(In digging into my PC, I found some funny and interesting things)
Reinilde Jonkhout 2006
I have been going to the ‘studium generale’, the lectures on Wednesday afternoons. I went to the lecture series ‘Candide in the world of 2006”. ‘Candide ou le optimisme’ was a book written by the philosopher by the name of Voltaire. The lectures were about him, his beliefs, other philosophers of his time and how/if what he wrote and talked about is still relevant in today’s society. The philosophers I’m mentioning are from the period of the enlightenment, around the 18th century.
We can immediately say that Voltaire was the one that was talking passionately about tolerance, freedom of speech and solidarity ‘Ecrasez l’infame’, he said, misery BE-GONE! Let’s do away with censoring everything, fanaticism and abuse of power. Let there be a democratic society! So Voltaire’s words are still very much of current interest. They are in fact repeated everyday, for example in the newspapers. With the whole cartoon-issue between and Denmark and Islamic countries, everyone was talking about freedom of speech again.
Voltaire had participated in the making of the encyclopedia of Diderot, the big source of knowledge.
Voltaire lived for a long time in Vennez, in France, close to the border of Switzerland. This was no coincidence; as soon as the French were running after him he was out of France.
Thinking rationally and clear was really Voltaire’s thing. His famous philsophers’ dictionary en probably all his work is full of humor, irony and a funny sort of distance.
A democracy is equal to a republic; therefore a monarchy and a democracy could never co-exist. Democracy and cruelty can also not exist together. It is for sure that democracy is not a simple thing, it is a complicated one, but in a democracy you’re ensured that there at least won’t be any huge massacres, Voltaire said.
Voltaire wrote ‘Candide ou le optimisme’ as a reaction to the theories of Leibniz. Leibniz invented ‘optimism’, which here means ‘the best (situation) possibly possible’. He believed that if there could have been a more ideal world, God would have created it. ‘Le meilleure de mondes possibles’. So Leibniz believed that it was simply not possible that there be a better kind of world. God chose the best option. Something bad happens, in order to prevent something REALLY bad from happening somewhere else. Leibniz tried to combine rational thinking with religious beliefs.
Voltaire did not like what he was saying at all. Is it imaginable that God would PERMIT so much terror in the world? Why this naive belief in Gods good intentions? Voltaire saw bad things happening; the big earthquake in Lisbon back then. He heard a story of a father killing his son because his son wanted to turn Catholic.
Leibniz was however not endlessly optimistic. He didn’t think we should just leave the world the way it is, but try to do something about it. Voltaire said there’s no fighting against evil because it is unpredictable. The world only seems evil but it is not. It’s okay for things to not go perfect; because from this we learn. We are going through a learning process.
Psychology likes to part people in 2 groups; people who think they have no control over their faith and people who think they do. For example, there was this experiment where group 1 got a ticket from the lottery, and group 2 got a ticket from the lottery as well except they could choose the sequence of the numbers. Group 2 ended up wanting a whole lot more of money for their lottery ticket when reselling it. This shows how we think we control our faith even when it is when we absolutely cannot.
People tend to attribute good things that happen to their own capabilities, and unfortunate things that happen they tend to attribute towards circumstance. However when good things happen to other people we think it’s due to circumstance, and when bad things happen to other people we say it’s of their own cause. This is also true under circumstances we absolutely have no control over like a game of chance. If you would throw a high number with dice during a game of “aggravation’ or MENS ERGER JE NIET ,you’d feel inclined to say something like ‘see how good I’m at this?’ We tend to CONGRATULATE ourselves when we have a run of luck. We also have the tendency to explain our behavior even when it is absolutely unnecessary. People do it all the time if you pay attention. In the elevator for example, when someone gets of at the wrong floor they might say ‘but all the floors look so similar’. Were trying to say ‘I’m not crazy!’. We don’t want to suggest any funniness or irregularities in our behaviour. We also want to believe that we control the bad things that happen to us. Men often drink a whole lot the night before and important exam, so they have a reason as to why it did not go well.
Leibniz also believed that everything that happens is a part of a universal, in advance pronounced harmony, and that the reality consists of spiritual atoms.
He also decided that it is not possible for 2 things to coexist that are exactly the same , have the exact same qualities. Because if they were exactly the same, they would be the same thing. Leibniz thought up more scientifically acclaimed stuff as well, such as the binary numbers. He was often far ahead of his time and we still don’t always understand him. During the lectures we talked about this virtual world that we seem to be living in more and more, with e.g. digital information, television and virtual heart surgery being so prevalent today. The ‘real world’, meaning not the one of MTV, starts to matter less and less.
In contrary to the past, today we have a lot of ‘same things’ around us. Everything on television is the same on every TV in this country, and even the same in a lot of other countries too. ‘We are all the same and we all want the same thing; everything’.
The human being doesn’t want to be meaningless.