Friday, November 30, 2012

Tabula Rasa

I think that Locke's theory of Tabula Rasa (that everyone starts off as a blank slate and then is molded by their environment) could apply to Candide. Candide is shaped initially by Pangloss, who preaches his theory of optimism. Candide spends the first half of the book being naively optimistic. The naivety of Candide seems almost childlike, as though there are still remnants of his initially blank slate, but then he has also been affected by Pangloss's teachings. But then, as Candide ventures out in the world, he gains new experiences and listens to the philosophies of the old woman, Cacambo, and Martin, Candide's slate is shaped by them. At the end of the book, I think Candide learns from his own experiences and starts to form opinions of his own. He realizes that Pangloss is wrong and from observing the man cultivating his garden, Candide learns about life. Candide is shaped by his surrounding, but he also uses the enlightenment idea of experience and observation to express himself. 

3 comments:

wkuehne said...

While Voltaire could be portraying Candide as a Tabula Rasa character, it is also possible that Candide is a simpleton and blind-follower. While Tabula Rasa and blind following initially seem similar, they're not. Candide's curiosity is causes him to listen to the two philosophers. The philosophers also argue with each other, they do not shape each others opinions, but a gardener does. And the environment of El Dorado does not change Candide's perceptions of money, or human nature.

Madeline Davis said...

Although I prefer to see Candide as a Tabula Rasa character, it seemed to me that he struggled to recall which philosophy he thought he agreed with, making me side more with Will's interpretation of Candide as a blind-follower. While Candide often disagreed with Pangloss's philosophy after he experienced new things, he continuously went back to agreeing with Pangloss. Despite many of his new experiences, it seemed like Candide just couldn't figure out whose philosophy was best and who he actually wanted to agree with. As for the old woman and Cacambo, I didn't feel that Candide respected their opinions and philosophies as much as he should have, seeing as they were the characters with the most rational, realistic plans.

Ben Bonner said...

I think it's the opposite. I think Voltaire is trying to portray human nature at static. Throughout the entire story none of the characters change: Candide is never willing to let go of Pangloss's philosophy; Pangloss isn't willing to let go of it purely out of stubborness; Martin stands by his pessimism; Cunegonde's brother continues to refuse to let Candide marry Cunegonde, despite the fact that Candide has professed his love for her and has bought him out of slavery. I think Voltaire is portraying not just Candide but all the characters as the antitheses of a tabula rasa figure.