Fénelon and Voltaire, the two French philosophers and pedagogues, influenced a wide range of people in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. The philosophers who followed were inspired by their work which contained ideological hints and promoted humanitarian awareness. We followed the historical analysis method, we intend to present through Fénelon’s ‘The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses’ and Voltaire’s ‘Candide’ how these literary works act as a dynamic change agent in order to promote peaceful attitude, develop empathy, foster tolerance for diversity, cultivate morality, but also motivate young people. Fénelon promotes his views on political wisdom and denounces the greed for wealth and the expansionist wars. Voltaire parodies optimism and criticizes war. The ideological background of the two men is completely opposite; Fénelon is religious and his work is based on his faith, whereas Voltaire struggles against Church. Nevertheless, they both denounce the atrocities committed during war, the vanity of wealth, whilst they both use a utopia to describe the ideal society. In this paper, we will discuss similarities and differences between these two books, the way their writers approach the factors that lead to human suffering, their proposals on anthropocentric policy which should be followed by “kings” for the avoidance of war and the support for peace and justice, the way they encourage their readers to behave and live their lives, because they are themes which strike the modern reader too. The study of these books helps people cultivate critical thinking, get knowledge which leads to wisdom and derive from them social, philosophical, religious, political and pedagogical elements in order to foster solidarity.
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Article Type: Research Article
PEDAGOGICAL RES, 2019, Volume 4, Issue 4, Article No: em0042
Publication date: 19 Aug 2019
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This article traces a historical shift in moral and political thought. There is a commonplace in François Fénelon’s ‘The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses’ and Voltaire’s ‘Candide’, as the two authors base their tales in the political context of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. They both imply the devastation which the French and neighboring people suffered due to Louis XIV’s eager for glory and expansion. In this paper, we relate Fénelon and Voltaire to each other, underlining the similarities and the differences between two of the best-read tales of that period. Our goal is to capture and compare the innovative ideas and the didactic issues of the two books, interpret them and understand them. Both authors influenced a wide range of people not only in France, but all-around Europe, and they inspired the philosophers who followed. We focus on their work with new perspectives and fresh look to exhibit the contribution of these literary works in anti-dogmatic education and to the development of critical thinking.
We discuss the social, philosophical and ideological background of the writers which are completely opposite; Fénelon is religious and his work is based on his faith, whereas Voltaire struggles against Church. Although, in his early work Voltaire shows contemn to the ideas of Fénelon, we realize that in Candide his attitude changes and he tends to owe a significant intellectual debt to the line of thought of Fénelon. On the one hand, in The Adventures of Telemachus, Fénelon’s views are engaged with political wisdom, he denounces the expansionist wars, the greed for wealth, he condemns the moral consequences of trade and we point out elements which present the mentality of the society which cultivated an insatiable taste for exotic items, making the trade of luxurious products an economic fact; on the other hand, Voltaire in Candide criticizes war, politics and society in his special linguistic style, and we compare the opinion of the two writers, as well as the ethical footings that emerge. Nevertheless, they are both deeply interested in denouncing the atrocities committed during war, they present their perception on the issue of luxury and they both use a utopia to describe the ideal society. We discuss how the authors support their beliefs when they approach the factors that lead to human suffering, their proposals on anthropocentric policy, which should be followed by the leaders for the avoidance of war and the support of peace and justice. Moreover, we note the debates on toleration and the way the authors encourage people to behave, how they both try to enlighten their readers and guide them to the search of truth, to the love of peace and work. We mention social, philosophical, religious, political and pedagogical elements that can affect young people to cultivate humanitarian awareness, because they are themes which concern modern society and the humanistic value of literature lessons has been greatly acknowledged in the civilized world.
The study is based on the historical analysis method (Isari and Pourkos, 2015: 13). The moral value and the didactic spirit of the two books are integral parts of the phenomenological existence and the persuasiveness of their words is related to the way both writers influenced the philosophical and pedagogical thinking. These specific books can contribute to the development of moral values to young people, so that they can expand their perspectives, intensify their awareness and help them become more tolerant.
