The Corner

2+2=5 Cont’d

From a reader:

Dear Jonah, I haven’t seen mention yet of Dostoevsky in the Corner with regard to 2+2=5, but his protagonist’s use of this meme in Notes From Underground is probably the most famous literary usage of it. The Underground Man rails against positivists, materialists, and rationalists for reducing man and his world to mere mathematical formulas and abrogating free will: “I admit that two times two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, two times two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.” I would also note this quote from Victor Hugo, which is quite similar to your Goldberg file yesterday: “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.” 

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