The Disparity between a Hobbsian World and the World of Candide
In an anarchistic Hobbsian world, man leads a purely selfish
existence, perpetually waging war against his fellow men.Â In this
world Nature subsists as a playing field for evolution: only the
strong and cunning survives, and even survival results in life that is
"nasty, brutish, and short" (Hobbes).Â However, with restraints (that
is, government), a Hobbsian world can blossom into society.Â According
to Hobbes, those who wish to subside from natural anarchy must
implicitly surrender some personal freedom in exchange for societal
Hobbes' philosophies influenced many of his contemporaries and
subsequent intellectuals, including Voltaire, demonstrated in his
satire, Candide.Â At first glance, Candide seems to be a strict
manifestation of Hobbsian philosophy: an anarchistic world centered
around war, relieved only through the yield of personal freedom for
communal order-Eldorado and the garden.Â Yet after a thorough
examination of the work, one recognizes that the characters in Candide
are not Hobbsian.Â Hobbsian man is innately selfish and ambitious
while Voltaire's characters are not.Â Perhaps some characters in
Candide are driven through their misfortunes as a result of their
avarice; however, this foible can not be ascribed as innately human.
Instead, avarice, in the world of Candide, arises as a byproduct of
the fallibility of man-made institutions (that is, religious and
educational), which are the primary targets of Voltaire's satire.
Thus, the world of Candide, although structured like a Hobbsian world,
contains men that are not Hobbsian.Â This d...
...the inability to cooperate.Â Or perhaps
Voltaire suggests that the world can be controlled more effectively if
the man-made institutions that he is satirizing could be somehow
reorganized.Â All in all, Voltaire's subtle divergence from strict
Hobbsian philosophy enables him to pose perhaps unanswerable questions
about mankind and our potentials.
Bottiglia, William. "Candide's Garden." Voltaire: A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.
Hobbes, Thomas. â€œOf Religion.â€ ed.Smith,Lacey Baldwin and Jean Reeder Smith. The Past Speaks. 2nd ed. 1 vol. Lexington: Heath, 1993.
Richter, Peyton. Voltaire. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.
Tsanoff, Radoslav. Voltaire's Candide and the Critics. California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1966.
Voltaire. Candide. New York: Viking Publishers, 1996.
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