François de Salignac de la Motte Fénelon (1651-1715) managed to form the way the later philosophers thought. As tutor of the King’s Louis XIV grand-son, the Duke of Burgundy, from 1689 till 1697, he visualized his ideas to influence the political life of France. The King acknowledged Fénelon’s work by appointing him Archbishop of Cambrai in 1696. In order to help his student get the moral education that he believed that a prince should have, Fénelon wanted to write an erudite compilation, set a moral course and create a political manual. He tried to revive all the literary memories of Homer and Virgil for his student, because, according to the traditions of the classical period, they constituted the necessary supplies of a cultivated man. His concern was to formulate instructions to the prince that would influence his personal behavior. For this reason, he tried to design an action plan for the day that the prince would rise to the throne (Castex and Surer, 1946: 236). Therefore, he wrote The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses. In 1699 this novel was published without its writer’s permission; it is a piece of work which was not only widely read in France, but it was welcomed in Europe too (Dru, 2016). The book is presented by Fénelon as the continuation of Homer’s Odyssey. It is characterized both as philosophical (Puzin, 1987:4) and pedagogical (Lagarde and Michard, 1985: 425) novel. It is an ‘epic prose’ which can be a useful manual, because it contains ethical and political axioms, but it is at the same time a manual for teaching French both as mother language and as second language (Athini, 2015). It is a dramatic fiction that sets the curriculum for the educational process of the young prince and in this book, we find Fénelon’s personality, his way of thinking, his pedagogical beliefs and his didactic theory (Puzin and Violette, 1988: 279-280). As an excellent Hellenist he imitated the ancient way of writing with charismatic ability (Lagarde and Michard, 1985: 425). His choice to place his work in ancient Greece is deliberate, as this era allows him to present an ethically exemplary character (Bottigheimer, 2003: 172). Fénelon’s views are covered in a myth, in a utopic environment, because the author lives and depends on a Monarchy and he does not want to risk his position by exerting clear criticism (Ahn, Schmitt-Maass and Stockhorst, 2013: 5). Furthermore, through this project, with remarkable clarity and elegance, he promoted his views on political wisdom. In the form of the goddess Athena, he becomes the mentor of Telemachus (Shennan, 1991: 691); he reveals to his pupil the truths of life and the prince identifies himself to the hero. As an illuminated guide, he teaches his disciple the devaluation of human desires in order to lead him to a higher spiritual level (Athini, 2015). Fénelon’s effort to protect the prince from the courtesies of the Royal Court is profound and through his work, he did not hesitate to denounce the dangers caused by wealth and by the expansionist wars (Schuurman, 2012). In addition, this book belongs to the literary genre of speculum principum, because it is written for the prince and it provides instructions as a code of conduct which is appropriate for the social position of the person that it is addressed to (Nederman, 1998), which means that Mentor gradually teaches the prince the art of pacific and virtuous kingship (Hont, 2006).
François - Marie Arouet (1694 - 1778), the French philosopher and writer known as Voltaire, became famous throughout Europe as he was considered leading figure of the Enlightenment. Along with the other thinkers and writers of the Enlightenment, Diderot, Rousseau, Montesquieu etc he paved the way for the French Revolution, by shaping the public opinion and he laid the foundations of the younger culture. Like Montesquieu, Voltaire discovered in the political regime of England tolerance and freedom. So, he began his research, he understood, and he blamed. Some of his works caused scandal and he had to escape and return to France after the death of Louis XIV. He was sensitive, emotional, compassionate and brave; he found satisfaction through his writings. He believed for himself to be primarily a poet. He has written philosophical poems, didactic epigraphs that include beautiful verses, but in his satires, we find his best work. His scintillating verses are imbued with spiritual temperament as he attacks people and situations with the harshness of his hints (Lagarde and Michard, 2004). He opposes to fanaticism and doctrine, whilst he is a proponent of progress and science. Voltaire, being a deist himself, struggles not only against obscurantism and prejudice, but mostly against Church, with his characteristic expression Ecrasez l’ infâme to be written on his letters to d’ Alambert (Voltaire, 2005: 161). His metaphysical perceptions mirror the confusion of the period he lives in, but his beliefs about different issues place him between the precursors of positivism and research. He writes because he likes action (Tinker, 1988: 165) and he wants to educate and inform people. Philosophy for Voltaire is synonym to free thinking (Lagarde and Michard, 2004).
Fénelon’s perception of pure love led to the reception of his ideas by Voltaire. During his youth, Voltaire refers to Fénelon as the writer of Telemachus; he was aware of his support to Quietism and seems to have shown interest in his work Explication des maximes des saints. At that time, Voltaire did not seem to appreciate Fénelon’s work, he refers to it as doctrines without interesting ideas and even though he used to make references to Fénelon’s work on pure love in his correspondence (Pagani, 2014), he reported that the Sun King – Louis XIV – believed for Fénelon to be a fine, but chimerical mind; furthermore, the king was displeased by him due to Telemachus (Manuel, Manuel, 1979). Nevertheless, whilst Voltaire works on Candide and he has already reached a mature age, Fénelon becomes for Voltaire the person who made virtue to become people-friendly (Hogu, 1920) and not only does he agree with him concerning the religious tolerance, but as a pedagogue himself, in this philosophical tale, he criticizes war, in between others and encourages his readers to get educated and think. In his own linguistic style, by using irony and humor, Voltaire criticizes the concept of optimism, which tries to impose on the world ideas that are not based on any real facts (Tinker, 1988: 165). Through the denunciation of dogmatism, Voltaire attacks all forms of a priori thinking systems, which oppress the world (Debailly, 1992). Candide is a major work that covers all the philosophical issues of Voltaire’s era: a) religion and fanaticism – he attacks on anything which is being imposed on people as orthodox, but without aiming at anything Christian (Wells, 1895: 134), b) political freedom and tyranny, c) knowledge and obscurantism, d) happiness and fortune, e) freedom and slavery (Schmidt, 2011: 43), and f) it strongly expresses the legal, political and ethical thought of Voltaire (Riley, 2009). The philosophical tale, as it was invented by Voltaire, is characterized by its ability to ridicule and parody situations and traditional narrative forms. Thus, in Candide, the presentation of an idyllic situation is followed by a series of unfortunate events that come to defy the original delusions. On this pattern, the writer makes an attack on the Leibnitzian optimism, he expresses his philosophical concerns about the illusion that arises from the aristocratic power, but also all kinds of power, he seems rather pessimistic about the human nature and he seizes the opportunity to criticize war and wealth and aims to awaken people and to deliver to them the ideas of the Enlightenment. Although he places his ideal state in a utopian area, as well, he includes in his narration events of the state of the world he lives in; the story gets the character of real and achieves to deliver the political and historical news to the readers together with his philosophical ideas. Both writers use the safety of the utopian state to support their ideas in their books. There are fixed rules that the narrative utopias follow, such as the rather identical fictitious romance, the heroes who serve utilitarian roles, the stereotypical plots, the descriptions which tend to play important role in the narration, whilst the aim is to demonstrate the views of the writer through the exemplary and didactical narrative (Racault, 2008: 63).
