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Arcadia

Arcadia

by Tom Stoppard

Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes

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Quote #4

Valentine: You couldn't see to look before. The electronic calculator was what the telescope was for Galileo. [...] There wasn't enough time before. There weren't enough pencils! (1.4)

Arcadia as a whole seems very concerned not just with knowledge, but with the technology that makes knowledge possible. You could be the greatest genius in the world, but if you don't have a computer, there are some things you just can't do...which implies that what we see as genius is at least partially dependent on historical circumstances.

Quote #5

Valentine: Well, it's all trivial anyway. [...] The questions you're asking don't matter, you see. It's like arguing who got there first with the calculus. The English say Newton, the Germans say Leibnitz. But it doesn't matter. Personalities. What matters is the calculus. Scientific progress. Knowledge. (2.5)

So knowledge about people isn't knowledge? While the Newton vs. Leibniz smackdown may not matter to whether you do your calculus homework, does that mean it's a pointless question to ask?

Quote #6

Bernard: If knowledge isn't self-knowledge it isn't doing much, mate. Is the universe expanding? Is it contracting? Is it standing on one leg and singing "When Father Painted the Parlour"? Leave me out. I can expand my universe without you. "She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies, and all that's best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes." There you are, he wrote it after coming home from a party. (2.5)

Bernard offers the extreme opposite view of Valentine's, either because he actually believes it or just for dramatic effect. He raises a different set of questions. Does knowledge about distant stars without any direct impact on day-to-day human lives matter? And what does it mean for knowledge to "matter," anyway?

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