by Tom Stoppard
Arcadia Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene)
Hannah: The grass went from the doorstep to the horizon and the best box hedge in Derbyshire was dug up for the ha-ha so that the fools could pretend they were living in God's countryside. And then Richard Noakes came in to bring God up to date. (1.2)
It's usual to think of "natural" as "without human intervention," but Hannah's history of gardening suggests that the definition of "natural" is subject to fashion. If ideas of nature depend on historical context, does that extend to science as well? If two time periods have different ideas about what nature is, does that mean that their science will go about investigating it in different ways?
Thomasina: Each week I plot your equations dot for dot, xs against ys in all manner of algebraical relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles. God's truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? (1.3)
Thomasina's words here recall those step-by-step drawing books we had as kids where you'd go from a pile of circles and curves to a passable rendition of a human face. Perhaps the principle is the same – moving from the simple to the complex in stages is easier than just leaping ahead to the finished project. Unless, of course, you're a genius.
Valentine: People were talking about the end of physics. Relativity and quantum looked as if they were going to clean out the whole problem between them. A theory of everything. But they only explained the very big and the very small. The universe, the elementary particles. The ordinary-sized stuff which is our lives, the things people write poetry about – clouds – daffodils – waterfalls – and what happens in a cup of coffee when the cream goes in – these things are full of mystery, as mysterious to us as the heavens were to the Greeks. (1.4)
Is a view of nature as mysterious necessary in order to write poetry about it? And it's kind of funny that the most familiar things are also the most difficult to explain scientifically. Or is it precisely their familiarity that makes them more difficult to see with the distance required for scientific observation?