Of Physics and Philosophy

“‘It is demonstratable,’ said he, ‘that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for all created for an end, all is necessarily for the best end.” -Pangloss

As Newton’s Third Law states, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. However, for each seemingly tame assertion of philosophical optimism in Candide, there are many more horrible misfortunes befalling Candide and company.

But this is part of the point Voltaire is making. By depicting extremes in comically stark contrast, Voltaire demonstrates the problems in society and in philosophical optimism. It may seem excessive to use such over-exaggeration, but Candide wouldn’t be a satire otherwise.

Balance: what is totally lacking in world of Candide.

It’s easy to dismiss philosophical optimism as something silly and outdated that no one today would live by, but I actually caught myself the other day. I was talking to a friend about summer vacation and I had remarked that though I goofed off last week, it was no mistake because I had gotten some quality rest before buckling down for the rest of summer. However, did fooling off have a cause and effect relationship with getting rest? Not at all actually. To be honest, I had probably gotten less sleep than needed because I had stayed up too long and worried myself more because I had done nothing that last week.

I guess you could say that doing next to nothing last week was good because it spurred me to do more this week. But was doing nothing the best case scenario for last week? It would have been better for me to be steadily working both weeks. Obviously if I didn’t pick myself up this week and continued to laze about until the end of summer, I can’t say that wasting that last week (or my whole summer in this case) was for the best. Philosophical optimism isn’t a bad way of thinking by any means, but I think it’s mostly up to you whether or not you want something to happen for the best. I guess I had best get hopping;after all, that equal and opposite reaction to laziness isn’t going to happen by itself.

Picture credits to winnifredxoxo on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/61056899@N06/.

Of Physics and Philosophy

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