by Tom Stoppard
Arcadia Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene)
Septimus: Carnal embrace is sexual congress, which is the insertion of the male genital organ into the female genital organ for purposes of procreation and pleasure. Fermat's last theorem, by contrast, asserts that when x, y, and z are whole numbers each raised to the power of n, the sum of the first two can never equal the third when n is greater than 2. (1.1)
Septimus is purposely being funny here by juxtaposing two facts that have very different cultural weight – one most people would consider appropriate for him to be teaching Thomasina, and the other might get some members of the PTA coming after him with torches and pitchforks. But by putting these two sentences in such close contact, Septimus makes us wonder: why is it that some kinds of knowledge are often considered acceptable while others are treated as obscene?
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)
While Septimus and others are happy to leave math in the realm of the abstract, drawing pictures of perfectly regular forms that don't actually exist outside of a textbook, Thomasina wants to bring math into the real world For her, knowledge doesn't have much point unless it describes something in reality.
Valentine: It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing. [...] It's the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong. (1.4)
Valentine's excitement and enthusiasm suggests that facing the unknown doesn't have to be a terrifying prospect: it also opens up the possibility for new discovery. For him, being wrong can be just as satisfying as being right...so long as you realize that you're wrong.