Voltaire’s Candide Essay Examples

The reader must not, however, conclude at once that the following pages are so many red-hot charges into the tottering ranks of mediæval dogmas. My aim has been to illustrate the versatility of Voltaire’s genius, and to exhibit his own sincere creed no less than his most penetrating scourges of what most educated men in his time and ours regard as utterly antiquated delusions. There are pages here that might receive a place of honour in the most orthodox religious journals of England; other pages in which the irony is so subtle and the temper so polite that, without the terrible name, they would puzzle many a clergyman. In the however, and in parts of one or two other essays, I have given specimens of the Voltaire who was likened to Antichrist.

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For more than thirty years, scholars have been working to establish a definitive edition of Voltaire’s works. Because of the vastness and variety of Voltaire’s creative output as well as the seeming contradictions in his character and behavior, the story of his life is challenging and, at times, even perplexing. Voltaire wrote across genres as a poet-essayist-philosopher; he was known stylistically for his wit and thematically for his defense of civil liberties. An avid supporter of social reform in the face of strict censorship laws, he frequently used satire to criticize Catholic dogma and French institutions. The ideas Voltaire promoted in his work influenced important thinkers of both the American and French revolutions.


SparkNotes: Candide: Study Questions & Essay Topics

This collection of essays by Voltaire contains a long essay on the Jean Calas case, several shorter essays on religious topics, and his famous poem on the Lisbon earthquake.

If this is the best of possible worlds, what then are the others

Immediately preceding this poem I have given a translation of Voltaire’s philosophical essay, This was written by him in 1772, six years before his death, and is the most succinct expression of his mature religious views. It is really directed against his atheistic friends at Paris, such as d’Holbach. Condorcet said of it that it contained the most powerful argumentation for the existence of God that had yet been advanced. Its remarkable lucidity and terseness enable us to identify his views at once. He did not believe in the spirituality or immortality of the soul, but he had an unshakable conviction of the existence of God. It is sometimes said that the Lisbon earthquake shook his theism. This is inaccurate, as a careful comparison of the two works will show. He never believed that the supreme intelligence was infinite in power, and the haunting problem of evil always made him hesitate to ascribe more than limited moral attributes to his deity. His one unwavering dogma—it does not waver for an instant in the poem—is that the world was designed by a supreme intelligence and is moved by a supreme power. Had he lived one hundred years later, when evolution began to throw its magical illumination upon the order of the universe and the wonderful adaptation of its parts, his position would clearly have been modified. As it was, he, with constant sincerity, avowed that he could not understand the world without a great architect and a prime mover of all moving things. In all his works the uglier features of the world, which, unlike many theists, he steadfastly confronted, forbid him to add any other and warmer attributes to this bleak intelligence and mysterious power.