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11 Examples of 2 + 2 = 5

The term 2 + 2 = 5 is a mathematically incorrect phrase that is commonly used as an analogy for belief in misinformation. The following are illustrative examples.


War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.
~ George Orwell, 1984, The Three Slogans of The Party
The term 2 + 2 = 5 makes an appearance in the well known dystopian science fiction novel 1984, wherein the protagonist Winston Smith ponders if the state might declare "two plus two equals five" is a fact. In the book, the state is unconcerned with science and engineering but is rather interested in social control.


A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is 'merely relative,' is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
~ Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey
Relativism is the belief that there are no universal truths, only personal or cultural truths. This allows all explanatory power to be shifted towards the social sciences that can explain culture or personal experience and away from hard sciences that claim that universal facts exist.


Postmodernity is said to be a culture of fragmentary sensations, eclectic nostalgia, disposable simulacra, and promiscuous superficiality, in which the traditionally valued qualities of depth, coherence, meaning, originality, and authenticity are evacuated or dissolved amid the random swirl of empty signals.
~ Jean Baudrillard
Postmodernism is a broad trend in social sciences that embraces relativism and the general view that facts are constructs introduced by power structures as a means of control. This would appear to allow for 2 + 2 = 5 based on culture or personal experience.


... so long as each one of us is more willing to trust another than to judge for himself, we never show any judgement in the matter of living, but always a blind trust, and a mistake that has been passed on from hand to hand finally involves us and works our destruction.
~ Seneca
Groupthink is the tendency to replace independent thinking with the social process of discovering and conforming to consensus opinion. This would certainly allow for 2 + 2 = 5 if this were a popular opinion.

Number Systems

If someone says 2+2=5, the correct response is, ‘What are your definitions and axioms?’ not a rant about the decline of Western civilization.
~ Kareem Carr
There are number systems that differ from the base-10 system with which most people are familiar. For example, binary is a base-2 system where 2 is 10 and 4 is 100. In binary, 10 + 10 = 100 is a valid statement. As such, it is somewhat true that 2+2=4 is an arbitrary choice that is rooted in definitions and axioms of base-10 mathematics.

Sum of Parts

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
~ Aristotle
You could come up with philosophical arguments where things are more than the sum of their parts.

Rejection of Standard Units

... you will never find, in all Nature, two identical objects; in the natural order, therefore, two and two can never make four ...
~ Honoré de Balzac
Mathematics relies on standard units whereby you can only count things that share some class or property. If you deny this exists, that would be one way to challenge math at the philosophical level.


Are you sure twice two are four? Not at all. A certain percentage of the human race are insane and subject to illusions. It may be you are one of them, and that your idea that twice two is four is a lunatic notion, and your seeming recollection that other people think so, the baseless fabric of a vision.
― Charles Sanders Peirce
Skepticism is the philosophical tradition of challenging all assumptions. This is extremely unhelpful as nothing is true when you go this route as everything is based on the assumption that our perceptions correspond to reality. Skepticism could be used as a lazy way to challenge 2 + 2 = 4.

Correspondence To Reality

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
~ René Descartes, Principles of Philosophy
Numbers are abstractions that were invented by humans and can be processed by the human mind. It could be argued that this doesn't necessarily correspond to concrete reality. René Descartes considered it a self-evident truth that "two plus two equals four" might not exist beyond the human mind.


Pragmatism is the view that something is true if it is true for all practical purposes. For example, if you lived in a culture where everyone strongly believed that 2 + 2 = 5 it might be pragmatic, to adopt this belief yourself.


If your sales tax rate is 25% then 2+2 does equal five in a way. Currently, Croatia, Denmark and Sweden have a Value Added Tax at 25%.


The first prominent use of the 2+2=5 analogy is most likely René Descartes 1641 work "Meditations on First Philosophy in which the Existence of God and the Immortality of the Soul are Demonstrated."


This is the complete list of articles we have written about misinformation.
2 + 2 = 5
Cherry Picking
Media Effects
Media Influence
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