Human Happiness in the Enlightenment and Ancient Greece
Compares the theme of human happiness as it is reflected in eighteenth century writer, Voltaire's "Zadig" and texts by Ancient Greek writers.
# 27031 | 2,108 words | 5 sources | MLA | 2002 |
Published on May 23, 2003 in Literature (Greek and Roman) , Literature (French) , Literature (Comparative Literature)
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Eighteenth century Enlightenment author, Voltaire's title character, "Zadig" possesses every virtue and material good needed for happiness, yet he is constantly tossed about by fate, at the mercy of the some of the worst luck imaginable. The paper shows that the questions that are raised, therefore, involve the conditions on which happiness depends, the qualities needed to be happy, the effects that evil persons can have on one's happiness and the role played by merit, fate, chance or Providence in one's life. The paper shows that these were not new questions when Voltaire raised them in the middle of the eighteenth century. They were central issues that had absorbed the Greeks more than one thousand years before "Zadig" was invented. The paper shows how this theme of human happiness was reflected in their art (such as Sophocles' play "Oedipus Tyrannus"), in their histories (the writings of Herodotus and Thucydides) and in their philosophy (Plato's "Republic"). The paper looks at the similarities and differences between the philosophies during both time periods.
From the Paper:"The Greeks had far less difficulty with this question because they were more fatalistic and convinced that the individual's destiny was, in many respects, set by the gods and could not be altered--no matter how exemplary his behavior. This is certainly the case with Oedipus who, in Sophocles' play, is doomed to live out the terms of the prophecy no matter what efforts he makes to avoid it and no matter how exemplary a person he becomes. He is, in many respects, an ideal ruler and a good man, but when the horror of his fate is made known to him it is clear that these attributes and behaviors had nothing to do with his eventual fate. The Chorus generalizes from his experience saying that with Oedipus' fate as an example "nothing pertaining to man is enviable" (453)."
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