Candide satirizes the huge gap between the world and the way it is philosophically and religiously explained. The doctrines of religious groups and philosophers active during Voltaire’s life are made to look ridiculous and out of touch with reality when juxtaposed with the events of the novel. Pangloss' philosophy of optimism appears foolish—even insincere—when set beside the misfortunes of his life: exile, enslavement, execution, vivisection, syphilis, and academic obscurity. His explanations also become more circuitous and outlandish as the narrative proceeds. By the very end, Pangloss is suggesting that all of the miseries the characters endured were necessary to bring them to the present moment: enjoying candied pistachios in the garden.
Candide also criticizes religion as a means of making judgments about the world. Despite his good character and judgment, Candide is unfairly mistreated by religious zealots of all kinds, who take him to be an enemy because of his ignorance of their beliefs and doctrines. In the end, Candide rejects the dogma and sophistication of religion and philosophy. Refusing to enter any further into the debates of Martin and Pangloss, he comes to the pragmatic conclusion that “we must cultivate our garden”—in other words, that practical reason and hard work are more useful than theology and philosophy in making sense of the world. Like many of the conclusions reached by Candide, this reflects a trend in the Europe of Voltaire's era: science and more politically focused philosophy were taking the place of theology, which since medieval times had been known as “the Queen of the Sciences.”
Religion and Philosophy vs. The World ThemeTracker
Religion and Philosophy vs. The World Quotes in Candide
“It is demonstrable," said he, "that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for all being created for an end, all is necessarily for the best end. Observe, that the nose has been formed to bear spectacles—thus we have spectacles. Legs are visibly designed for stockings—and we have stockings. Stones were made to be hewn, and to construct castles—therefore my lord has a magnificent castle; for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Pigs were made to be eaten—therefore we eat pork all the year round. Consequently they who assert that all is well have said a foolish thing, they should have said all is for the best.”
“My friend,” said the orator to him, “do you believe the Pope to be Anti-Christ?”
“I have not heard it,” answered Candide; “but whether he be, or whether he be not, I want bread.”
“It is more likely,” said he, “mankind have a little corrupted nature, for they were not born wolves, and they have become wolves; God has given them neither cannon of four-and-twenty pounders, nor bayonets; and yet they have made cannon and bayonets to destroy one another. Into this account I might throw not only bankrupts, but Justice which seizes on the effects of bankrupts to cheat the creditors.”
“What can be the sufficient reason of this phenomenon?” said Pangloss.
“This is the Last Day!” cried Candide.
“If this is the best of possible worlds, what then are the others?”
“It is an admirable government. The kingdom is upwards of three hundred leagues in diameter, and divided into thirty provinces; there the Fathers possess all, and the people nothing; it is a masterpiece of reason and justice.”
“A Jesuit! a Jesuit! we shall be revenged, we shall have excellent cheer, let us eat the Jesuit, let us eat him up!”
“What is this optimism?” said Cacambo.
“Alas!” said Candide, “it is the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it is wrong.”
“...but I own to you that when I cast an eye on this globe, or rather on this little ball, I cannot help thinking that God has abandoned it to some malignant being.”
“But is there not a pleasure,” said Candide “ in criticizing everything, in pointing out faults where others see nothing but beauties?”
“That is to say,” replied Martin, “that there is some pleasure in having no pleasure.”
“What signifies it," said the Dervish, "whether there be evil or good? When his highness sends a ship to Egypt, does he trouble his head whether the mice on board are at their ease or not?”
“I have only twenty acres,” replied the old man; “I and my children cultivate them; our labour preserves us from three great evils—weariness, vice, and want.”
“You are right,” said Pangloss, “for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle.”
“Let us work,” said Martin, “without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”
“All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden.”