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Lisbon Earthquake

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Voltaire's take on the Lisbon earthquake catastrophe comes across as surprisingly optimistic at points, although he never advocates any acceptance throughout the work, He does however offer several common responses as to why such a disaster could have taken place. In his depiction of the aftermath, many survivors, as Voltaire mentions, wonder how God could be so cruel or rather what crime was committed to merit such mass destruction. In either case, few were willing to accept that some things just happen, not necessarily occurring solely as a direct result of some human action.

Even from early on, many cultures directly associated their own deeds with some sort of divine retribution, be it rainfall after an Indian rain dance or giving birth to a blind child as a result of some sin the parent may have committed. When something "bad" happens, society tends to come up with the same questions as to why, and or what reason, but as of yet, no one has been able to give a direct answer. It appears the easiest way to explain away these events is to direct blame at something, which Voltaire argues is not necessarily the best answer. Still, because he is mocking several responses to the earthquake throughout the entirety of the poem, it is somewhat difficult to extract his true perspective on such issues. As in the title of his work, Voltaire's appears to be in support of the maxim "whatever is, is right", yet still poses several arguments against why people should confide in a God who does necessarily keep them from harm. There is lack of a firm, expressed belief on his part, but this too helps to make a more profound statement about the society, given that it was written during an era when people were still beginning to question religious sovereignty.



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