Is morality objective or subjective?

Should you think about your duty, or about the consequences of your actions? Or should you concentrate on becoming a good person?

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Univalence
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Univalence » Sun May 26, 2019 5:16 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 5:16 pm
By the way, I assume you agree that what people believe about the shape of the earth has no bearing on its actual shape. So your question was rhetorical.
And the same applies to the wrongness of murder.

What people BELIEVE or SAY about the wrongness of murder has no actual bearing as to its actual wrongness.

Univalence
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Univalence » Sun May 26, 2019 5:19 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 4:45 pm
If people claim to know that murder is right, does that mean that murder is right? To which our shared answer, again, is 'no'. (Correct me if I misrepresent you.) So it follows that, if people claim to know that murder is wrong, that doesn't mean that murder is wrong. To deny that conclusion is to commit a special pleading fallacy, as you know.

Any thoughts about my reasoning?
Yes. You point out "fallacies" in my argument. But you don't point out "fallacies" in yours.

If people claim to know that the sky is blue does that mean that the sky is blue?

And I am going to continue repeating this point until you concede my claim: morality is an epistemic problem

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Sun May 26, 2019 5:35 pm

Univalence wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 5:19 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 4:45 pm
If people claim to know that murder is right, does that mean that murder is right? To which our shared answer, again, is 'no'. (Correct me if I misrepresent you.) So it follows that, if people claim to know that murder is wrong, that doesn't mean that murder is wrong. To deny that conclusion is to commit a special pleading fallacy, as you know.

Any thoughts about my reasoning?
Yes. You point out "fallacies" in my argument. But you don't point out "fallacies" in yours.

If people claim to know that the sky is blue does that mean that the sky is blue?

And I am going to continue repeating this point until you concede my claim: morality is an epistemic problem
So you now agree that appealing to what people believe or claim to know has no bearing on the truth of a factual assertion. Which means that, if the claim 'murder is wrong' is, as you say, a fact, your argument from history and statistics on what people believe(d) or claim(ed) to know is unsound. So let's move on.

Back to the question: how can the claim that murder is wrong be checked and therefore verified or falsified? Please can you focus on that.

Univalence
Posts: 492
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Univalence » Sun May 26, 2019 7:54 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 5:35 pm
So you now agree that appealing to what people believe or claim to know has no bearing on the truth of a factual assertion.
I have always agreed to that point! Which is why I use evidence to adjudicate such matters, rather than simply rely on what people SAY!

If you keep SAYING that it's cold outside, but you keep wearing shorts - I am going to reconsider the reliability of your words for any evidentiary purposes.
Peter Holmes wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 5:35 pm
Which means that, if the claim 'murder is wrong' is, as you say, a fact, your argument from history and statistics on what people believe(d) or claim(ed) to know is unsound. So let's move on.
No! That's not what it means. It doesn't matter whether people believe or claim to believe that murder is right or wrong. What a cohort SAYS on the matter is completely irrelevant. What HAPPENS in reality is not irrelevant.

Therefore the way to understand the meaning of objective morality is not via linguistics, but via epistemology.

The evidence is that murder has been declining for 700 years! If you are claiming that the evidence is "unsound" then you are necessarily claiming the statistics are wrong! And that the murder rate hasn't IN FACT been declining for 700 years. Is that what you are saying?
Peter Holmes wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 5:35 pm
Back to the question: how can the claim that murder is wrong be checked and therefore verified or falsified? Please can you focus on that.
I told you how!

DO the mathematics.
DO the statistics.

DO THE WORK required to cure your Philosophical ignorance.

In 2019 you can't get to truth via deduction. You need induction.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 608
Joined: Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:53 pm

Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Mon May 27, 2019 7:45 am

Univalence wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 7:54 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 5:35 pm
So you now agree that appealing to what people believe or claim to know has no bearing on the truth of a factual assertion.
I have always agreed to that point! Which is why I use evidence to adjudicate such matters, rather than simply rely on what people SAY!

If you keep SAYING that it's cold outside, but you keep wearing shorts - I am going to reconsider the reliability of your words for any evidentiary purposes.
Peter Holmes wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 5:35 pm
Which means that, if the claim 'murder is wrong' is, as you say, a fact, your argument from history and statistics on what people believe(d) or claim(ed) to know is unsound. So let's move on.
No! That's not what it means. It doesn't matter whether people believe or claim to believe that murder is right or wrong. What a cohort SAYS on the matter is completely irrelevant. What HAPPENS in reality is not irrelevant.

Therefore the way to understand the meaning of objective morality is not via linguistics, but via epistemology.

