hello and welcome to crash course literature the best of all possible crash courses today we're discussing the best of all possible novels here on the best of all possible sets I am the best of all possible John Green's which is saying something because there are a lot of us today we're discussing Candide or optimism a work of fiction by the Enlightenment philosopher friend Swami rof who went by the name Voltaire because you know wouldn't you if you could pull off the one name thing I'm feeling incredibly optimistic about today's video so let's get started so Voltaire was born in Paris in 1694 his dad wanted him to be a lawyer Voltaire wanted to be a writer and not for the last time Voltaire won the argument Voltaire wrote a lot like hundreds and hundreds of books and pamphlets and okay pamphlets are very short books but even so he wrote essays and poems and dramas much of it very satirical he had a hilarious verse for instance accusing the Kings regent of incest with his own daughter which landed Voltaire in the Bastille prison for nearly a year Voltaire was big on two beliefs empiricism and religious tolerance empiricism is the argument that knowledge of the world is discovered through experience and evidence as opposed to philosophical speculation and religious tolerance is self-explanatory although it was not self-explanatory in 18th century France Voltaire himself subscribed to the religion of deism the belief that God is kind of a clockmaker who set the world in motion and then stood back to watch it tick so before we get to the philosophical context and the themes of Candide which was written in 1759 and published anonymously because you know Voltaire didn't want to go back to the Bastille let's review the story in the thought moment so when the book begins Candide a naive young man is living an easy life on his uncle's estate with his cousin Cunegonde whose name is sort of a dirty joke that we really can't get into and also his tutor dr. Pangloss who insists that Candide is enjoying the best of all possible worlds when Cunegonde catches her chambermaid skoodilypooping with Pangloss she decides to kiss Candide and that gets Candide kicked off the estate forced into military service beaten and nearly killed the best of all possible worlds then Candide escapes the army and is helped by a nice heretic named James on the street he sees a poor victim of syphilis with half his nose missing and turns out its Pangloss Pangloss tells him that the army over R and the uncle's estate and killed everyone then he and Candide and James go to Lisbon where James drowns and then an earthquake hits during the ensuing devastation Candide and Pangloss are arrested as heretics and Pangloss is hanged but Candide escapes and meets up with Cunegonde who is alive and the mistress to both a rich Jewish merchant and a Catholic Inquisitor Candide killed both of these men and then he and Cunegonde escape but then they separate in Candide makes his way to Buenos Aires and eventually to El Dorado the fabled City of Gold and then eventually he makes his way to Constantinople where he meets up with Cunegonde again who unfortunately is now ugly in Voltaire's world there is seemingly nothing worse and everyone is pretty unhappy by this point in the best of all possible worlds until Candide and Cunegonde realized that maybe the best thing to do is just farm the land they have Candide says we must go and work in the garden and then the weeding begins thanks thought-bubble it's a lot of plot Voltaire never short on the plot lots of sex and travel and murder and not murder there are some reasons for all of this so Candide is an episodic novel which is just like it sounds a form based on one episode after another it's also in some ways a picaresque novel which is a collection of adventures undertaken by a wily hero or heroine although at the same time it's kind of an anti picaresque novel because as you may have noticed Candide is not terribly wily and it ends not with an ongoing adventure but with garden Candide is also a version of a bildungsroman a term we've used before which is the novel of a young person's education although we could debate how much Candide actually learns a big part of Voltaire satire involves adopting all these different forms that he's trying to mock and then turning them inside out to that point Candide is also an Enlightenment novel that's deeply critical of a lot of enlightenment philosophy it's a parody of the classic romance boy meets girl boy loses girl boy gets girl back but now she's been disemboweled also they probably don't live happily ever after so how seriously should we take this book is it just a series of potty humor parodies or is it a real intellectual inquiry well I would argue it's both just like the Captain Underpants movie I mean the book is definitely funny and extremely rude when it was first published it was banned in a bunch of countries because of the way it mocks politics and religion even people who didn't want it banned thought that its humor was too dark and that's certainly one justifiable way to read the book but I think there's more going on here than just jokes about disembowelment oh it's time for the open letter an open letter to disembowelment oh but first let's see what's in the secret compartment today look at that it's a guillotine dear disembowelment I've done a fair amount of reading on eighteenth-century methods of French execution and Wow does it seem very close to the worst of all possible worlds when it comes to criminal justice torture was the rule not the exception execution was a common punishment for all kinds of different crimes and you were lucky if you got hanged or beheaded because you could get burned alive or disemboweled or both by comparison the guillotine seemed humane in fact it was designed to be humane in short disembowelment when it comes to you I'm with Voltaire I just don't think you have any role to play in the best of all possible worlds worst wishes John Green okay so at the heart of all this rudeness there is a big question how do we understand evil in the world and what are we gonna do about it difficult questions and also among the oldest and most important for religion and for literature and even though Voltaire was very smart and deeply opinionated he doesn't pretend to have an answer but he does want to negate what he sees as bad answers Candide is a direct response to Godfried will hem leibnitz's philosophical