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Is objectivism consequentialist?

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

A bold face quote does not an argument make. You have to understand the context this is coming from. Rand is having Galt refute her adversiaries in her trichotomy of value from intricisism and subjectivism. Specifically, the part of the quote after the "or" she is speaking to various medieval conceptions of virtue that are rather altruistic, and duty-based Kantian morals.

This however, rests upon two false assumptions. One is to regard virtue wholly, as Rand puts it, an "end in itself," the other is to regard as unconnected to happiness. Both assumptions are false for the reasons Rand gives. But, accordingly, the alternative to regarding virtue as an instrumental means isn't the above, but to partly regard virtue as a means to happiness and partly as an end in itself. It can be partly an end in itself in that it is, partly, constitutive of happiness, and therefore avoids being unconnected to happiness.

For reasons why we should regard virtue as a constitutive means rather than instrumental, I would just point to all the same arguments Aristotle gives in the Nicomachean Ethics. If beyond that and the arguments and reasons and examples I've already been giving, you just have to look at it inductively by analyzing the nature of virtue, means, ends, the various ends we have, and ultimate ends.

A helpful way to think about it is asking whether an end is logically separable from its means, or is the means external to the ends, or is part of the end just incorporated by the means. 

Also there is the aspect of character development, incorporating long term principled behavior into emotional motivation as well as behavioral dispositions. Part of being virtuous isn't just a "one and done" thing, once you've got happiness or eudaimonia then you've got it. It's an ongoing continuous process, one that has to be developed and achieved and continuously maintained in ones character traits.

Rand talks about a principled commitment to living rationally, for example. It's not just excercising a faculty here or there, a bunch of neurons fired and I made a deduction, it's about cultivating a disposition towards using ones faculty and valuing it as a method on principle. The virtues are not only an abstract or intellectual commitment to "okay I need to use reason or be productive," etc, but also emotional and motivational dispositions. Then once I act to achieve all of these concrete values, I can't simple say "I've got it, I'm done with virtue" I have to keep maintain them, which will commit me to keeping and maintaining the same methods, long term, that brought me to the party, so to speak.

How is this any different from practicing to play Moonlight Sonata as I described above?

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I find the notion that hitting keys does not constitute playing to be a just plain silly. Playing the song is, for the sake of argument, the ultimate end, and hitting the keys are the means to it, but they are a different kind of means than, say, buying a piano. One is external or separate to the end of playing, and the other is partially what is constituted in the playing itself. They're both means. 

Another example: I ride with Jim to do parkour. I wish I didn't have to run and jump while doing parkour.

The first sentence is separable or external to the end of doing parkour. It would make sense to be able to do parkour without riding with Jim. But the second sentence doesn't even make sense, because running and jumping is just part of doing parkour.

So virtue has kind of the same relationship to happiness and flourishing. It isn't "its own reward" because it isn't wholly for its own sake, it's still a means to the ultimate end. Rand's conception of the ultimate end, "man's life," "man qua man," is (or at least should be properly interpreted to be) a "thick" Aristotelian conception of wellbeing and flourishing life. Rand speaks of man having to earn, achieve, and maintain this state, having to create and produce his own character and having a fully integrated consciousness where emotions, actions, desires, premises, all serve his life. Virtue is the method for cultivating, integrating, and maintaining long term principles into ones character traits, and caring about them, to such an extent that one is committed to maintaining them as a part of maintaining his life and wellbeing. Aristotle will treat virtues, e.g., as excellent habits.

Perhaps your stumbling block is this notion of what the ultimate end is. I've noticed you've said "life long range" a few times, and tend to regard virtuous actions as mere faculties and neurons firing. It is necessary to understand the ultimate end as not simply "life qua survival" or even "survival long range" (even though you could interpret Rand this way sometimes), because then I would agree that a more Hobbesian consequentialist/instrumentalist ethic would follow. A more Aristotelian constitutive reading is far more plausible.

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Therebis nothing ignoble with staying alive being the ultimate end.

Because of the nature of Man and the nature of reality he must use reason, he must be rational, he must think long term, in order to achieve staying alive.  It requires principles and the cultivation of character, diligent exercise of virtues.  It also requires that a man understand his own happiness and values that he knows what gives him pleasure and fuel inspiration and motivation to keep striving.   The greatest chance of survival is guaranteed only by the greatest physical and mental health.  It is a consequence of reality and man which is unavoidable.  To survive really It requires a man to be his very best in all senses of the term. 

