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Arcadia

Arcadia

by Tom Stoppard

Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Thomasina: You can't stir things apart.
Septimus: No more you can, time must needs run backward, and since it will not, we must stir our way onward mixing as we go, disorder out of disorder into disorder until pink is complete, unchanging and unchangeable, and we are done with it forever. This is known as free will or self-determination. (1.1)

This quote is also discussed under "Time," but here's another take on it: Septimus could be saying that while the ultimate destination is determined – we're all going to end up in a state as pink as a princess-obsessed little girl's bedroom. But the exact way we get there is up to us. Perhaps fate and free will are not entirely mutually exclusive after all.

Quote #2

Septimus: "If everything from the furthest planet to the smallest atom of our brain acts according to Newton's law of motion, what becomes of free will?" (1.1)

The quotes are there because Septimus is referring to a question that was already so common as to be trite in 1809 (the "are we there yet?" of physics). Perhaps a more interesting question would be, why does this subject make people so uncomfortable? What's so disturbing about saying free will is just an illusion?

Quote #3

Thomasina: If you could stop every atom in its position and direction, and if your mind could comprehend all the actions thus suspended, then if you were really, really good at algebra you could write the formula for all the future; and although nobody can be so clever as to do it, the formula must exist just as if one could. (1.1)

If we feel like we have free will, does it matter if we really don't? If we don't have free will, it's not like we could act any differently anyway, right?

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