optimism a strand of philosophy arguing that since God is good everything must be for the best in this the best of all possible worlds and this was a very common philosophical understanding at the time even though you know it seems a little bit ludicrous to us I mean the great thing about philosophical optimism is that it solved the problem of what scholars of religious traditions call theodicy the problem of evil in a world that is ostensibly overseen by an all-powerful and all-knowing God Pangloss his teachings are straight-up leaving its fan glosses name by the way literally means all talk this optimistic determinism was a big problem for Voltaire so he made it a big problem for Candide quick pause for a bit of history so in 1755 there was an enormous earthquake in Lisbon Portugal followed by a tsunami followed by a fire and the disasters killed an estimated 60,000 people nearly a third of the city Voltaire of course used this in Candide he also wrote about it in a poem called poem on the Lisbon disaster because Voltaire wasn't the best at titles he subtitled the poem an inquiry into the axiom all is well and it's clear that for Voltaire this earthquake was great evidence that leibnitz's theory was d we flawed the poem reads all this well you say and always necessary what do you think this universe would be worse without the pit that swallowed Lisbon and in the novel Candide experiences similar disillusionment part of it in Lisbon but good old Pangloss half dead from syphilis is still arguing that his syphilis is part of this best of all possible world Christopher Columbus after all brought syphilis a new world disease back to Europe and Pangloss argues that if Columbus hadn't gone to the New World and caught this disease which poisons the source of generations we wouldn't have chocolate a new world food now I like chocolate I also like lots of other new world foods like tomatoes and corn and peppers and so on but I don't think any of that justifies the horrible parts of the Columbian Exchange and syphilis is just one of many Voltaire proves this point that we don't seem to be living in the best of all possible worlds over and over in the novel arguably too often he probably makes it most explicit when one of the novels few really good characters James drowns saving a terrible person and yet I don't think Voltaire is arguing for mere pessimism like the old woman a companion of Q ngons tells a really harrowing life story which climaxes with one of her buttocks being cut off because of course it does but she ends it I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times but somehow I am still in love with life now she goes on to call this desire to live a ridiculous weakness and compares loving life to fondling a snake that devours us but still the novel acknowledges and embraces that humans love life and it also acknowledges that there is plenty to love about life like candied fruit and pistachio nuts just don't get carried away thinking that you're in a full-on benevolent universe or anything tangentially related Voltaire did not believe like the philosopher jean-jacques Rousseau did that the real source of problems is with modern society we know this because when Candide escapes to the new world things are still quite non-ideal what with all the cannibalism and syphilis and it's worth mentioning that Voltaire is anything but enlightened when it comes to his imagining of the new world Voltaire's racism and misogyny might reflect his times but his pseudo scientific justifications for them are worth noting in our times so the don't jab at the best of all possible worlds thing comes late in the novel when Voltaire takes us to Eldorado the famed City of Gold where the streets are lined with jewels no one is hungry no one is poor no one is oppressed the king is nice to everyone the enlightened citizens just love philosophy and science and guess what it's extremely boring Candide cannot wait to leave this novel is so dystopian that even the Utopia sucks at the end of the book Candide is miraculously reunited with all of his friends and together they buy a little farm but again they're very bored they go visit a famous wise man in the hopes that he can explain the meaning of life to them but he slams the door in their faces and then on the way back they meet a farmer who seems happy enough and his daughters make everyone sure Britt drinks and then drinking their sherbert Candide realizes he should go back to his farm and try to make it prosper and maybe not worry so much about philosophy and then comes the famous last line we should go and work in our garden or possibly depending on your translation let us go and cultivate our garden it's the our garden that's the important part like we should stop worrying about everyone else's garden and I guess that seems sensible enough a lot of people would probably feel better if instead of worrying themselves sick about the problem of evil in their lives and other people's lives they're just like gruesome tomatoes and worked on embroidery but as a conclusion to this particular novel it does seem weirdly conservative I mean the ending is a return to a garden what's more biblical than that and there's also the selfishness of the choice our garden I mean there's this huge earthquake in the novel but most of the suffering is inflicted not by a higher power but by humans upon one another these humans rape and kill and disembowel each other and growing tomatoes may be a way of personally opting out of those social problems but I'm not convinced it does much to fix them I guess Voltaire thinks those problems are unfixable and that people will be evil no matter what but should we succumb to that pessimism or should we try to work to change and improve this not yet best of all possible world is it enough to tend your own garden or do we have a responsibility to help our neighbors tend to their gardens as well I don't know but I do think we should at least share our vegetables thanks for watching I'll see you next time crash course is filmed here in the chad and stacey and then colt's in Indianapolis and it's made possible by your support at patreon patrons voluntary subscription service where you can support crash course directly through a monthly donation to help us keep it free for everyone forever you can also get great perks thank you to all of our patrons and to all of you for watching and as we say in my hometown don't forget to be awesome