It does not require that virtue is somehow an end in itself.  To the extent any virtue is virtuous it is because it is instrumental to life.

I ask you again to show me with evidence of reality there is a reason why man should  adopt virtues for any reason other than that they are instrumental.

 

As an aside I am confounded by your clear evasion of the difference between actions (causes) and the results (effects).  Playing a key is what you do, the sound is what results.  I've already explained I get the fact that practicing any action or habit improves efficacy, this is not in debate, the point is what the action is efficacious for.  Playing the piano is for producing music, if there were no resulting music there would be no point in tapping the keys.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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19 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

As an aside I am confounded by your clear evasion of the difference between actions (causes) and the results (effects).  Playing a key is what you do, the sound is what results.  I've already explained I get the fact that practicing any action or habit improves efficacy, this is not in debate, the point is what the action is efficacious for.  Playing the piano is for producing music, if there were no resulting music there would be no point in tapping the keys.

They aren't evasions as much as you aren't convinced. At worst 2046 is wrong or in error.

Yes, there is a consequence of virtue. We can label virtues as good because they are consequential to human nature. Yet the thing about virtuous according to virtue theories is that practice and habituation are non-stop. Virtues are in your nature, so that's reason enough to do them. We strive to life as an end, and that end is partly good because it allows one to do all the things in life. It's great to hear Moonlight Sonata, but that in turn makes it great to hit the keys. A consequentialist might say the keys only serve playing Moonlight Sonata. Virtue theorists would say the whole process is crucial to the rest. If I sat at the piano and it turned out that it played Moonlight Sonata automatically, I'd feel disappointed that -I- didn't get to hit the keys.

At least by Aristotle, he would praise the person who integrates the entire process, internal and external, as opposed to someone like JS Mill who only cares to look at external things and nothing else.

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3 hours ago, 2046 said:

It is necessary to understand the ultimate end as not simply "life qua survival" or even "survival long range" (even though you could interpret Rand this way sometimes), because then I would agree that a more Hobbesian consequentialist/instrumentalist ethic would follow. A more Aristotelian constitutive reading is far more plausible.

But there are some major differences. 

Aristotle defines moral virtue as a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices. We learn moral virtue primarily through habit and practice rather than through reasoning and instruction.

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/aristotle/section8.rhtml


"Man writes Ayn Rand, “has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice.”" OPAR (p. 214). "“Value” is that which one acts to gain and keep, “virtue” is the action by which one gains and keeps it." For the New Intellectual, 121 

Her definition does not limit virtue to be a disposition, a tendency or habit, but an action. Values can change, therefore virtues change with them. I also notice a tinge of replacing volition, as in virtue is a habit that happens automatically. 

It seems like Aristotelean virtue is sort of eternal rather than case by case basis, based on consequence to human life, not a consequence to human nature.

2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

We can label virtues as good because they are consequential to human nature.


 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Her definition does not limit virtue to be a disposition, a tendency or habit, but an action. Values can change, therefore virtues change with them. I also notice a tinge of replacing volition, as in virtue is a habit that happens automatically. 

It seems like Aristotelean virtue is sort of eternal rather than case by case basis, based on consequence to human life, not a consequence to human nature.

Nope. Aristotle is, in fact, one of the first defenders of the notion that volition and virtue are closely linked. He doesn't even think that an action can count as vortuous if it isn't volitionally chosen between alternatives. Of course the don't "automatically happen" why would he be giving lectures on them in the first place. My suggestion would be to stop, understand, read, before critiquing. 

By a disposition we mean character traits. By character traits we mean a cumulative series of choices that effects who we are as people. Virtue isn't an isolated action. Of course virtue has an action component, you have to act on your values, as human action is purposeful behavior. But our actions and values and dispositions are hardly unconnected. The virtuous person, like in Rand's novels, is the integrated person, whose desires and motivations all point towards action toward life-serving value.

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9 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Therebis nothing ignoble with staying alive being the ultimate end.

I think there is. There are many problems with this "survivalist" interpretation. A survivalist end can support a bare-bones Hobbesian ethics, but not a full Aristotelian virtue ethics.

I don't need all of these virtues for long range survival. I need only the basic Maslowean virtues pertaining to physical safety and maybe a little psychological safety, but I don't need self-actualization and flourishing. Flourishing is not the same as avoiding death.

