In 1759 the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire published his satirical piece Candide. It tells the fantastical journeys of the simple Candide and his tutor Dr Pangloss. The saga commences when he is expelled from the idyllic Westphalia after being discovered in an innocent romantic liaison with the Baron’s daughter Cunegonde.
Candide is thrust out into a garishly tragicomic world of suffering armed only with the positivist ideas of Pangloss, with whom he is quickly reunited.
All is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds.
Voltaire was lampooning Gottfried Leibniz, the Christian mathematician-philosopher whose Théodicée built a theological philosophy coining a similar phrasing. (Voltaire considered Leibniz to be a bit of a preening dabbler, and thus credentialed Pangloss a “professor of meta-physico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology”. That one got me!)
It’s a frolicking tale; one in which the obsolescence of Candide’s outlook must be reckoned with. It cannot hold up under the honest scrutiny of even the simplest, so he is forced to form a truer view of the world.
Honesty is a personal varietal of truth, is it not? But it is elusive because it is both objective and subjective simultaneously. (That you are anxious could be honest, but why? That’s a harder truth to name.)
Like Voltaire, we know optimism falls short of truth. But so too does pessimism. Flattery and gossip, cynicism and naiveté, histrionics and denial all evade, to quote Emily Dickinson, “all the truth.” We know this. We usually know when we’re being dishonest.
But the real problem is why. Continue reading “Honesty | #Friday500”