Human reason has in many instances saved individuals and humanity as a whole from terrible outcomes. Reasoning is described as the ability to use logic in order to assess a situation and predict its possible outcomes (Knauff 152). Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels is a vivid example of an individual who used reason to expose his inner self in a process parallel to ‘self-discovering'. In Swift’s narrative, Gulliver is first introduced as a character with very little knowledge of the society and how to survive in it. However, his experience matures as the story unfolds. Similarly, in Voltaire’s narrative, Candide undertakes a similar journey of self-discovery as he tours across the world. Therefore, both characters portray a common attribute of faith in their beliefs. Although their optimism is barely evident at the beginning of the stories, they can be regarded as the reason and the motivating factor for them to embark on their journey and hope for the best outcomes. This paper explains the power of optimism over pessimism based on excerpts from the two works. Although the main characters in both narratives endured challenging experiences throughout their journey, the paper focuses on how human reason, knowledge, happiness, hardship, and optimism helped them to get the best outcomes out of their experiences.
Human reason is often the sole motivator for doing the right thing. In the past, scholars have linked human reasoning to the current breakthroughs in social sciences and the other education disciplines. Human reason is best applied in scenarios where an individual is not sure whether he/she is doing the right thing. During such times, people solely rely on their intuition to make crucial decisions that will later have a considerable impact on their lives and people around. The other situations require that people have good understanding of activities they indulge in for their efforts to be successful. However, it should be noted that, at times, making the right decision is not always motivated by knowledge. As much as critics of free-thinking may deny this fact, sometimes people's knowledge is a bigger barrier to success than their intuition. Commercial reasons motivate Gulliver to journey in the sea over the first few years. However, his understanding of the sea and the nature of cultures makes him intuitively pursue the social subject further. Although he knows little of the difficult task ahead of him, Swift trusts his instinct and reasons that adventure is better than ignorance. Therefore, Gulliver begins his adventure fueled by adventure and pursuit of knowledge (Swift 62).
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Knowledge and reason are equally important in the pursuit of positive results. Thus, the two are relatively similar topics in the sense that they both rely on an individual's decision to determine their outcomes. One may choose to pursue information further to seek knowledge just as they can choose to use reason over instinct. Human beings have a cognitive ability that allows them to evaluate a situation and protect their best interests (Knauff 155). Candide endures hard times in the hands of fate as he journeys through the world in pursuit of knowledge and truth. Voltaire is limited by rigid thinking of his mentor that forces him to believe that all things are good and events happen for the best reason. However, as his instincts push him closer to truth, he experiences the tastes of both positive and negative worlds. In his journey through the painful experiences, Voltaire learns to use his reason rather than knowledge in order to assess situations. Furthermore, Candide's lessons point to the fact that though the truth may seem to be closer to the knowledge people have at hand, it is always safer to exhaust alternatives before settling for uncertain truth. However, Candide distinguishes such doubt on existing information from pessimism but rather portrays it as a desire for the truth (Voltaire 35).
Human reason is substantially attributable to sound decision-making. In the incidences depicted in the two stories, the protagonists initially were full of self-doubt and uncertainty over their future. However, as the stories progress, they acquire more self-confidence as they experience situations that challenge their reasoning. In Gulliver's story, he goes as far as switching characters as he realizes the true nature of the society. In the first part of the story, Gulliver is the giant. However, in the second part, all the other people are the giants and he is an ordinary person. Therefore, the knowledge that Gulliver acquires over the course of his journey enlightens him on his true nature as well as that of the society. He stops being an enemy of himself and discovers his potential. Consequently, Gulliver ceases to see himself as an outcast but rather sees his brighter side that is only darkened by the nature of the society. Therefore, the experiences of his life ignite his reason and, as a result, he uncovers his real position across the social platform (Swift 84).
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Happiness is often used to describe the extent to which personal decisions may be appealing. In both narratives, happiness is reflected as eventual achievement of characters’ efforts. In Voltaire’s narrative, Candide is pessimistic about the notion of finding eternal happiness as he recounts the numerous fates he has endured over the course of his journey. However, this does not necessarily imply that he is a pessimist, because, despite the fact that he does not hope for much happiness, he is not hopeless at his chance to get a better life. Candide spent his life under the supervision of his tutor, Dr. Pangloss, who led him to believe that all that happened always brought the best results. However, as Candide experienced the real harshness of the world, he reviewed his teachings and gained a personal perspective of the world and people in it (Voltaire 55). Having never endured such cruelty before, it can be said that Candide was justified to show some level of pessimism. However, his optimism is seen to rise again fast as he recounts the future he hopes for. Therefore, as much as bad incidences may present obstacles to optimism, staying hopeful is always a personal choice that has no barriers. Both characters had a past that could have deterred them from hoping for a favorable future. However, the challenges only acted as motivators for them to find happiness.
Hardship is often a cause of pessimism, since people are more likely to lose hope in a situation that presents difficulty (Mullen 125). Concerning this, it becomes primary reasoning that, if something creates unfavorable conditions, the closest option is to abandon it. At some point of the story, Candide debates over whether there is happiness in the world (Voltaire 32). Hardship and unhappiness are complementary in the opposition for optimism. At most times, people will make the worst decisions when unhappy or in hardship. Although Candide underwent severe hardship to the extent of doubting the existence of general good, later he was to prove himself wrong as he discovered the whole truth about the world. Therefore, it can be inferred from the situation that, for good ideas to prevail, there is likely to be hardship and unhappiness over the course of the process. Persistence and self-belief substitute such doubts and offer courage towards practical reasoning.
Despite the factors discussed above about being principal in determining the nature of human and societies, it should be noted that, in some instances, human nature makes it difficult to engage in proper reasoning in some situation. In both narratives, the protagonists endured harassment from some section of the society that either did not approve or like them. In most incidences, the individuals were caught between approval by one part of the society and disapproval by the other. In Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver's relationship with the inhabitants of the towns he bypasses is deteriorating. Thus, in such incidence, it is the common nature of human beings to protect their interests through whichever means they can. Reasoning in this sense prompts one to ignore the society’s expectation to fulfill personal goals. Furthermore, Candide could not rely on advice even from his mentor, because it was biased. The narratives indicate the importance of believing in personal decisions in reasoning. Although taking advice is equally beneficial to the pursuit of knowledge, it poses a barrier to sound reasoning (Mullen 165).
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In conclusion, human reason is the motivator to most of the decisions people make. Sound reasoning refers to the ability of an individual to make personal decisions in a way that they positively impact them and the people around. However, right decisions can at times encounter difficulties along the way as the decision-makers adapt to them. Candide and Gulliver present an ideal example of characters who overcame social problems in their reasoning. One thing that is clear from the narratives is that optimism is the main tool for practical reasoning. Concerning this, the protagonists remained optimistic during daring times of their journeys. However, their endurance of problems propelled them towards the truth. Candide uncovered the real nature of the society, and Gulliver understood the different cultures he bypassed.