Fénelon had a sophisticated kindness. His charisma of eloquent speech is an element that distinguishes him from other writers. The superiority of his spirit and the sweetness that characterized his words are found in his books. His writing style is didactic. The Adventures of Telemachus, is a narrative utopia in the type of the archaeological novel (Tabaki, 2008: 64). Fénelon, by using the wanderings of Telemachus, allows his readers to join him on a trip to the ancient times, in a utopia, while he criticizes the wrongdoings of the policy that the King Louis XIV is following; at the same time, he exposes the dangers and the perils due to the eager for power and wealth. Fénelon is against any extravagance, he denounces luxury and war, whilst he supports the cultivation of morals. Telemachus is the noblest student that could ever exist. This utopia tends to meet the doctrines of the quietist movement and the practice of a passive and God trusting behavior, which could lead to the achievement of the union with the divine, possible for humble believers. The spirit of the Greek antiquity, the word of God and Plato’s laws are the inspiration of the writer (Manuel and Manuel, 1979).
With his speech being sweet and kind, but with strict temperament as well, Fénelon believes that the young prince needs to be protected from all those in Court who flatter him, so that he won’t get ‘intoxicated with the consciousness of his power, and the advantages of his situation’ (Fénelon, 1847: 35). He knows that the people, who surround the throne have their own ambitions and they are able to violate anything in order to please the ‘appetites’ of the prince. This would be catastrophic as it would corrupt the prince’s goodwill and spirit (Fénelon, 1847: 24). The prince must be taught that he has got to be patient, wise and afterwards brave. He ought to love his people as his children, derive happiness to them and teach them to connect the idea of happiness with him, so that they will show their gratitude (Fénelon, 1847: 19-20). A king must be able ‘to retrieve an error’ and give ‘orders with sufficient exactness’ in order to be respected (Fénelon, 1847: 35). This can be achieved by hard work and discipline or else people might revolt. Tyrants confront hate and detest, this is why they end up fearing for themselves (Fénelon, 1847: 20). This wisdom and knowledge are necessary to a king who wishes happiness for his people. As war is never a good idea, but only in the case of defense of liberty, Fénelon seizes the opportunity to criticize indirectly Louis XIV and his ambition for expansion. There is only vanity in glory after a war, as such kings destroy rather than fertilize, as they ought to do (Fénelon, 1847: 149). Wars result to the destruction of mankind and the devastation of earth. Under the protection of the myth, the writer accuses the Greek kings and he criticizes them for getting glory which is placed in ‘carnage and desolation’. He expresses his admiration for their capacity in sciences, their politeness and their superiority against all, but, by making a critical hint, he says that he feels happy that his people lack these advantages and their minds will not be perverted by such phrenzy and they are not inspired by ‘sanguinary and injurious’ desires (Fénelon, 1847: 173).
Fénelon prefers those princes who talk about war, as long as they have got to defend their country, to those ‘whose genius is entirely military’. He does not stop accusing the latter for ruining their people, in order to add new titles to their names. Wars make people unhappy and produce disorder within the country; there is ‘general disorder’ and corruption. The writer supports his saying by referring to the example of Greece during the conquest of Troy, which was deprived of its kings for a decade. As anywhere else at times of war, the disasters follow one another, ‘the laws are violated with impunity, agriculture is neglected, and the sciences are forgotten’. Even the best prince, in times of war, deals with the worst. Nations, which are ruled by conquerors, endure due to their ambitions. People, no matter if they belong to the winners of the war or to the defeated, suffer equally in between the same ruins, whilst the kings’ vanity grows bigger due to the new triumph. For Fénelon such kind of kings are considered to be ignorant of the arts of peace, not knowing to derive the advantages of a successful war. Taking possession of the neighboring countries by force results in making none of the population happy. The winners are incapable to harvest any wealth. Instead, they ‘fill the world with violence, tumult, and desolation’. On the other hand, kings who are born to protect their people, they do not harass them by perpetual hostilities, in addition, they are capable to govern peacefully and they have, also, got the qualifications to secure their people against any enemy (Fénelon, 1847: 88-89). He points out the misfortunes that people suffered from and he wonders whether kings were taught ‘what should be done to prevent a war’ (Fénelon, 1847: 175).
The writer’s humbleness fills his didactic speech. He prefers people to be ignorant or unpolished, as far as they are human and faithful. The ideas of the Christian simplicity, the ideology of the clergyman, find their way and Fénelon preaches that people can be content with little. He teaches them to despise ‘the false delicacy which makes it necessary to have much’. He praises values like health and freedom, but also frugality and vigour for body and mind. He lists in a straightforward manner all the obligations of a good Christian, as they are expected to be found in a priest’s speech; he urges for love of virtue, fear of gods, benevolence to the others, moderation in prosperity, courage to speak the truth, but also abhorrence and contempt of flattery. Fénelon once more expresses his opinion that people with such qualities ‘are most to be dreaded, when compelled into war’ (Fénelon, 1847: 173).
