On Candide: or, Optimism, the novel by Voltaire (1759).
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Is life good? Popular Enlightenment philosopher Leibniz argued that it's good by definition. God is perfectly good and all-powerful, so whatever he created must have been as good as it can be; we live in the best of all possible worlds.
Voltaire loads this satirical adventure story up with horrific violence to demonstrate that Leibniz's position is just silly. Life is filled with suffering, and human nature is such that even in peace and prosperity, we're basically miserable. Yet we still love life despite this. Voltaire's solution is to "tend your garden," which means something like engaging in meaningful work, whether personal or political.
This is a very special episode for us, as it's our first with all of us recording in the same room, as part of a weekend of fun and frolic in Madison, WI. Read more about the topic and get the book.
End song: "Woe Is Me," from Mark Lint and the Fake Johnson Trio (1998). Download the album for free.