1984, Adolf Hitler, Albert Camus, Assignment in Utopia, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Don Juan, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyè, Eugene Lyons, French Revolution, Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Orwell, God and the State, Hermann Göring, Ivan Turgenev, John Galt, La Peste, Mikhail Bakunin, Molière, Napoelon, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Notes from the Underground, peace, Poems in Prose, prayer, Stalin, stupidity, The Plague, Victor Hugo, violence, War, What Is the Third Estate?, Winston Smith
“When a war breaks out, people say: ‘It’s too stupid; it can’t last long.’ But though the war may well be ‘too stupid,’ that doesn’t prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves…
The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. There can be no true goodness, nor true love, without the utmost clear-sightedness…
There always comes a time in history when the person who dares to say that 2+2=4 is punished by death. And the issue is not what reward or what punishment will be the outcome of that reasoning. The issue is simply whether or not 2+2=4.”
From Albert Camus’s The Plague.
Other Attempts at Two Plus Two:
In a display of ridiculous, zealous fidelity to Hitler, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring once proclaimed, “If the Führer wants it, two and two makes five!”
In Assignment in Utopia, Eugene Lyons near-surreal account of life in the Soviet Union, there is a chapter titled “Two Plus Two Equals Five”. This slogan was a favorite or Stalin’s and was frequently repeated in Moscow at the time; it refered to the dogmatically held belief that the Five Year Plan would be finished in four years.
In his collection Poems in Prose, Ivan Turgenev’s poem Prayer disputes the logic of petitions to the divine:“Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: Great God, grant that twice two be not four.”
In being petitioned on his deathbed to return to the Russian Orthodoxy of his youth, Leo Tolstoy said, in what some claim to be his final words, “Even in the valley of the shadow of death, two and two do not make six.”
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith declares: “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy… If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?”
In the opening of Notes from the Underground, an unnamed protagonist (The Underground Man) reasons for several pages about whether two pus two does add to four. Dostoyevsky makes clear that the purpose of this is not ideological, but rather an extension of man’s solipsistic desire for free will beyond the confines of time, space, and even hard logic. “I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing,” admits the narrator, “but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.”
In 1852, Victor Hugo was outraged by what he saw as a glaring hypocrisy in his fellow Frenchmen, who were so eager to endorse the liberal values of Napoleon III while overlooking the authoritarianism of his coup d’état. Hugo declared, “Now, get seven million five hundred thousand votes to declare that two and two make five, that the straight line is the longest road, that the whole is less than its part; get it declared by eight millions, by ten millions, by a hundred millions of votes, you will not have advanced a step.”
(This was borrowed from the Catholic clergyman Emmanuel Joseph Sieyè, who, writing in “What Is the Third Estate,” observed that, “…if it be claimed that under the French constitution, 200,000 individuals out of 26 million citizens constitute two-thirds of the common will, only one comment is possible: it is a claim that two and two make five.”)
In God and the State, Mikhail Bakunin described the Deistic worldview: “Imagine a philosophical vinegar sauce of the most opposed systems, a mixture of Fathers of the Church, scholastic philosophers, Descartes and Pascal, Kant and Scottish psychologists, all this a superstructure on the divine and innate ideas of Plato, and covered up with a layer of Hegelian immanence accompanied, of course, by an ignorance, as contemptuous as it is complete, of natural science, and proving just as two times two make five; the existence of a personal God.”
In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt says, “the noblest act you have ever performed is the act of your mind in the process of grasping that two and two make four.”
In Molière’s play Don Juan, the protagonist is asked for a state of what he believes to be true. His answer is that he thinks two plus two equals four.
If anyone knows any more of these, send them as a message or post them in the comments section…