Furthermore, the ability to govern in peace is followed by moral strength according to the writer. He supports his belief that people who live their lives without any deprivation or without having faced any adversity ‘are unworthy of happiness’ and they tend to become lazy, because they are spoiled ‘by luxury and intoxicated with pride’. This condemnation of wealth and unnecessary luxury is directed to the King and the nobles of his court in Versailles, who exploited the poor, hardworking farmers. He finds luxury worthless and for this reason he suggests that a wise king should suppress actions which cause torment to others. Fénelon considers luxury as the consumption of ‘superfluity’, which does not correspond to the satisfaction of the real needs that men have got, and he criticizes the vanity of fake needs, just like the vain-glory that Kings are looking for (Hont, 2006). He wants to inspire his reader with his suggestions about a wise governing of a state by encouraging the strengthening of agriculture and people who supply the society with ‘the necessaries of life’. The disasters of war cause stronger misery to the less favored and the writer urges the educated people to reconsider their morality and their beliefs (Fénelon, 1847: 149). He presents happiness and prosperity to be found in simplicity and the joy that labour provides, which can make a whole kingdom become ‘extremely populous’ thanks to its ‘healthful, vigorous, and hardy’ people, who will have, also, become veterans in virtue. Such governance will produce brave citizens who, will not be scared to fight for their country to protect ‘a prince who reigns only as the substitute of reason’ (Fénelon, 1847: 90-91). Fénelon, who cherishes immensely peace and justice, declares that if a peaceful prince gets attacked by a neighboring conqueror, he will be able to fight as his people will show their strength, their courage and the prince’s allies will support him. For the writer the ignorance of the art of war is not an imperfection in a prince’s character as, due to this, he is unable to injure people and that prince is, by all means, superior to a king who knows nothing else, but only the art of war (Fénelon, 1847: 91). Despotism and luxury are considered by Fénelon to be the characteristics of a corrupt monarchy (Hont, 2006).
Moreover, Fénelon considers knowledge to be a kind of amusement and the cultivation of mind to be nothing else, but ‘supreme delight’ (Fénelon, 1847: 25-26). As a spiritual and religious leader, Fénelon detested satisfaction that comes from addictive pleasures and, according to this belief he considered the consumption of alcohol to be hazardous as it puts virtue in danger. In addition, he compares wine to poison, both for health and soul, as it produces madness and people should preserve their health and avoid scandalous pleasures (Fénelon, 1847: 149). He explains that ‘nothing is so fatal to health as immoderate pleasure’. In his book, Fénelon supports a conservative and simple lifestyle both for kings and the people, in peace and war. He believes that bad habits and pleasures, while being young, ‘precipitate old age’. Life which is ‘free from the inquietudes both of accident and passion’ and it is wisely ‘divided in due proportions between labour and rest’ carries for long the dynamics of youth. It is obvious that, most of anything else, the writer seeks to cultivate virtue to his student to shield him from any danger, whether it comes from others or from himself (Fénelon, 1847: 163).
Misfortune brings Telemachus and Mentor in Salentum. As they reached the port, ‘the city rose into greater magnificence’. There were ‘new ornaments of architecture that seemed to reach the clouds’. The noise that the workmen produced was big and it carried out the whole day (Fénelon, 1847: 160). Thus, the excess of wealth made people violent just in order to please their desires, which brought not only disorder in the city, but it ‘would have fallen into ruin, while it was yet rising from its foundations’ (Fénelon, 1847: 165). In the meantime, the enemies did not miss the chance to attack them. People were suddenly ‘alarmed by a sudden and confused noise’. Fénelon describes the scene in a simple way, with specific visual details, giving the reader the capability to understand the crucial moments. The description is dressed with the sound of the noise which was made: ‘the rattling of chariots, the neighing of horses, the shouts of men, and the sound of the trumpet’ (Fénelon, 1847: 180). The setting reflects people’s feelings, who cried out while facing the enemy. The unfinished walls couldn’t prevent them and the picture causes anxiety to the reader: ‘the casques, cuirasses, and shields of the enemy, which glittered in the sun, and almost dazzled the sight’ (Fénelon, 1847: 181). The scenery which is used sets the tone of the scene, but unlike Voltaire, Fénelon does not proceed in presenting war activities and his linguistic choices are a result of his personality, so they do not turn out to get tough. Through dialogue and by offering as a token of peace a branch of an olive, the situation changes in favor of peace.
In a city like Salentum, which represents France, where trade plays an important role in the economic life of people, the reforms that Mentor imposes after Idomeneus asks for help are the ones that Fénelon urges the young prince to implement to the country when he will become the king of France. Both Salentum and France suffer from the ambition of their kings and their expansionistic wars (Schuurman, 2012). Fénelon despises this vanity and criticizes the king for his military policy; he tries to show in his book that people are happy with simple things, when they can work and when their cultivations are enough to feed everybody; on the contrary, there is neither need for fancy buildings, nor for art which gratifies pride. Mentor supports the reduce of everything to a noble simplicity (Fénelon, 1847: 215). He believes that even manufacturing should be restricted to cover only real needs, such as agriculture (Hont, 2006). The humble character of the author is shown through his ideas and his beliefs; the respect of the environment, the cultivations which give food and work to people are important as they secure happiness and progress.
