Voltaire has been said to have been mocking Leibniz's popular theory that “whatever is, is right,” (Pope, l.294) in Candide. While that is true, it only scratches the surface. The more significant fact is that the language and logic with which Candide satirizes Leibniz mock the very idea that philosophy provides definite answers about the nature of the universe, exemplified perfectly in Pangloss' response to Candide's inquiry as to whether or not he can “continue to believe that all was for the best:” “I hold firmly to my original views ... I am a philosopher after all: it would not do for me to recant” (88). Philosophy, instead, is the practice of trying to be right. The hilarity of all philosophic absolutes is pointed out through the marriage of the book's disproof of optimism via proving its opposite—the worst of all possible worlds—with a destabilized narrative that allows the reader to understand that Candide itself is a narrative with its own tendencies and exaggerations.
[...] In having narrators inclined towards representing the world through a grand narrative or “mythology,” according to Barthes, the reader finds that the disproof of optimism, and the consequential worst-of-all-possible-worlds reality, unconvincingly presented to the reader. This is because Voltaire executes what Barthes' The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies calls “over construction” to prove its own ridiculousness and transcend simulation. Barthes says that understanding and artistic effectiveness can be inhibited by our tendency to “mythologize” what we observe by projecting our values on them(74). [...]
[...] Like with Baudrillard's depiction of the Gulf War, since the "real-time" view of the world that Candide gets is so obviously a “shock image” in itself, it will never be complete, so philosophic beliefs can never actually be “proven.” We still must take into account the fact that Candide at least superficially plays into the idea of the worst of all possible worlds. As with the best-of-all-possible-worlds idea, Candide opens itself up to its possibility—only to question the usefulness of accepting that we live in an unquestionably horrible place. [...]
[...] capable of recognizing the sheer ridiculousness of “grand narrative” philosophies through an acceptance of the “otherness” (Barthes, 28) of the world, to use Barthes' language, while trusting that provincial focuses offer an Edenic garden of possibility and real. Candide is set up to give one the impression that its intention is to deride the best-of-all-possible-worlds philosophy that Candide, Pangloss, and the citizens of Westphalia hold dear; Leibniz's theory is exhibited as ridiculous and indigestible from the get-go. Even before the discussion of optimism the narrator sets up the un-logic and silliness of optimism's realm, where such arbitrary conclusions as, “This Baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphaila, for his castle had a gate and windows,” are drawn. [...]
[...] Instead, in elucidating the chaotic and ambiguous ways of the world through the failings of its own narratives, Candide eventually manages to destabilize theory for the characters in the same way that it did for readers, allowing for the possibility of spiritual redemption, thereby representing something of a “catastrophic anomaly” in itself with regards to Baudrillard's contention. The sense of "redemption" and the possibility of meaning that Candide allows for at the end of the book involve several symbols of coherence and restitution emerging simultaneously. [...]
[...] Therefore, the reality that Baudrillard says is inescapable and apocalyptic can be ignored—and on Voltaire's account should be ignored. While it is true that the narratives of simulation can dominate the world, globalization—the very thing that Baudrillard says murders the real—exposes, in this case through humor and hyperbole, simulation's very faults. Similarly, though Barthes argues of our obstinacy (Barthes, Candide clearly demonstrates an ability to overcome that if one is “optimistic” in a new sense: the sense of being open to new, smaller, and more significant realities. Works Cited Barthes, Roland. [...]
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