Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Free to enjoy Cunegonde

From a paper I wrote my freshman year (1977-78), for a political philosophy course at Simmons College in Boston. Note that I wrote it with a fountain pen - Osmiroid, I'm sure.

Pangloss tried to ignore the existence of the passions, as did other philosophes; his own suppressed impulses found outrageous releases in ways that were ultimately more destructive than pleasurable, such as his contraction of venereal disease after feeling the urge to give an impromptu lesson in "experimental physics" to the chambermaid. Voltaire recognizes the complexity of man's nature, that he is a combination of reason and passion, and good and evil. Candide, and even Pangloss and Martin, at the end of the novel, represent a realistic view of man, taking into account and reconciling conflicting aspects of the nature of man. Candide comes to terms with his own strengths and weaknesses, and strikes a balance between the two poles of optimism and pessimism, which until the end of his escapades, confused him a great deal. Candide finally decides to follow his natural impulses and work in his garden and see what comes of it. In reality, Candide becomes the true philosopher of the novel. Where Pangloss and Martin express glib views of life, Candide sees deeply and clearly that man is complex, but can come to terms with himself only by moderately following his basic talents and motivations. And since Candide is now in control of himself and of his life, he can now allow his passions pleasurable and even constructive release.

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