On the other hand, Voltaire in Candide shows that the hero has got a very distorted opinion of the world, which is similar to the deceiving world of wonder. In this philosophical tale, philosophy and fiction get mixed as Voltaire thinks through narration and makes popular the ideas of the Enlightenment. He answers to the speculations about the origin and the significance of evil by providing citations of events. Voltaire tries to show that evil comes from people, from their violence, from war, intolerance or slavery, from their cunning and tendency to deceive, from their vanity. Besides that, Voltaire criticizes the optimistic philosophy, which he considers harmful and, unlike Fénelon, he believes that it is not the metaphysical reasoning that will put an end to human suffering, but it is the ideology that he carries (Lagarde, Michard, 2004). The denunciation of fraud is not without purpose; it aims to promote the true philosophy that in the eyes of Voltaire is that of Enlightenment.
Acting as a journalist of the period, Voltaire corresponds from the war theatre through his tale. He places the warfare in Westphalia, an area which reminds to the reader of the eighteenth century the peace treaty, known as ‘Peace of Westphalia’ (1648), which aimed to create a framework for the promotion of the global economy (Croxton, 2010), as well as the war location. Candide was published in the middle of the seven-year war (1756-1763), in the middle of a conflict that put foreign lands in the center of European, political interests. Colonies and trading companies in India and America constituted invaluable sources of economic growth for the countries of Europe from which the colonies began and they were regarded as an important issue of war. Before writing Candide, Voltaire had shown interest in this policy and in his book Lettres philosophiques (1734) the world trade was seen as the image of freedom, tolerance and peace. It could be easily noted as ‘First World War’, as it provoked important historical and epistemological changes to Enlightenment; humans get in focus and a new emotional morality emerges. Voltaire influences his readers with the war news that he brings to them. He depicts war through human perspective and offers a humanistic look that invites the readers to share the pain of the victims (Kjørholt, 2012).
Voltaire does not hesitate to raise the issue of war and the interest in colonies in his book. He manages to show that the issues of war and trade are not independent, but trade and the hunt of wealth are causes of war. Voltaire with irony and black humor presents the facts and exposes situations and people. When Candide gets chased from the baron’s tower, he finds himself in the middle of the war field, where he gets recruited to the Bulgarian army and he helps in a battle where he does not understand anything. War till then was a seductive game for the hero, which confirmed the optimistic theories of his master, Pangloss. Now, he has got to face his philosophical prejudices as he discovers the reality and he realizes the absurdity of the situation. The impressive initial order gives place to chaos. The truths that the hero believed in, up to that point, are violently put in question. Voltaire adopts the naive and intellectual way of thinking of the new philosophers. According to this logic, the battle is presented in the eyes of the hero in a beautiful way, as ‘harmony’ (Voltaire, 1998: 6). This word refers to Leibniz’s ‘pre-established harmony’ doctrine (Watkins, 1998): in this perspective, the war ceases to be absurd, since it is part of the logic of a will of God, which safeguards the fate of people. The adjectives enrich the sentence ‘… so gallant, so well accoutered, so brilliant, and so finely disposed as the two armies’, and reflect Candide’s surprise in front of the beauty and symmetry of what he considers to be a spectacle. This visual harmony becomes acoustic with the concert of organs that imply the image of a crazy war. The beautiful picture is altered by cacophony. There is an evolution of the instruments in relation to the sounds: from the ‘trumpets’ and ‘fifes’ he passes to ‘drums’, but the writer between the musical instruments includes the word ‘cannon’ at the end, adding bitterly that there was ‘such harmony as never was heard in Hell itself’. The text gets negative meaning and the scenes, which are described, are horrific. Candide does not look like he is attending a massacre, but he thinks that he is watching a battle of toy soldiers. The phrase ‘laid flat’ devalues human life as if he talks for an army of toys. The rough calculation that ‘about 6,000 men on each side’ died, reflects, with black humor, the alienated look of the young philosopher.
Through Candide’s behavior, Voltaire continues to pretend that he adopts the logic of warfare, which becomes a useful and fair tool in the ‘best of all possible worlds’, as it eliminates the ‘scoundrels’. The language which is used justifies war. Instead of saying that ‘people were killed’, he tends to naturalize war by using expressions like ‘the … bullets swept away’, which tend to put war in natural order. The horrible reality of the events is challenged by meticulous and theoretical comments. As for the vague and indifferent calculation: ‘The whole might amount to thirty thousand souls’, it confirms that for the optimists there is nothing creepy to war and it is limited to mere counting of the victims. The expression the whole emphasizes people’s dehumanization, considering them as objects. But Voltaire changes his style and gets directly involved. He ridicules his hero and all those intellectuals who have not got the courage to face the reality, ‘Candide trembled like a philosopher’. According to Candide’s knowledge, this war is a ‘heroic butchery’. Voltaire plays with the words and makes heroism lose its value next to the negative and unworthy word which follows. The writer gets the chance to show how false the value of war heroism is and begins a violent satire on this subject (Debailly, 1992). Class and elegance are followed by a sense of disorder and chaos. Voltaire attacks religion that legitimizes the atrocities committed by the kings. The triumphant hymn Te Deum, is being sung by both sides at the same time after the battle, so that the soldiers can thank God; this proves to Voltaire that religion is an accomplice to dishonesty, providing easy excuse for all the misery caused by war and presenting it under the logic of a divine plan. Candide who does not understand anything ‘took a resolution to go and reason somewhere else upon causes and effects’. Voltaire continues using ironically the terminology of Leibnitz who tries, despite the facts, to give a reasonable and acceptable cause to evil and war (Debailly, 1992). Voltaire realizes that people ought to endure evil, but there is no need to find an excuse for that (Riley, 2009).
