This manuscript discusses both Voltaire’s and Salfi’s philosophical reaction to natural disasters. In the aftermath of Lisbon earthquake, that occurred on November 1, 1755, Voltaire wrote a long Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne (1756) and his famous novel Candide ou l’Optimisme (1759), sarcastically rejecting both Alexander Pope’s opinion that “whatever is, is right”, and Leibniz’s optimistic view that this is the best of all possible worlds. In 1783 a long seismic sequence devasted the region of Calabria, in Southern Italy, and a young priest, Francesco Saverio Salfi, composed an essay, named Saggio di fenomeni antropologici relativi al tremuoto (1787), analyzing the anthropological phenomena connected to the calamity. The principal aim of this paper is to show that, although both inspired by the same Enlightenment rationalism, Voltaire and Salfi came to different interpretations of the disaster: while the first somehow embraced a disenchanted baylean Manicheism, the latter proposed a sort of “science of human things”, rejecting popular superstition related to earthquakes, and emphasizing human responsibilities for sufferance and evil associated to calamities.
DE TOMMASO, Emilio Maria
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