The evidence is that murder has been declining for 700 years! If you are claiming that the evidence is "unsound" then you are necessarily claiming the statistics are wrong! And that the murder rate hasn't IN FACT been declining for 700 years. Is that what you are saying?
Peter Holmes wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 5:35 pm
Back to the question: how can the claim that murder is wrong be checked and therefore verified or falsified? Please can you focus on that.
I told you how!

DO the mathematics.
DO the statistics.

DO THE WORK required to cure your Philosophical ignorance.

In 2019 you can't get to truth via deduction. You need induction.
No, we agree that the truth or falsehood of a factual assertion is independent of whether anyone believes it is true or claims to know it's true. So your appeal to statistics about what people to believe, and changes in the murder rate, is irrelevant. Of course I don't challenge those facts, so please stop straw-manning me.

If people's belief about the shape of the earth has no bearing on the actual shape of the earth, then people's belief about the morality of murder has no bearing on the morality of murder. (I assume you understand what a special pleading fallacy is.)

The question is: how can the claim that murder is wrong be checked and verified or falsified? Facts about what people believe and how they behave don't provide the answer to that question, just as facts about what people believe about having kidneys doesn't answer the question, 'do people have kidneys?'

We can verify the truth of the claim 'people have kidneys' by showing that they have kidneys.

Now, how can we verify the truth of the claim that murder is wrong? If you have no other evidence to verify it than 'this is what people believe' and 'the murder rate has fallen', then your claim that it's a fact that murder is wrong is unsupported, and our conversation is over.

Throughout this discussion, with some lapses for which I apologise, I've clung to the belief that you're an intelligent and rational person, capable of reasoning dispassionately, recognising when your reasoning is faulty, and having the flexibility to change your mind if you are wrong. These are qualities that I'd guess you and I both value.

Belinda
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Belinda » Mon May 27, 2019 9:19 am

Peter Holmes wrote:
We can verify the truth of the claim 'people have kidneys' by showing that they have kidneys.

Now, how can we verify the truth of the claim that murder is wrong? If you have no other evidence to verify it than 'this is what people believe' and 'the murder rate has fallen', then your claim that it's a fact that murder is wrong is unsupported, and our conversation is over.
But there is evidence to support the claim that murder is wrong. A society is base upon mutual trust. People need to be able to trust others not to murder them.

Societies themselves are essential to the survival of individuals , homo sapiens, and the genes of homo sapiens. All truth claims are founded upon some criterion for truth. The ultimate criterion for the truth claim of 'murder is wrong' is maintenance of life to the extent that if murder were right there would soon be no people left to be murderers or victims.

Peter Holmes
Posts: 608
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Mon May 27, 2019 4:55 pm

Belinda wrote:
Mon May 27, 2019 9:19 am
Peter Holmes wrote:
We can verify the truth of the claim 'people have kidneys' by showing that they have kidneys.

Now, how can we verify the truth of the claim that murder is wrong? If you have no other evidence to verify it than 'this is what people believe' and 'the murder rate has fallen', then your claim that it's a fact that murder is wrong is unsupported, and our conversation is over.
But there is evidence to support the claim that murder is wrong. A society is base upon mutual trust. People need to be able to trust others not to murder them.

Societies themselves are essential to the survival of individuals , homo sapiens, and the genes of homo sapiens. All truth claims are founded upon some criterion for truth. The ultimate criterion for the truth claim of 'murder is wrong' is maintenance of life to the extent that if murder were right there would soon be no people left to be murderers or victims.
You are citing facts to justify the moral assertion that murder is wrong. But how about this fact?: 'If we don't murder our enemies, they will murder us. So murdering them is morally justifiable'.

For much of human history, and certainly much of our tribal past, this has been a fact that people have used to justify their moral conclusion. As I said, what ever facts we use to justify a moral opinion, others can use the same facts differently, or different facts, to justify different moral opinions.

To insist that it's a fact that 'murder is morally wrong' is merely to mistake a moral opinion for a fact. It's an understandable misunderstanding, but it can and does have catastrophic consequences. Talk to homosexuals about the consequences of people thinking 'homosexuality is wrong' is a fact - for example, believers fantasising that their god shares their moral opinions. It ends up with people being thrown off high buildings.

Belinda, the delusion of moral objectivism - not just of the theistic kind - is one of the most harmful of our many social problems. And progress comes from our recognising that, because there are no moral facts, but only opinions, we have to agree rationally on moral values and rules that we think will most benefit us, individually and collectively.

