Master of Arts (MA)


Emily W Heady

Primary Subject Area

Literature, English; Philosophy; Religion, Philosophy of


Candide, eighteenth century, Hesitation, Locke, Satire, Voltaire




Candide calls into question its merit as literature or philosophy because it draws its reader into eisegesis. The act of interpreting Candide is never a cool judgment. The enigmatic ending forces the reader to see that acts of judgment are appetitive: Desires shape judgment; judgment plies desire. Candide's behavior reveals eighteenth century interest in "the body," which was the scientist's chief tool in entering "the void" to explore the integrity of new knowledge. We see this body interest in Locke's Essay and, through a concept of "hesitation," we can see that Voltaire absorbed Lock's view of the interconnection between judgment and appetite. Candide teaches us to be aware of this relationship (i.e., we learn to hesitate). Interestingly, many modern scholars interpret Candide's hesitation in accordance with Rousseau's anthropology. Whether this is right or wrong, Candide does begin an exploration of humanity's place in "the void" and, in so doing, an investigation into human nature itself. However we define "human nature" we must inevitably deal with the question Candide himself asks: "Why was anything created?" By dealing with this question--whether we reject its metaphysical trajectory or not--we reveal our appetites.

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