Rand's trenchant "survival as what kind of being" should be enough to refute this, and often mentions survival as "survival proper to a human being." Aristotle asks whether a short happy/flourishing life is preferable to a long mild life. Many of Rand's heroes risk their survival for important values that give their life meaning. All of this points to a more rich Aristotelian conception of the final end, something more like the Greek conception of eudaimonia. This is going to include not only basic physical needs, but psychological, social, career, and things like self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose, self-actualization. Of course survival is a necessary component of eudaimonia, but you can't build an entire ethic off that.

Edited by 2046

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50 minutes ago, 2046 said:

Rand's trenchant "survival as what kind of being" should be enough to refute this, and often mentions survival as "survival proper to a human being." Aristotle asks whether a short happy/flourishing life is preferable to a long mild life. Many of Rand's heroes risk their survival for important values that give their life meaning. All of this points to a more rich Aristotelian conception of the final end, something more like the Greek conception of eudaimonia. This is going to include not only basic physical needs, but psychological, social, career, and things like self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose, self-actualization. Of course survival is a necessary component of eudaimonia, but you can't build an entire ethic off that.

 

Quite the opposite to "survival is a necessary component of eudaimonia", as you define it, eudaimonia (specifically aspects of it) constitute a necessary state for maximizing likelihood of survival.

 

Let's also not make fun of using Rand quotations while proceeding to make them. 

Again, let's directly deal with the issue, why NOT adopt an instrumental rational morality with life as the standard?  As I have been explaining all along "psychological, social, career, and things like self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose, self-actualization." and those sorts of things are instrumental to life. 

Your Hobbesian references and your constant reference to "basic physical needs" is a naked emaciated strawman and fools no one.  I am not advocating such a non-rational impoverished view of morality or virtue.  The end is simple, the means are of course complex because man is complex.

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

Rand's trenchant "survival as what kind of being" should be enough to refute this, and often mentions survival as "survival proper to a human being." Aristotle asks whether a short happy/flourishing life is preferable to a long mild life. Many of Rand's heroes risk their survival for important values that give their life meaning. All of this points to a more rich Aristotelian conception of the final end, something more like the Greek conception of eudaimonia. This is going to include not only basic physical needs, but psychological, social, career, and things like self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose, self-actualization. Of course survival is a necessary component of eudaimonia, but you can't build an entire ethic off that.

We are agreed to this, but don't all of these virtues yet acquire their meaning (i.e. that we describe them as "virtue" and not "vice") according to the consequences that we expect to reap from them (in terms of not longevity alone, but the quality of life)?

We do not counsel whatever virtue, like "honesty," because "it is man's nature to be honest" or any such thing, but because a life lived honestly will tend to be longer, richer, more productive, happier, etc., than otherwise. And in fact, our understanding of "honest" (that it does not mean "telling the truth" in all circumstances) must be further refined according to one's specific context, which means: the consequences one may expect, in reality, from pursuing some specific course of action in the name of "being honest."

It seems to me, just based on my naive reading of this thread, that a virtue ethics fundamentally supposes that man should want to be virtuous... just because. Just because it is good or right for a man to embody certain things we're calling "virtue": because it is "his nature" to do so, whatever that is supposed to mean and however it is we're supposed to divine it.

But this leaves unanswered "why": why these things are virtuous and not others, and why we rightly use them in some ways/contexts, but not others; why we are correct to describe them as "good." The answers to these questions, I believe, are found in the consequences a man expects, in reason, from adopting principles of behavior and/or taking specific, concrete actions within a given context.

And none of this may conform to what is meant by "consequentialism" in the history of philosophy, but I don't think that we need to accept that some supposed dichotomy between "consequentialism" and "virtue ethics," as commonly understood (or in this thread at least), expresses the true range, or strikes upon the correct approach. They could easily both be wrong.

1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Quite the opposite to "survival is a necessary component of eudaimonia", as you define it, eudaimonia (specifically aspects of it) constitute a necessary state for maximizing likelihood of survival.

I've tried to express this to you before, but this just doesn't track with human experience. We do not seek pleasure or happiness for the sake of living longer; whatever relationship eating an ice cream cone on a summer's day has to do with my long term survival (and I agree that it may have some relationship) -- that does not play into my motivation, or even come to my mind. And if I was called upon to "defend" my choice, morally, my recourse would not be to the negligible role eating an ice cream cone has in extending my lifespan (if, in fact, it has one; we may easily argue that it works to opposite effect). Rather, I would defend eating an ice cream cone according to the pleasures it offers in the moment of eating it -- to the fact that eating ice cream (in moderation, accounting to the fact that over-indulgence can be strongly detrimental to lifespan and much more) contributes to one's experience of life.