As it happens, I agree very strongly that murder is wrong. And, fortunately for the rest of us, most other people agree as well. But that doesn't and can never mean that 'murder is wrong' is a fact. To say that is to make a category error.

Belinda
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Belinda » Tue May 28, 2019 12:33 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
You are citing facts to justify the moral assertion that murder is wrong. But how about this fact?: 'If we don't murder our enemies, they will murder us. So murdering them is morally justifiable'.
Is there such a thing as a justified war? 'Murder' is loaded with emotive connotations. I capital punishment ever justified?

Societies with histories of advanced moral and aesthetic development such as those that comprise the United Nations establish rules about what killing( and so forth) is justifiable and which not. These rules are enshrined in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations is possible only recently at this time when international communications and shared Western European cultural values (historical development) have been largely adopted globally.

For much of human history, and certainly much of our tribal past, this has been a fact that people have used to justify their moral conclusion. As I said, what ever facts we use to justify a moral opinion, others can use the same facts differently, or different facts, to justify different moral opinions.
True.
To insist that it's a fact that 'murder is morally wrong' is merely to mistake a moral opinion for a fact. It's an understandable misunderstanding, but it can and does have catastrophic consequences. Talk to homosexuals about the consequences of people thinking 'homosexuality is wrong' is a fact - for example, believers fantasising that their god shares their moral opinions. It ends up with people being thrown off high buildings.
You refer to Daesh (ISIS ) . The so-called Islamic State does not recognise relativity; it's notorious as the epitome of fundamentalism. Believers who "fantasise that their god shares their moral opinions" are religious fundamentalists a stance similar and in many ways identical to idolatry.That killing another man is wrong relates to moral codes of right behaviour. These codes relate to cultures of belief. Some cultures of belief are wrong as they are cultures that cannot accept relativity but insist upon absolutism. This last claim is itself relative to who I am. There is no escape from
subjectivity or, to be more precise, intersubjectivity.
Belinda, the delusion of moral objectivism - not just of the theistic kind - is one of the most harmful of our many social problems. And progress comes from our recognising that, because there are no moral facts, but only opinions, we have to agree rationally on moral values and rules that we think will most benefit us, individually and collectively.

As it happens, I agree very strongly that murder is wrong. And, fortunately for the rest of us, most other people agree as well. But that doesn't and can never mean that 'murder is wrong' is a fact. To say that is to make a category error.
I still can't quite understand what mean by moral objectivism. You claim that "murder" is categorically wrong but again you don't as you also claim murder is wrong is not a fact. Are you saying murder is wrong is intersubjective as opposed to factual? If so we agree although I'd rather not use the word 'murder' as it's pejorative connotation.

To agree rationally on moral values we need to collect information about what moral values contribute to life and love and which do the opposite. This information includes facts about human nature, economics, aesthetics, traditions, politics, and the pasts of separate peoples.Because killing is wrong is founded upon facts I say that killing is wrong is also a fact. But killing is wrong is founded upon shifting facts not eternal truths so killing is wrong is relatively not eternally true.

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Tue May 28, 2019 1:59 pm

Thanks again, Belinda. There's a lot here, most of which I agree with. So I'll try to focus on where I disagree.
Belinda wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 12:33 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:

As I said, what ever facts we use to justify a moral opinion, others can use the same facts differently, or different facts, to justify different moral opinions.

True.
If you agree with my point here, I suggest you're accepting the crucial distinction between factual and non-factual assertions, such as moral and aesthetic ones. And that's my whole argument.
To insist that it's a fact that 'murder is morally wrong' is merely to mistake a moral opinion for a fact. It's an understandable misunderstanding, but it can and does have catastrophic consequences. Talk to homosexuals about the consequences of people thinking 'homosexuality is wrong' is a fact - for example, believers fantasising that their god shares their moral opinions. It ends up with people being thrown off high buildings.
You refer to Daesh (ISIS ) . The so-called Islamic State does not recognise relativity; it's notorious as the epitome of fundamentalism. Believers who "fantasise that their god shares their moral opinions" are religious fundamentalists a stance similar and in many ways identical to idolatry.That killing another man is wrong relates to moral codes of right behaviour. These codes relate to cultures of belief. Some cultures of belief are wrong as they are cultures that cannot accept relativity but insist upon absolutism. This last claim is itself relative to who I am. There is no escape from
subjectivity or, to be more precise, intersubjectivity.
You distinguish between what you call (moral) 'relativism' and 'absolutism'. But I think the distinction we're discussing is between (moral) subjectivism and objectivism. And there's an important difference. My argument is against moral objectivism - that there are moral facts - and for moral subjectivism - that there are only moral judgements, opinions and beliefs.

