p. 2). ” The philosophy, thus, points out the perverted idea during Voltaire’s time that all things—including all human suffering—is part of a cosmic plan, and one must not question whatever tragedy comes his way, for to do so is tantamount to questioning God’s plan. Put another way, since God is perfect, then he must have created a world that is no less than “the best of all possible worlds.

” In the meantime, Candied fell in love with the baron’s daughter, Lady Cunegonde, but the blossoming affair was cut short when the baron caught them kissing. He kicked the young Candide out of his house, and so began the long list of Candide’s misfortunes which collectively challenged his conviction about the “best of all possible worlds. ” His experiences—and later, those of Dr. Pangloss—could serve as proof to the notorious Malcolm’s Law which states that if something can go wrong it will.

This is how Voltaire was able to parody Dr. Pangloss’ philosophy: first, his philosophy is proven false by real-world evidence; and second, Pangloss’ philosophy ultimately encourages complacency toward all that is wrong in the world. At one ridiculous scene, when Dr. Pangloss’ benefactor, the Anabaptist Jacques, was drowning in the bay of Lisbon, the philosopher prevented Candide from trying to rescue him by insisting that “the bay of Lisbon had been specially contrived so that the Anabaptist might drown in them” (p. 13).

One could also draw from this event that people like Pangloss are ludicrously fatalistic to a point that there is no reason to make any effort to put matters into one’s own hands, and to change things that are evil. Voltaire was profoundly critical of the Church’s beliefs as can be seen in his literary works Candide. He draws on this reasoning ability in order to refer to many things around him just as when Pope makes reference to presumptuous man. He uses his reasoning again in order to look at the mysteries that are presented to him.

Then say not Man’s imperfect, Heav’n in fault, – Say rather Man’s as perfect as he ought: His knowledge measur’d to his state and place, His time a moment, and a point his space. Meanwhile, it was at about this time that more philosophies claimed that reason could be used in order to explain everything. Reasoning ability was placed at a high pedestal explaining that people can make the world a better place to live in and Voltaire uses reason again to counteract this reasoning.

He is not given to such optimism, preferring instead to reason that he doubts that there is “ever a chance of people securing happiness” (1-2). Voltaire’s reasoning was a bit odd because in his failure to reason out well, he instead adopted the belief that “true happiness can only be experienced in an unreal world. ” (42) lamenting the fact that optimism is a mania for “saying things are well when one is in he. ” (40). Thus, Voltaire uses reasoning in order to satirize the foolishness of believing and being optimistic.

Of the writers during the Enlightenment period, Voltaire was one writer who criticized the Church with equal fervor. Indeed, he became a lifelong champion of the poor and the downtrodden, and used the power of the pen to further his cause, writing with a rare kind of passion against both tyranny and religious persecution. In the 1750s, greatly dismayed by the injustice and disaster that surrounded him, Voltaire set out to write what would become his signature work, Candide, where he criticized the nobility and the Church, pointing out the people’s misguided optimism (Spark Notes).

The philosophy, thus, points out the perverted idea during Voltaire’s time that all things—including all human suffering—is part of a cosmic plan, and one must not question whatever tragedy comes his way, for to do so is tantamount to questioning God’s plan. Put another way, since God is perfect, then he must have created a world that is no less than “the best of all possible worlds. ” Later on, Candide meets Martin, an extreme opposite of Dr. Pangloss in that he is a categorical pessimist who finds the world “utterly mad and abominable” (p.

75) where one can find “very little virtue or happiness” (p. 77). Indeed, this philosophy is more effective at explaining real-world experiences than Pangloss’, but it too has its flaws. Thus, Martin fails when he predicts that Candide’s valet trusted with millions in gold will surely betray his master out of greed. And like Pangloss, Martin is seen as somebody who does not assume a proactive role in changing the world for the better, for after all, he abides by the idea that man is bound to live either in misery or in boredom.

In effect, Voltaire demonstrates that both absolute optimism and absolute pessimism are nothing more than simple abstractions that defies reality. Voltaire shows a pessimistic view of human nature in Candide. To do this he used an imaginary perfect world—El Dorado—where Candide lived in for a short time. Inaccessible to outsiders, the kingdom of El Dorado is full of just and peaceful people who pay no attention to jewels and gold that lay scattered everywhere.

But rather than remain in the perfect world of El Dorado, Candide has acquired a greed that ultimately made him decide to leave the place, in order to return to the imperfect world where he could live off the jewels he has taken from El Dorado. He said, “If we remain here, we shall be only as the other inhabitants; whereas if we return to our own world with but a dozen of sheep laden with the pebbles of El Dorado, we shall be richer than all the kings of Europe… and we may easily recover Lady Cunegonde” (p. 52).

However, misfortune continued to follow him, and culminates in his reunion with his beloved Cunegonde, who, alas, has turned unbearably ugly due to her own share of difficulties. In the end, Candide learns that practical action seems to be the only antidote to human suffering. This he learned when he met a humble old man who, with the help of his children, is content and happy. He told Candide, “Labor holds off three great evils: tedium, vice and poverty” (p. 103). Taking this advice, Candide and his group set themselves to exercise their various talents (e. g.

Cunegonde continued to be very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook) and their small farm yielded good crops. Indeed, both Pope and Voltaire, being masters at reason, utilized this to their advantage during their time.

WORKS CITED

“Candide”. Spark Notes online. 2004. Retrieved June 10, 2008 at: http://www. sparknotes. com/ lit/candide Pope, Alexander. Essay on Man and Other Poems. Dover Publications; New Ed edition (June 16, 1994) Voltaire. Candide. (1759). London: Penguin Books. 1997. Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man and Voltaire’s Candide adopted opposing views on how reason should be used

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