Earlier I've mentioned a person in a persistent vegetative state, and how that is not the sort of life we seek; if a person could arrange for such a thing -- and know that he would be kept alive indefinitely (perhaps far longer than otherwise, given that he would not be exerting himself, not courting the not-insignificant risks of accident, under continual medical supervision and care, and etc.) -- that would not make it either rational or moral for him to seek it out, as a means of extending his lifespan... even though, in reason, he might be right to conclude that it would help him to extend his lifespan.

If we would still prefer some conception of "eudaimonia" (and its supposed "maximized likelihood of survival") and a shorter actual lifespan over an actual, real, extended lifespan absent the (supposedly) ancillary features of eudaimonia, then we must reject a survivalist ethics as being sufficient to describe the reality of the situation.

I believe this is because man does not alone experience the world in stark terms of life versus death, but also emotionally (happiness versus sadness, joy versus suffering, etc.) and physically (pleasure versus pain) -- and that these are utterly essential to human life on earth. It is not enough to pursue "life qua survival"; we must also pursue happiness and pleasure. An ethics that does not take this into account, fundamentally, is not one competent to guide human choice.

Edited by DonAthos

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I see a familiar wall looming ahead.  One which I am still attempting to properly identify and formulate into words.

I have run into this with others here and I think it is part of a psychological background radiation left over from each of our personal big bangs of origin and upbringing.

 

There is SO much more to life than morality. After all, life does not serve morality, morality serves life. 

There is SO much more to life than mere survival.  To be sure man can choose to live as his primary and fundamental choice, however, man makes other choices within the limits set by reality.  To be sure a Man who chooses to live, chooses the value of life, the ultimate value upon which all other values depend, but he also chooses subjective values neither immoral or moral, within the limits set by reality.

The discovery of morality provides man with the means to survive, the means to live.  In and of itself however morality does not give meaning to life.  Morality makes life possible.

 

A man who wishes to pursue that vast field of life beyond morality and mere survival does so without conflicting with morality or survival, but he is not morally impelled to do so. 

Man has the freedom and the choice to wander and play within the limits of reality and morality.  Morality is not his keeper, not his master, it is his tool to achieve his choice.

 

In the same manner proper politics makes it possible for a men to live together as fully free as possible according to ethics and morality and places no additional restrains upon him, so too proper ethics makes it possible for a volitional consciousness to live as fully free as possible within the limits of reality and places no additional restrains upon him.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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42 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

We are agreed to this, but don't all of these virtues yet acquire their meaning (i.e. that we describe them as "virtue" and not "vice") according to the consequences that we expect to reap from them (in terms of not longevity alone, but the quality of life)?

We do not counsel whatever virtue, like "honesty," because "it is man's nature to be honest" or any such thing, but because a life lived honestly will tend to be longer, richer, more productive, happier, etc., than otherwise. And in fact, our understanding of "honest" (that it does not mean "telling the truth" in all circumstances) must be further refined according to one's specific context, which means: the consequences one may expect, in reality, from pursuing some specific course of action in the name of "being honest."

It seems to me, just based on my naive reading of this thread, that a virtue ethics fundamentally supposes that man should want to be virtuous... just because. Just because it is good or right for a man to embody certain things we're calling "virtue": because it is "his nature" to do so, whatever that is supposed to mean and however it is we're supposed to divine it.

But this leaves unanswered "why": why these things are virtuous and not others, and why we rightly use them in some ways/contexts, but not others; why we are correct to describe them as "good." The answers to these questions, I believe, are found in the consequences a man expects, in reason, from adopting principles of behavior and/or taking specific, concrete actions within a given context.

And none of this may conform to what is meant by "consequentialism" in the history of philosophy, but I don't think that we need to accept that some supposed dichotomy between "consequentialism" and "virtue ethics," as commonly understood (or in this thread at least), expresses the true range, or strikes upon the correct approach. They could easily both be wrong.

