Candide: Crash Course Literature #405

John Green teaches you about Voltaire’s hugely important Enlightenment novel, Candide. Candide tells a pretty wild story, but for the most part, it’s about the best of all possible worlds. Which, spoiler alert, doesn’t seem to be the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire’s novel is a pretty frank look at Enlightenment philosophy that finds a lot of the thinking of the time wanting. It’s also got lots of sex, death, and travel!

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Comments

Bryan McCormick says:

i think the bitter pill about candide is that it doesn’t have any tolerance for growth. candide is naive in the beginning and is left to pursue a naive assumption at the end. misery is a symptom of tending to other people’s gardens in this view. so you can never achieve utopia, because it is an actual, real place only attainable by physically arriving there, which is generally impossible. the bookish know it all with all the great quotes and intellectual supremacy has no more room for growth than candide does, and it’s that same pursuit for unattainable growth that leaves pursuing your own garden as a circular truism of “it being what it is” or “you can only do what you can”.
In a sense that is a highly optimistic outlook that escaping misery is no further away than accepting your limitations. yet the book does seem to directly criticize being happy about that. that that sort of paradise can hardly be defined as such. so you grow, but fortunately candide ends with candide convinced of himself as the grower instead of the garden. the life cycle does after all deposits garden as food for gardens, so that classical romanticism perhaps can’t be escaped intellectually.
candide as a character depends on a lack of well-thought proactivism. i always thought his name could have been a reference to ‘candid’ thought, lacking general creativity and social planning. such as how he gives his money away expecting that to be the best social return on investment by people appreciating his generosity.

Isanom Anguinus says:

But u r continuing with these dystopians… Y?

ouaiscestvrai says:

This was posted three weeks after I had to read it for class

TheKeithvidz says:

hearing the word 1st time ’empericism’ i identify with. I go with fact, not religion

Daniel Joash Cerrado says:

Les Misérables for the next season.

kylerm18 says:

There’s a pretty good response to many objections aimed at best of all possible worlds theodicy. Namely that while individual things may not be perfect, the order and relationship between everything is perfect. Sickness may be bad for a deer, but a sick deer means food for a loin and her cubs, and an overall healthy ecosystem.

Richard Taylor used the argument that all evil is reducible to two categories: human free will and the laws of the natural world. Free will is such a great good that even though it allows for evil to happen, a world without free beings would’t be a better world than a world with it. Then there is natural evil (evil caused by things like earthquakes and disease). That is a result of the universe having physical laws. To go without earthquakes, disease, etc., the laws of the universe would have to be different, or non-existent. Either of which could result in a worse world.

That being said, I’m not a Christian. I’m a Buddhist, and view the problem of evil, the world, and the existence of god/the gods differently.

1999sonicboom says:

I have a test tomorrow

Andrew Edling says:

The most annoying intro yet

Nick Hoffman says:

A thought on Voltaire’s final message, I imagine he sees this as a universal rule. That, if everyone just worried about their own garden, they wouldn’t have much time for evil deeds.

ncooty says:

John, come on. Bildungsroman is *not* pronounced buildings-raman.

Summer O'Neal says:

I always thought that last sentence about tending the garden was rather snide. Someone, I don’t remember who, starts commenting on optimism again and asks for Candide’s input, and he said that in response. I interpreted that as his way of saying, “I’ve been through too much bad stuff, and I don’t want to hear it.”

Isanom Anguinus says:

And farming does not have to be boring…

W says:

I had expected comparisons to Simplicissimus by Grimmelschausen, written almost 100 years earlier with similar themes and plot, but less developed philosophical direction or Forest Gump, a clearly Candide inspired American re-moralizing.

1980rlquinn says:

I always took the ending to be neither pessimistic nor optimistic but pragmatic: “Let us be productive with what little we have.”
Also, you missed highlighting the most timeless exchange in the entire book:

“How many plays have been written in France?’ Candide asked the abbe.

‘Five or six thousand.’

‘That’s a lot,’ said Candide. ‘How many of them are good?’

‘Fifteen or sixteen,’ replied the abbe.

‘That’s a lot,’ said Martin.”

Nerd Heaven says:

I learned in these 12 mins more than I did in 4 months of French Literature class !

DarklordofDOOM57 says:

In my language (Slovenian) the last sentence is randomly translated as “Our garden is waiting” lol

Waltham1892 says:

I wouldn’t want to read a book about disembowelment.

I guess you can say I don’t have the guts.

Evie Levin says:

Yall gotta do a Virginia woolf novel!!!!!!!!

Justine Rebina says:

I studied Voltaire at school and from what I learned, Voltaire wasn’t racist he was just extremely sarcastic. I believe you can find a bit of truth in that in a chapter of Candide: Candide and slavery as well as other texts of his denouncing slavery.

DeMattMorency says:

Jordan Peterson talks about a balance between chaos and order. In particular when there is too much order, like in El Dorado, Candide is bored and is yearning to leave. Peterson makes the argument that if humanity were ever placed in a situation of perfect order, we would tear it apart just so that something interesting would happen. We live on the border between order and chaos, not in either domain.

Isanom Anguinus says:

But why the God of the Bible does not want for men to have the knowledge and eternal life?… This is why we r not in the best of all possible worlds, because we defied God. We could have lived somewhat peacefully as hunters and gatherers, or as farmers in our paradiselike gardens/farms, but instead ambition got the worst or/and the best of us, we wanted to be Gods ourselves, or the serpent/fallen angel/the Titan/ or maybe even God (secretly) wanted us to be Gods… How will all turn out is the question, I suppose…

Laura Minnick says:

I come from a very long line of Mennonites- scholars, preachers, and farmers. Yes, you share your tomatoes. You also helped your neighbors plant and bring in crops if he needed help, and if someone’s barn burned down, everyone in the community showed up to help build a new one.

Yes, you tend your own garden. But if something happens and ypur neighbor is in need, you are all better off if you all pitch in and help him.

Peter Stellenberg says:

I hope you’ll touch mor of Voltaire’s work. I think he’s one of the finest french writers. Still, Candide could have been a two parter in my opinion.

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