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Rousseau And Voltaire: The Humans As The Causes Of Evil

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Evil is brought on by the hands of humans and their actions lead to consequences they deserve. In Voltaire’s Candide and Related Texts, Primo’s Survival in Auschwitz and The Book of Job, discussed how humans are the cause of evil, which led to many unexpected situations to happen. In this paper, I will analyze Rousseau’s responses to Voltaire, the social and nature causes of evil in the three texts.

Rousseau’s responses to Voltaire’s theory of evil stated the principles of how a man should live his life and not be controlled by his surroundings. The theme of morality mentioned by Rousseau that finding justice to what is considered wrongdoings and inhumanity in the eyes of others.

Belief of Christianity – Rousseau & Voltaire

Rousseau discusses the belief of Christianity and “the existence of God” (Voltaire 118) as the cause of evil. The corruption of sin (Voltaire 97) reveals how human beings believed in false teachings from the Bible. In Christianity, many believers and followers of Christ will use the Bible as a guidance in their daily lives. Human nature should not be categorized as the cause of committing a sinful act; it is how a man reacts and responds by their perspectives, emotions, and actions.

The religious belief has taught them how human nature reflects on them being sinful. For example, violence according to a religious teaching is when “a person is eaten by savage beasts brings about the welfare of [those] beasts” (Voltaire 97). A man being violent can suggest many possibilities, like how a person can become ruthless and cruel because of the experiences. The false teachings in the Bible has indicated that many believers follow the word of God, instead should reflect on their actions.

Belief of Christianity & Inhumanity in Buna – Primo

In Primo, men are placed in Buna, a concentration camp where they are required to follow rules. They are constantly being questioned their integrity and self-respect as a human that “their humanity is buried…under an offence received or inflicted on someone else” (Primo 95). The lack of dignity they have, as human beings is limited, which reflects on their characteristics to find ways to survive in the camp and take away the meaning of having a normal life.

The belief of Christianity is taken lightly “which no propitiatory prayer” (Primo 101) would not help any men in the camp. Men inside Buna, have not been able to live a day with the respect and dignity they deserve.

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Belief of Christianity – Job

In similarity, Job mentioned how he questions his faith in God, which Eliphaz, Job’s friend pointed out that he “undermine piety and hinder devotion to God” (Gateway, Bible. Job 15:4). Eliphaz did not understand why Job would go through so much trouble to test God’s patience and faith to be so vigorous in his words cursing to God. Furthermore, he said how Job makes himself look like a victim in God’s eyes and that no one else understands what he is going through. Job blames God for he “has turned me over to the ungodly and thrown [him] into the clutches of the wicked” (Job 16:11). Job does not see that his own actions have led him to be in a position of testing God’s faith and instead, has put the accusation on God.

Physical Sufferings – Voltaire

Rousseau believes that every man will experience weakness and feel miserable, this is inevitable in life (Voltaire 98). An opportunity a man has to reflect and think upon the darkness within themselves. Physical sufferings are “inevitable in any universe that contains human beings” (Voltaire 110). Sufferings can be from untreatable sickness with pain in a long period of time to heal; whereas, death is seen as an exception (Voltaire 110). Illness is considered a cause of evil because of how individuals feel helpless to not be able to do anything (Voltaire 98). How “animals will fatten themselves on the bodies buried under the rubble” (Voltaire 98) has demonstrated the concept of physical suffering. By being alone, it would allow them to understand the struggles in life that many would overlook to make it seem more difficult (Voltaire 98). A man is responsible for his own actions and consequences that could lead to the existence of evil.

Nature state – Voltaire

In Voltaire, Cacambo, Candide’s server states that “the law of nature teaches us to kill our neighbor, and this is how people behave throughout the world” (Voltaire 34). Cancambo’s theory mentions that it is in the nature of humans to become a ruthless murderer, even when it comes down to sacrificing an individual in order to achieve a goal. Candide has become a ruthless murderer and Dr. Pangloss, a mentor of Candide he would have also agreed killing defines “what mankind is like in its natural state” (Candide 34). Cacambo, Candide’s server said that in nature, men’s qualities are to end the lives of others and how it needs to be done to achieve what one wants. Furthermore, Cacambo pointed out although it is in nature to kill, it does not justify the “right to eat our enemies” (Candide 34).

Human Nature – Voltaire

In the belief of Christianity, “human nature has been corrupted by sin” (Voltaire 97), but Rousseau believes how it is false and “human nature has not been corrupted” (Voltaire 97), which makes him contemplate his beliefs, such as “the existence of God” (Voltaire 118). He questions the Biblical teachings that “if God exists he is perfect, strong and powerful” (Voltaire 118). Rousseau states how God’s existence and Christianity are a reason of evil because there is no scientific evidence (Voltaire 117).

Human Nature & Men are not evil – Primo

Human nature is “grief and pain” (Primo 57), which reflects on the capability and how their mentality of surviving in such a difficult environment. They only way they could survive in the concentration camp is to use labor as a way to numb and forget about their physical sufferings on their bodies.

They decide to Men can be categorized as “fundamentally brutal, egoistic and stupid in [their] conduct once every civilized institution is taken away” (Primo 68). Men are often placed in a situation where they create the problem and may not act logically, but instead emotionally. There are two groups of men “the saved and the drowned” (Primo 68), the influence in society plays a role of how men act accordingly. The good in men are often seen as them with positive intentions and have a goal that they would want to achieve. On the other hand, men who are seen as evil, would have difficulties and hardships that impacted their characteristics and reflected on their actions. In both categories, “a country is considered the more civilized the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too powerful” (Primo 69). This means that in the environment of Buna, men are more likely to have a tendency to be more physical and corrupted in their words and actions.

In conclusion, all three texts have clearly stated the causes of evil and how human beings are at fault for their own actions. The social influences and natural causes of evil has changed men to act under circumstances that they are placed in.

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“Rousseau And Voltaire: The Humans As The Causes Of Evil.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/rousseau-and-voltaire-the-humans-as-the-causes-of-evil/
Rousseau And Voltaire: The Humans As The Causes Of Evil. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/rousseau-and-voltaire-the-humans-as-the-causes-of-evil/> [Accessed 3 Oct. 2022].
Rousseau And Voltaire: The Humans As The Causes Of Evil [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 18 [cited 2022 Oct 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/rousseau-and-voltaire-the-humans-as-the-causes-of-evil/
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