I've tried to express this to you before, but this just doesn't track with human experience. We do not seek pleasure or happiness for the sake of living longer; whatever relationship eating an ice cream cone on a summer's day has to do with my long term survival (and I agree that it may have some relationship) -- that does not play into my motivation, or even come to my mind. And if I was called upon to "defend" my choice, morally, my recourse would not be to the negligible role eating an ice cream cone has in extending my lifespan (if, in fact, it has one; we may easily argue that it works to opposite effect). Rather, I would defend eating an ice cream cone according to the pleasures it offers in the moment of eating it -- to the fact that eating ice cream (in moderation, accounting to the fact that over-indulgence can be strongly detrimental to lifespan and much more) contributes to one's experience of life.

Earlier I've mentioned a person in a persistent vegetative state, and how that is not the sort of life we seek; if a person could arrange for such a thing -- and know that he would be kept alive indefinitely (perhaps far longer than otherwise, given that he would not be exerting himself, not courting the not-insignificant risks of accident, under continual medical supervision and care, and etc.) -- that would not make it either rational or moral for him to seek it out, as a means of extending his lifespan... even though, in reason, he might be right to conclude that it would help him to extend his lifespan.

If we would still prefer some conception of "eudaimonia" (and its supposed "maximized likelihood of survival") and a shorter actual lifespan over an actual, real, extended lifespan absent the (supposedly) ancillary features of eudaimonia, then we must reject a survivalist ethics as being sufficient to describe the reality of the situation.

I believe this is because man does not alone experience the world in stark terms of life versus death, but also emotionally (happiness versus sadness, joy versus suffering, etc.) and physically (pleasure versus pain) -- and that these are utterly essential to human life on earth. It is not enough to pursue "life qua survival"; we must also pursue happiness and pleasure. An ethics that does not take this into account, fundamentally, is not one competent to guide human choice.

Yes I acknowledge we have spoken of this before.  I think quite simply put NOT all choices have to be moral.  The choice of life which is the basis of the objective prescriptions of morality, IF you want to live you OUGHT to do X,  is not the same as why a man chooses to live or what a man chooses to live for.  These are other choices open to a man of volitional consciousness.

It would be wrong for me to demand you to "justify" your desire to eat ice cream,  First, because it is your choice, second, because (outside of extreme contexts) it is generally an non-moral decision on your part.  Against what standard would I judge your eating ice cream, certainly not my preferences.  You enjoy experiences?  GREAT!  You do things and value things FOR the sake of the experience?  Perfect!  Who am I to say that you should or should or should not ... by what standard would I objectively be able to even make such a judgment (if the ice cream neither hinders or helps your choice to live).  You have chosen to value experiences and there is nothing wrong with that.  Only IF your behavior has as a consequence or an effect on your choice "to live" would it becomes a MORAL issue.  Outside of that there is no right or wrong, good or bad.

 

You can pursue an ice cream for the experience, it doesn't have to be a moral question and I believe it shouldn't be one.  NOT ALL human choices and activity are morally significant, a great many are not.

 

In summary life, choices and values, are more than morality.  Experience is an aspect of life which can validly be chosen and valued.  Only to the extent that experiences themselves affect the likelihood of survival can they be determined as morally relevant.  but then that also necessitates that to that exact extent they are morally the means to the ends of life.  In fact ice cream (in moderation) can be both a subjective value and an objective value, both an end in itself (an end outside of morality and ethics) as well as a moral means to the ends, the choice to "live".

 

My issue with you seems to be that you require morality to include that which I believe is simply outside of morality.  That does not mean I exclude the value of experience from life entirely, quite the opposite. I advocate a wide expansive life outside the definition of moral vs. immoral action, albeit within the limits of reality and the fundamental choice.

 

In the same manner proper politics makes it possible for a men to live together as fully free as possible according to ethics and morality and places no additional restrains upon him, so too proper ethics makes it possible for a volitional consciousness to live as fully free as possible within the limits of reality and places no additional restrains upon him.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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16 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I see a familiar wall looming ahead.  One which I am still attempting to properly identify and formulate into words.

There is a spirit I'm trying to cultivate (though doing this, or even speaking of it, pushes against those things I am also still attempting to properly identify and put into words) where, when we see such walls, we strive to surmount them together.

I think that's the true, proper role that a forum like this should serve (rather than insults, trolling, denunciations and the rest), and that's the kind of community I would like to help build -- one which reflects reason and serves the interests of the rational.

15 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I think quite simply put NOT all choices have to be moral.

Indeed.

It may not be the only place, but this is certainly where we disagree. I believe that all choices have to be moral.