Moral subjectivism does not entail meta-ethical moral relativism. Moral relativism is the claim that, because there are no moral facts, moral rightness and wrongness can only be relative to a people or culture - and to me that just means moral inconsistency. For example, if we think slavery is wrong, that means we think it's universally wrong - not just wrong in some places and at some times. Relativism can lead to moral abstentionism: well, slavery is right in their culture, so leave them to it - intervention is unjustifiable.

I still can't quite understand what [you] mean by moral objectivism. You claim that "murder" is categorically wrong but again you don't as you also claim murder is wrong is not a fact. Are you saying murder is wrong is intersubjective as opposed to factual? If so we agree although I'd rather not use the word 'murder' as it's pejorative connotation.
I'm not referring to Kant's categorical imperative - my lack of clarity. The categories I'm referring to are linguistic: factual and non-factual (such as moral). Mistaking moral for factual assertions is the category error. Moral assertions are non-factual, which is why morality isn't and can't be objective. And as I use 'subjective' to mean 'a matter of judgement, belief or opinion', whether that's individual or collective is incidental. My only reservation about the expression 'intersubjective' is that it may equivocate on the meaning of 'subjective'. But if it just means communal or co-operative or social, that's fine.

To agree rationally on moral values we need to collect information about what moral values contribute to life and love and which do the opposite. This information includes facts about human nature, economics, aesthetics, traditions, politics, and the pasts of separate peoples. Because killing is wrong is founded upon facts I say that killing is wrong is also a fact. But killing is wrong is founded upon shifting facts not eternal truths so killing is wrong is relatively not eternally true.
And there's the rub. 'Because killing is wrong is founded upon facts I say that killing is wrong is also a fact.' As my tribal example shows, different facts can justify different judgements. It's what I call our inescapable moral predicament. The moral assertion 'killing is wrong' isn't and can't be a fact. It's a judgement - what ever facts we use to justify it. Which takes us back to the top, where I think you agreed with me.

Belinda
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Belinda » Tue May 28, 2019 2:20 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
The moral assertion 'killing is wrong' isn't and can't be a fact. It's a judgement - what ever facts we use to justify it.
Indeed it's a judgement. Every claim involves judgement. There is no claim without judgement. Claiming 2+2=4 involves you in a judgement. Claiming blackbirds eat worms involves you in a judgement. Thou shalt not kill is a command which implies at least two judgements, one of them is the estimated power base of the commander and the other is his rationale for not killing.


If someone utters " killing is wrong!" with the intention sole intention of expressing his feelings (unlikely as most people have some sort of rationale) it's not a claim it's a reaction. I don't think you are doing this!

Peter Holmes
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Tue May 28, 2019 2:32 pm

Belinda wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 2:20 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
The moral assertion 'killing is wrong' isn't and can't be a fact. It's a judgement - what ever facts we use to justify it.
Indeed it's a judgement. Every claim involves judgement. There is no claim without judgement. Claiming 2+2=4 involves you in a judgement. Claiming blackbirds eat worms involves you in a judgement. Thou shalt not kill is a command which implies at least two judgements, one of them is the estimated power base of the commander and the other is his rationale for not killing.


If someone utters " killing is wrong!" with the intention sole intention of expressing his feelings (unlikely as most people have some sort of rationale) it's not a claim it's a reaction. I don't think you are doing this!
It may just be we're not using the words in the same way. That 2+2=4 is not what I call a matter of judgement. Opinions have no bearing on whether it's the case. Same with the factual assertion 'the earth orbits the sun'. Its simply true - not a matter of opinion or judgement. But 'slavery is wrong / right' is just a matter of judgement or opinion. There's no fact of the matter.

'In my opinion, 2+2=4' is ridiculous. But 'In my opinion (or I believe) slavery is wrong' makes good sense. That's the difference.

Belinda
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Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Belinda » Tue May 28, 2019 4:05 pm

We may not be sharing the same lexicon, Peter.


From an online thesaurus entry bearing on the word 'judgement'. There are no words which confine 'judgement' to conversations about morality. Therefore to uphold your argument you'd really need to find a more apposite word than judgement because as your argument stands it's tautological:
judgement is judgement.
The following words copied from online thesaurus and not one of them refers exclusively to moral judgements.
acumen
awareness
experience
intelligence
intuition
knowledge
perception
prudence
reasoning
sense
understanding
wisdom
acuteness
apprehension
astuteness
brains
capacity
comprehension
discernment
discrimination
genius
grasp
incisiveness
ingenuity
keenness
mentality
penetration
perspicacity
quickness
range
rationality
reach
readiness
reason
sagacity
sanity
sapience
savvy
sharpness
shrewdness
sophistication
soundness
taste
wit
percipience

Peter Holmes
Posts: 608
Joined: Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:53 pm

Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Tue May 28, 2019 5:07 pm

Belinda wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 4:05 pm
We may not be sharing the same lexicon, Peter.


