Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fun with Wikipedia - 2 + 2 = 5


The phrase "two plus two equals five" ("2 + 2 = 5") is a slogan used in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four as an example of an obviously false dogma one must believe, similar to other obviously false slogans by the Party in the novel. It is contrasted with the phrase "two plus two makes four", the obvious – but politically inexpedient – truth. Orwell's protagonist, Winston Smith, uses the phrase to wonder if the State might declare "two plus two equals five" as a fact; he ponders whether, 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.

Eventually, while undergoing electroshock torture, Winston declared that he saw five fingers when in fact he only saw four ("Four, five, six - in all honesty I don't know"). The Inner Party interrogator of thought-criminals, O'Brien, says of the mathematically false statement that control over physical reality is unimportant; so long as one controls their own perceptions to what the Party wills, then any corporeal act is possible, in accordance with the principles of doublethink ("Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once").


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