The reaction that an individual has towards the challenges they face in life is greatly influenced by their optimistic or pessimistic attitude. Those with an optimistic attitude towards life tend to have different way of looking at the challenges compared to the pessimists and they both have differing ways of coping with the challenges in life. For the optimists, life challenges are bound to happen and there is nothing that can be done to prevent them. The individuals believe that the challenges exist for the best of humanity thus they view challenges with a positive attitude. For the pessimists, life’s challenges are normal because the individuals do not expect anything good to happen in life. This shapes their negative attitude towards the challenges that they may face in life. The society has different attitudes towards the pessimists and the optimists in the society.
In most cases, optimists are viewed as unreasonable people who look at life in a very unrealistic way because of their attitude towards challenges in life. The pessimists on the other hand are perceived as reasonable people who base their arguments on realistic facts. In his novel, Voltaire uses two characters to explain the difference between pessimists and optimists in the society. Pangloss is one of the characters who represent individuals who always see the bright side of life while Martin is the character that represents the pessimists in the society (Wade 165). Through the characters, the author communicates his view on optimism and pessimism in the age of reason. The age of reason refers to the period where the society began to conduct their activities based on logic and reasoning instead of relying on aspects such as religion. Voltaire is a strong proponent of logic reasoning and he expresses his disappointment at the people who rely on other sources such as religion for reason. This study compares the concepts of optimism and pessimism in the age of reason as discussed by Voltaire.
The age of reason was characterized by development of varying schools of thought that influenced the way people perceived life. Prior to this age, the society greatly depended on religion to inform their morality but the development of philosophy and education made people question the way of life. Religion was mainly based on optimism as it aimed at giving people hope to face the varying challenges that affected their lives. However, Voltaire was opposed to the philosophy that religion preached in the society arguing that it was hypocritical. He argued that religion was misleading because it was not based on reality. Using two characters; Pangloss and Martin, Voltaire used satire to show that religion had no space in the age of reason.
Pangloss is depicted as an optimist who lives by the belief that the world at the time was the best that it could ever be and that everything in the world happened for the good of the better of humanity. He acts as the tutor to Candide, who is opposed to some of his teachings about the view of the world. Candide is opposed to the belief that the world is the best that can ever exist, arguing that it is possible to develop the same world to become better. The opposition of the optimism view as held by Pangloss is an indication of the importance of enlightenment and the use of logic in the age of reason instead of depending on customs and morality as proposed by religion.
Martin is depicted as a character that is more believable and intelligent than the others, even though he has a pessimistic attitude towards life. His intelligence is influenced by the fact that he relies on personal reason and logic instead of philosophies such as religion. The perception of Martin about the world is more reliable as it is based on personal experience. While Pangloss bases his arguments on theories and convictions about life, Martin’s arguments about life are based on the personal and financial setbacks. The insights provided by Martin are more accurate compared to those provided by Pangloss as they are based on logic and reason. Although both Martin and Pangloss have different ways of viewing the word, they agree that the word should remain unchanged. Martin cites that man is bound to live in the world, as unfair as it may be to them thus there is no need to change it (Wade 112). On the same note, Pangloss argues that the world is the best that humanity can ever have, thus there is no need to change it.
In conclusion, the different views of world help by Pangloss and Martin help understand the varying ways that people handle the challenges they face. Being an optimist gives one hope for survival, but one should have realistic hope. Through Martin’s life, it is evident that the attitudes that people have towards life are shaped by the experiences that they face in life.
Wade, Ira Owen. Voltaire and Candide: A Study in the Fusion of History, Art, and Philosophy. Vol. 11. Kennikat Press, 2002.