The realistic images agitate not only the young man who reaches citizens and discovers the horror, but also the reader. Voltaire criticizes with his ironic expression ‘agreeably to the laws of war’ the ordinary idea, which some people had at that time, that during war the murders of civilians are justified. The elderly, the women, the children, the young girls helplessly tolerate the suffering of the war. For them, he counts in a macabre way, the condition in which they are found: ‘covered with wounds’, ‘throats cut’, ‘bodies … ripped open’ (Voltaire, 1998). Their passivity causes the reader a sense of indignation and compassion. Candide tries to escape after discovering this world, which does not respond to his prejudices. The philosopher, though, exercises rigorous criticism to the alleged ‘heroes’; he denounces the warriors who exercise their authority over the civilians.
This text is a famous satire of war. To achieve this, Voltaire plays with the meanings of the words by using irony; he pretends to adopt the naive look of Candide, who sees the battle through his optimistic way of thinking, but, then, he uses realism to transform the beautiful initial harmony into a nightmare. The value of this contrast is to sensitize Candide and it meets the basic approach of each educational novel, which compares the facts and the prejudices by helping the hero to evolve and mature. The satire of war goes beyond and touches the philosophers whose sectarian and doctrinal ideas can justify the greatest atrocities. Finally, it calls into question the ideology of the aristocrats, who consider the heroism of a warrior to be a noble privilege. History condemns war, because it is a destructive barbarity which opposes to the progress of civilization (Debailly, 1992). The confrontation of the good, honest and righteous spirit with a world in which the presence of evil is everywhere, caused Voltaire to write this novel where the sincerity of the hero has a revealing and critical function. In Candide we realize that the issues of war and trade are not independent, instead trade might cause war. Voltaire, with his ironic style and with black humor, presents the facts and he artistically exposes situations and people.
In order to avoid getting censored, both writers use utopia to present their idea of the best possible society. They describe a magnificent world; the first one talks about life in a rural simplicity, whereas the second one about life within an exotic area, but they both denounce the behavior of the societies in which they actually live in and they propose an ideal lifestyle. The utopias which are described tend to seduce the readers. The Mediterranean climate in Fénelon’s book and the exoticism in Candide are highlighted and travel the readers far away.
Fénelon presents the idyllic Bœotica with its inhabitants who deal with agricultural and pastoral works and their modesty and virtue offer them happy, long life. ‘This region seems to have preserved all the felicity of the golden age’, claims Fénelon. Men and women have their own roles in the society and in the family. Climate, valleys which are being harvested twice a year, fruits, flowers, natural beauty are being presented, whilst the denunciation of luxury and wealth follows the fact that even though there are mines of gold and silver, the inhabitants do not use them, and they do not care for trade as they have ‘no need of money’. In addition, ‘art of erecting superb buildings’, ‘furniture of silver and gold’, jewels, perfumes, music and special meals are, according to the people of this region, addressed to those nations which are ‘extremely unhappy’. Furthermore, superfluities intoxicate people and make them evil. On the contrary, people in that area are free of any negative emotions, as their wisdom comes from the study of nature and their simplicity is ‘not only amiable, but great’. In this exemplary society there is no need of judges, as each one of them ‘submits to the jurisdiction of conscience’. As far as it concerns property, there is neither any need for possession, since the products are free for everyone and they ignore personal interest. People are all equal and enjoy peace. This tranquil country escaped from the calamities of war and the invasion of other nations, as nature protects it by sea and mountains, making it inaccessible (Fénelon, 1847: 146-150). Telemachus travels to Salentum where Fénelon presents the contradiction to the peaceful Bœotica. The King of that country is interested in luxury and makes expansionistic wars. Unlike Bœotica, people in Salentum are keen on crime and wrongdoing, and their main goal is the satisfaction of their greed. Fénelon sketches the portrait of the contemporary France and the policy that Louis XIV followed. Though, after Mentor’s reforms were put in action the situation of the country changed dramatically. Fénelon proclaims that through the countryside and the production of goods, people can reach happiness; trade must be followed by rules to prevent mismanagement and he insists that ‘freedom, integrity and honour’ bring to the country security and peace.
Voltaire’s heroes reach accidentally their utopia, El Dorado, after a huge downfall. Just like Fénelon’s utopia, it is almost impossible to be reached by anyone. The description of the downfall with the canoe has another dramatic role: it helps the superiority of El Dorado to be shown, as it is of great importance for the development of the novel, and it provides Candide an alternative value against his prejudices and beliefs which he considered, up to that point, unsurpassable. The inaccessible mountains hide the precious region: ‘The country appeared cultivated equally for pleasure and to produce the necessaries of life’ (Voltaire, 1998: 45); the wall which protects this country and the idea of the cultivations are direct hints which support the idea of happiness based on labor. Carriages of glittering materials cross the roads, whilst the people are of surprising beauty in this country. These elements present an advanced culture which tends to become ideal. The author presents with humor the awkward situation in which Candide and Cacambo are found. The admiration of this extraordinary world brings laughter to the reader as the reactions of the two heroes are described.
