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Two plus two make five October 24, 2006

Posted by ionicflux in People.
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business_math.jpgThe phrase “two plus two make five” (or “2 + 2 = 5”) is sometimes used as a succinct and vivid representation of an illogical statement, especially one made and maintained to suit an ideological agenda.

Its common use originates from its inclusion in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (Part Three, Chapter Two), where it is contrasted with the true, mathematical phrase “two plus two make four.” Orwell’s protagonist, Winston Smith, uses the phrase to wonder if the State might declare “two plus two makes five” as a fact; he ponders that, if everybody believes in it, does that make it true? Smith writes, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.” Later in the novel, Smith attempts to use doublethink to teach himself that the statement “2 + 2 = 5” is true, or at least as true as any other answer one could come up with.

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