From an online thesaurus entry bearing on the word 'judgement'. There are no words which confine 'judgement' to conversations about morality. Therefore to uphold your argument you'd really need to find a more apposite word than judgement because as your argument stands it's tautological:
judgement is judgement.
The following words copied from online thesaurus and not one of them refers exclusively to moral judgements.
acumen
awareness
experience
intelligence
intuition
knowledge
perception
prudence
reasoning
sense
understanding
wisdom
acuteness
apprehension
astuteness
brains
capacity
comprehension
discernment
discrimination
genius
grasp
incisiveness
ingenuity
keenness
mentality
penetration
perspicacity
quickness
range
rationality
reach
readiness
reason
sagacity
sanity
sapience
savvy
sharpness
shrewdness
sophistication
soundness
taste
wit
percipience
I'm not claiming that the word 'judgement' only refers to moral assertions. I'm saying that moral assertions express judgements, beliefs or opinions, rather than make falsifiable factual claims - so that moral assertions aren't and can't be facts.

I don't understand where I'm asserting a tautology.

Belinda
Posts: 2877
Joined: Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:13 am

Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Belinda » Tue May 28, 2019 11:31 pm

Peter Holmes wrote:
I'm not claiming that the word 'judgement' only refers to moral assertions. I'm saying that moral assertions express judgements, beliefs or opinions, rather than make falsifiable factual claims - so that moral assertions aren't and can't be facts.
I presented that scenario about hunting aurochs because it illustrates an occasion when the fact of the matter is the same as the moral judgement of the matter. I understand this also to be historical fact.

Here's another scenario. The wise man builds his house on rock in preference to sand. Prudence in this case is both factually correct and morally correct for exactly the same purpose.

Here's another. The cook scalds his chopping board after use. The cook does not want people to get salmonella poisoning not least because he loves the people he cooks for. Scalding the chopping board is factually correct and morally correct for exactly the same reason.

Here's another:
He made sure the girth was tightened before she got on the horse. It would have been immoral and impractical to let her ride out with a loose girth for exactly the same reason.

For all those scenarios if the fact of the matter were to be falsified (however unlikely) the morality of the matter would be void. There is complete correlation in every case.

However here is another sort of case where there is no falsifiable claim.
The psychoanalyst says " Your emotional illness is caused by your late father's lack of affection towards you when you were a small child." When the claim is not falsifiable there is no moral implication.

Peter Holmes
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Joined: Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:53 pm

Re: Is morality objective or subjective?

Post by Peter Holmes » Wed May 29, 2019 7:50 am

Belinda wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 11:31 pm
Peter Holmes wrote:
I'm not claiming that the word 'judgement' only refers to moral assertions. I'm saying that moral assertions express judgements, beliefs or opinions, rather than make falsifiable factual claims - so that moral assertions aren't and can't be facts.
I presented that scenario about hunting aurochs because it illustrates an occasion when the fact of the matter is the same as the moral judgement of the matter. I understand this also to be historical fact.

Here's another scenario. The wise man builds his house on rock in preference to sand. Prudence in this case is both factually correct and morally correct for exactly the same purpose.

Here's another. The cook scalds his chopping board after use. The cook does not want people to get salmonella poisoning not least because he loves the people he cooks for. Scalding the chopping board is factually correct and morally correct for exactly the same reason.

Here's another:
He made sure the girth was tightened before she got on the horse. It would have been immoral and impractical to let her ride out with a loose girth for exactly the same reason.

For all those scenarios if the fact of the matter were to be falsified (however unlikely) the morality of the matter would be void. There is complete correlation in every case.

However here is another sort of case where there is no falsifiable claim.
The psychoanalyst says " Your emotional illness is caused by your late father's lack of affection towards you when you were a small child." When the claim is not falsifiable there is no moral implication.
I'm sorry, but all of your examples demonstrate my point. That an action is practical, wise, sensible, and so on does not and can never entail that it is morally right to do it. Moral rightness and wrongness are not properties of things and actions. If they were, we could never argue about the moral rightness and wrongness of a thing or action. And the fact that we do shows that morality is subjective.

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