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by Tom Stoppard

Arcadia Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene)

Quote #7

Valentine: The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is. [...] We're better at predicting events at the edge of the galaxy or inside the nucleus of an atom than whether it'll rain on auntie's garden party three Sundays from now. Because the problem turns out to be different. We can't even predict the next drip from a dripping tap when it gets irregular. Each drip sets up the conditions for the next, the smallest variation blows prediction apart, and the weather is unpredictable in the same way, will always be unpredictable. (1.4)

Valentine is saying that a dripping faucet is just too complicated to track, that you'd have to be able to chart what each individual atom is doing. Or is this just another case of not enough pencils? Perhaps there's a future development in technology that is as difficult for Valentine to imagine as computers would have been for Thomasina, and another scientific revolution will make his grouse seem as quaint as Thomasina's rabbit equation.

Quote #8

Chloë: The future is all programmed like a computer – that's a proper theory, isn't it? [...] But it doesn't work, does it?
Valentine: No. It turns out the maths is different.
Chloë: No, it's all because of sex.
Valentine: Really?
Chloë: That's what I think. The universe is deterministic all right, just like Newton said, I mean it's trying to be, but the only thing going wrong is people fancying people who aren't supposed to be in that part of the plan.
Valentine: Ah. The attraction that Newton left out. (2.7)

Chloë's theory is all kinds of ridiculous. Perhaps especially absurd is the idea that the universe is "trying" to be deterministic – the whole point of determinism is that things happen whether you try to do them or not.

Quote #9

Augustus: You are not my tutor, sir. I am visiting your lesson by my free will.
Septimus: If you are so determined, my lord. (2.7)

Septimus plays on the double meaning of "determined" discussed above – and the beauty of his joke is that there's no way for Augustus to prove that Septimus is making fun of him. Thanks, ambiguity of the English language.

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