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. WHEN ONE
    DISMISSES
    THE REST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS
    ONE FINDS
    THAT THIS IS
    THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS
    overture riff

  2. Candide made that crazy long journey to meet Cungeon only to find her unfortunately now ugly. I literally lmao at hearing Cunegon who is now ugly, ok so why did she become ugly?

  3. I had a totally different interpretation and the video missed my favorite part.
    My understanding was a critique of two pre-enlightenment ideas 1 – Everything happens for a reason and has it should be 2- leaders are worthy and people should live for the glory of their country, religion or identity.
    Voltaire or Candide's Statement that "we must take care of our garden" is to ignore those nationalist and religions philosophies and identities and take care of what is important. Garden means the real world, the one we live in.
    My favorite part was the meeting of former leaders gathered in a meeting all going through misery, showing that their former positions were purely arbitrary and meant nothing.

  4. wow – Candide is one of the best of all possible literary works and has been celebrated through the centuries (just ask Kurt Vonnegut what he thinks of it!), but John Green is just 'meh' about that pesky lesson Voltaire was trying to teach us. lolz

  5. Cunegonde does not contribute to the conclusion "We must cultivate our garden." She's a catalyst because she's absolutely terrible and cheats on Candide left and right, but she does absolutely no reasoning in the novel beyond "I can make out better here than with Candide". Martin is way more important than Candide.

  6. Trust me the real meaning of Life is to " Love God with all our heart mind and soul and to love our Neighbours as ourself"…nothing more nothing less.

  7. Your ending seems weak. If Much of the evil in the work comes from people trying to till other peoples gardens ( saving heathens etc.) then it makes sense that you must tend to your own garden. Also realistically the Only actions you control are your own. that does not mean you cannot address social issues but you need to have your own garden well weeded first and be honest as to why you are 'helping'.

  8. 10.00 "meet a famous wise man so that he can explain the meaning of life to them but he slams the door in their faces" – Fault in our stars reference??- Hazel and Gus go to visit the author of An imperial affliction but he doesn't give them any answers.

  9. This book was actually very fun to read. I couldn't put it down. One of the best pieces of literature I have ever read.

  10. I like to think that cultivate our garden offers an alternative to Eden, the idea that one can better the earth rather than simply accept that this is as good as it gets. The idea of let us not accept that we have been excluded from paradise nor that we must find paradise but that we should build paradise.

Related Post