Unlike Fénelon, Voltaire does not reject luxury; the fact that children are dressed in ‘the richest brocade’ (Voltaire, 1998: 45) impresses Candide. Furthermore, the two visitors of El Dorado are willing to pay for their meal, and so they offer the gold pieces that they had found on the road; by doing this, they could only bring laughter to the landowners, who rushed to answer that they were not accustomed to charge for their services and there was no necessity of having any money at all to dine (Voltaire, 1998: 46). The realization of the different comes across with the abundance which is expressed by the exaggeration in numbers: ‘five or six thousand musicians’ (Voltaire, 1998: 49), ‘a portal two hundred and twenty feet high and one hundred wide’ (Voltaire, 1998: 50), ‘twenty beautiful young virgins’ (Voltaire, 1998: 50) etc. The greatness is further accentuated by the continuous use of the plural and by the effect of exaggeration, the public buildings or the king’s palace, which were built by materials which were impossible for words to express. Based on his European knowledge, Cacambo asks about the protocol while meeting the King: ‘it was the custom to fall upon their knees, or to prostrate themselves upon the ground; whether they were to put their hands upon their heads, or behind their backs; whether they were to lick the dust off the floor’ (Voltaire, 1998: 50). Neither does Candide have got a better understanding of the situation as he asks to see buildings that do not exist, like the ‘High Court of justice’ or ‘the prison’ (Voltaire, 1998: 50). Voltaire is in favor of luxurious items, he admires art, beautiful buildings and fountains as long as they are available to people; he inverses Fénelon’s definition of luxury and he rejects the distinction between real needs and mere wants (Hont, 2006). The philosopher attacks the authority of the King Louis XIV by presenting the King of El Dorado being humble; he does not demand any manifestation of submission, he considers people to be equal, he welcomes the travelers and acts with familiarity, whilst he invites them for dinner. The behavior of Candide and Cacambo shows their surprise: they don’t just kiss the King, they ‘threw their arms round His Majesty’s neck’ (Voltaire, 1998: 50). This childish attitude introduces a comic gap, which proves that the two strangers are unable to judge objectively the way the protocol should be followed. They do not realize the true value of what they discover, they just get a superficial and naive look. This innocence intends to play a role of revelation. Its goal is to correctly place the world they visit and to encourage the reader to understand the philosophical content of the text.
The critique of utopia is achieved by the presentation of an ideal world, which indirectly emphasizes the weaknesses and imperfections of the eighteenth-century’s society; it is the mean which Voltaire uses to attack this society and question it. He begins with the depiction of a liberal leader, contrary to the absolute monarchy of the kings of France, which represents for him an unbearable tyranny. The writer reveals the French arbitrary, royal right, which does not allow progress. On the contrary, the king in El Dorado does not put any tyranny on his subjects; in that land reigns justice and generosity, whilst courts and prisons do not exist. This is interpreted as lack of social competitions and therefore offenses. Among people there is harmony; there are no nobles and there is no difference between the two sexes. The culture which is presented is a form of perfection. It really allows the philosopher to express through his imagination his own ambitions: courtesy, liberal monarchy, urban planning and science development. They are part of the ideals of the philosophy of Enlightenment, which is concentrated on these principles. El Dorado cannot be found anywhere else, it does not exist on a conventional map of the world, because it implies that it occupies a different kingdom. Despite its exotic character, it has an absolute political notion. It is built in a way that discourages strangers to come, so that it can also be avoided by others. Thus, the ban on immigration imposed by its own inhabitants is a prerequisite for the survival of the kingdom. Its existence is due solely to the complete lack of communication with the rest of the world (Kjørholt, 2012), which is common to the Bœotica utopia of Fénelon. Voltaire includes in his description all the elements of his current period and he dislikes. This is why the long description of the city in the text becomes particularly entertaining as a critique of the unprecedented urbanization of Paris. Finally, the author emphasizes Candide’s joy when he sees the ‘Palace of Sciences’ (Voltaire, 1998: 50). Voltaire remains a supporter of culture and progress, he is associated with the authors of the Encyclopedia, he revolts against all forms of obscurantism and he is hostile against the royal and religious power which prevents the spreading of knowledge to people (Debailly, 1992).
The narration of the adventures in El Dorado is found in the middle of the novel, which shows that it is not an end, but only one step in the life of Candide. El Dorado has resisted the European colonialism and rejected the world market, but as a result it has been ruled out by the reality which is presented in the narrative. It acts as an exotic contrast to the chaotic globalization that brings the ‘real world’. As the hero has got world experience, El Dorado reaffirms the inability of an isolated and self-sufficient society within the world map. Although its wealth makes it enviable, it is unable to persuade the two visitors to stay (Kjørholt, 2012). The utopia of El Dorado does not outline a constitution; it comes in contrast to Thomas More’s utopia, who describes meticulously the functioning of his ideal society: redistribution of land, taxes, debts, composition of power, educational programs etc. However, in El Dorado there are only vague suggestions. We understand that the country is run by a liberal monarchy, but it is not clear what the king does. We know that urban planning plays a big role, but we do not know exactly how buildings are being built. This chapter is a crucial step in Candide’s evolution, as it changes his perspective for the world. Prior to his arrival at El Dorado, he was a passive and obedient young man, he was a victim of his preconceptions and his training by his Master Pangloss. But, as soon as he leaves that paradise, he begins the second phase of his education, which coincides with his return to Europe. From that moment on, Candide takes an active role in conquering himself. Through the system of personal values that he will adapt, El Dorado will act as an anti-Thunder-ten-tronckh and will make possible the humble happiness, which will prepare him for the third part of the novel which is the cultivation of the Garden (Debailly, 1992).
