Associated with brimstone, as in the “fire and brimstone” of hell.
“We were always taught that we lived in ‘the best of all possible worlds.’ The Watchmaker ruled from Crown City through the Regulators; the alchemist-priests gave us coldfire for power and light, and everything was well ordered. We accepted our various individual fates as inevitable, for we had also been taught, ‘Whatever happens to us must be what we deserve, for it could not happen to us if we did not deserve it.'”
The idea that we live in the best of all possible worlds is from the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716). Leibniz was a mathematician and said that we had to live in the best of all possible worlds, because the world was created by God, who is omnipotent, and an omnipotent being would only create the best of all possible worlds. So, why does this world contain evil if it’s the best of all worlds? Because we need evil to bring out the best in us. Just as we need danger to bring out the courage in us, we need evil to bring out our humanity.
The idea that we should accept our individual fates as inevitable flows out of Plato’s Republic. Plato divided society into separate classes: A leadership class, a warrior class (also known as an auxiliary class), and a worker class. Leaders plucked people out of the worker class and put them into the auxiliary class, and they plucked people out of the auxiliary class and put them into the leadership class. Whatever Plato’s Republic was, it was not a democracy.
The leaders wanted people to be content, and they wanted people to believe that this is the way the world is. There’s no choice in the matter. If you’re a worker, you deserve to be a worker and you should be content with that. The leaders will rule benevolently on your behalf, but you mustn’t rock the boat. The leaders believed it was okay to lie to the people—tell a noble lie—if it’s in the best interest of the society. In the Republic, the idea that people are born into a class and destined to live in that class is a noble lie that the leaders tell the workers, all in the name of social harmony.
Here we see the protagonist questioning all this. He has the audacity to wonder whether all that he’s been led to believe is in fact true. The piece takes the form of a soliloquy, a monologue spoken aloud so we can hear the person’s inner thoughts.
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