Why Voltaire Said: You Must Cultivate Your Own Garden



Voltaire’s phrase – you must cultivate your own garden – is one of the most famous statements in the world. But what did Voltaire mean by this – and what can we learn from it to help us live our lives today? Here is a recipe for how to survive our troubled times.
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“It is crucial to note the subtitle of 18th century Europe’s most famous novel, written in three inspired days in 1759: ‘Candide – or Optimism’. If there was one central target that its author wanted satirically to destroy, it was the hope of his age, a hope that centered around science, love, technical progress and reason. Voltaire was enraged. Of course science wasn’t going to improve the world; it would merely give new power to tyrants. Of course philosophy would not be able to explain away the problem of evil; it would only show up our vanity. Of course love was an illusion; power a chimera, humans irredeemably wicked, and the future absurd. Of all this his readers were to be left in no doubt. Hope was a disease and it was Voltaire’s generous goal to try to cure us of it…”

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Produced in collaboration with:

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