This philosophical tale becomes a world mirror. Voltaire criticizes events, ideas or the status quo and succeeds to achieve his pedagogical role by playing with words and by activating the critical thinking of the reader, who completes indeterminant gaps. Humor and irony work as an engine of persuasion. The thinking reader is taught to interpret and read between the lines. They realize what is moral and right and what is not. The writer achieves his goal to teach his readers how to read, think and behave appropriately. The whole philosophy of Voltaire, about raising doubts and showing skepticism towards authorities or luck, having empathy towards human poverty, realizing the absurdity of religions and the perils of fanaticism are included in the pages of this tale. Even in the very last sentence of the story ‘but let us cultivate our garden’ (Voltaire, 1998: 97), Voltaire, in a sarcastic manner, shows the change of people’s mentality. The working class is taking over and the political power will belong to them soon. The readers enjoy the linguistic game, learn to ask themselves important questions about the existence or solidarity and start thinking in a philosophical manner.
The comparative study of the two tales help us realize that although the two authors have got different ideological background and the way they approach their subject differs not only linguistically, but also theoretically, in terms of criticism they both exert over power, but also on issues that concern the everyday life of people; they both focus their interest to man, because they believe that there is good and bad tendency to all human beings and there is absolute need of moral and spiritual guidance; for this reason, they encourage moral education for everyone. This will result to the strengthening of the positive elements of the peoples’ personality in order to achieve peaceful attitude, co-operation and altruism, which are elements that contribute to the creation of affectionate, cosmopolitan people.
They both agree that through education and work people can achieve prosperity in their lives. As lucid social commentators, they both support a simple social policy, without wars and visions of expanding sovereignty, but, instead, they insist on the cultivation of tolerance and humanism. The value of peace for the progress and the welfare of people is a common basis in the mind of the two writers. It is condemnable to suffer due to war actions and it is imperative to prevent such atrocities. The aim of the writers is to encourage their readers to avoid repeating the same mistakes. The denial of fanaticism and the encouragement of co-operation, education, tolerance, personal effort and work are criteria of progress. Their message to the King is to not undermine the flourishing of the community for the sake of his own glory, but to pursue his obligations towards his citizens.
The contribution of novels with moral-educative content, like the ones that we deal with, are of great importance, because they play beneficial role to children’s mental health and they assist to cultivate their creative thinking and imagination (Malafantis, 2011). These two books offer to their readers the ability to realize that in life we come across situations with which we are not in compliance with or facts that are completely different from our habits, beliefs or lifestyle and we ought to show tolerance and prove our humanity. In an era that religious fanaticism is in growth, causing social disorder and terrorist attacks appear all over the world, facts which remind us that there is no safe place for anyone, it is obvious that what the educational systems are lucking from is anti-dogmatic education.
These literary works of François Fénelon and Voltaire, contribute to the cultivation of humanitarian awareness with their philosophical ideas, as they promote peaceful attitude, altruism, toleration; they encourage the respect towards other people’s well-being and the co-operation between nations. They can introduce people in the philosophical mentality, teach them values, ideas and ethical moralities, they will assist to build characters and create civilians with critical thinking due to the political messages and notions of virtue that they carry.
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How to cite this article
Ioannou, A. X., & Malafantis, K. D. (2019). The Contribution of the Literary Works of François Fénelon ‘The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses’ and of Voltaire ‘Candide’, to the Cultivation of Humanitarian Awareness. Pedagogical Research, 4(4), em0042. https://doi.org/10.29333/pr/5879
Ioannou AX, Malafantis KD. The Contribution of the Literary Works of François Fénelon ‘The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses’ and of Voltaire ‘Candide’, to the Cultivation of Humanitarian Awareness. PEDAGOGICAL RES. 2019;4(4):em0042. https://doi.org/10.29333/pr/5879
Ioannou AX, Malafantis KD. The Contribution of the Literary Works of François Fénelon ‘The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses’ and of Voltaire ‘Candide’, to the Cultivation of Humanitarian Awareness. PEDAGOGICAL RES. 2019;4(4), em0042. https://doi.org/10.29333/pr/5879
Ioannou, Aikaterini X., and Konstantinos D. Malafantis. "The Contribution of the Literary Works of François Fénelon ‘The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses’ and of Voltaire ‘Candide’, to the Cultivation of Humanitarian Awareness". Pedagogical Research 2019 4 no. 4 (2019): em0042. https://doi.org/10.29333/pr/5879
Ioannou, A. X., and Malafantis, K. D. (2019). The Contribution of the Literary Works of François Fénelon ‘The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses’ and of Voltaire ‘Candide’, to the Cultivation of Humanitarian Awareness. Pedagogical Research, 4(4), em0042. https://doi.org/10.29333/pr/5879
Ioannou, Aikaterini X. et al. "The Contribution of the Literary Works of François Fénelon ‘The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses’ and of Voltaire ‘Candide’, to the Cultivation of Humanitarian Awareness". Pedagogical Research, vol. 4, no. 4, 2019, em0042. https://doi.org/10.29333/pr/5879