15 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

It would be wrong for me to demand you to "justify" your desire to eat ice cream,

The primary question for me is not whether you should demand that I justify my desire to eat ice cream (or, more concretely, my decision to eat ice cream) -- but that I can justify it to myself. And if so, on what basis. Do I leave it to whim? Or do I have some purpose in mind. If some purpose, how do I choose or select one?

I consider all of this the province of ethics, not beyond ethics or beyond morality.

15 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Only IF your behavior has as a consequence or an effect on your choice "to live" would it becomes a MORAL issue.  Outside of that there is no right or wrong, good or bad.

But again, I think this is contrary to human experience. Even if I were aware that eating ice cream, in moderation over the course of my life, would mean that I survive one day less... I would choose to do it.

Would you say that's immoral? Because I don't believe so: I would rather live a slightly shorter life, but filled with greater pleasure, than a slightly longer life devoid of it. I consider that to be an intensely moral choice. Your approach to ethics, where morality only concerns whether an individual survives or not, is arbitrarily limited. It doesn't actually speak to real human existence. And the conclusions we draw from it are thus prone to error.

15 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

In the same manner proper politics makes it possible for a men to live together as fully free as possible according to ethics and morality and places no additional restrains upon him, so too proper ethics makes it possible for a volitional consciousness to live as fully free as possible within the limits of reality and places no additional restrains upon him.

I don't look upon this as a matter of "restraints," but as my means to live the fullest and happiest life that I possibly can.

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43 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

Indeed.

It may not be the only place, but this is certainly where we disagree. I believe that all choices have to be moral.

Quote

It would be wrong for me to demand you to "justify" your desire to eat ice cream,

The primary question for me is not whether you should demand that I justify my desire to eat ice cream (or, more concretely, my decision to eat ice cream) -- but that I can justify it to myself. And if so, on what basis. Do I leave it to whim? Or do I have some purpose in mind. If some purpose, how do I choose or select one?

I consider all of this the province of ethics, not beyond ethics or beyond morality.

I think you misunderstand me here.  All action and choice can be subject to a moral classification and hence every action taken is supportive, inimical, or of no consequence, to life.  What I mean by a specific choice not being moral, I mean that as between a choice of A or B, the outcome or consequence to life, does not change.  That is all I mean by beyond or outside of morality.  Perhaps within or below the radar of morality would be better understood. 

As long as a salad or an apple are both healthy, fundamentally, the choice between A) eating the apple on Monday and the salad on Tuesday or B ) eating the salad on Monday and the apple on Tuesday,  is not a moral choice (i.e. not a CHOICE of moral consequence), the ACTIONS A and B are both moral and they are interchangeable as far as life is concerned.  You ARE free to simply choose arbitrarily which of A or B to go with.  This is freedom within the confines of morality, both actions are moral, but the choice is of no moral consequence.

43 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

But again, I think this is contrary to human experience. Even if I were aware that eating ice cream, in moderation over the course of my life, would mean that I survive one day less... I would choose to do it.

It is possible this refutes its own conclusion. 

If you value eating ice cream enough, such even after some person of authority told you (and you trusted them) that you would die one day earlier by eating ice cream in moderation over your entire life, you would still choose it, then more likely than not it is pleasurable enough to you in reality such that it is psychologically instrumental enough for you in fact to mean that you would (in all likelihood) live a few more days more. 

This of course changes when we start looking at things like cigarettes and crack and dying decades earlier.

But this is kind of what I mean by the difference between a subjective value and a morally irrelevant choice and a clearly moral choice of grave importance.

 

 

Clearly you have chosen a different standard for morality.  That standard flows not merely from the choice to "live".  This means that your ethics will judge certain choices of right and wrong based ultimately on something other than life, i.e. life + experience, life + pleasure, life + happiness

I merely take the "+" part out of the purview  of morality (and only to the extent it is not instrumental to life) and the volitional consciousness free to choose them (or not) inside the confines of what the choice "life" requires.

 

What in reality would be the consequences to me in taking this approach versus taking your approach?  According to what standard can you claim this choice is "bad"?

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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30 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I think you misunderstand me here.

Perhaps, but after reading this most recent post, I believe that I do understand your position -- yet disagree with it.

30 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

What I mean by a specific choice not being moral, I mean that as between a choice of A or B, the outcome or consequence to life, does not change.  That is all I mean by beyond or outside of morality.

I understand. But when we make choices, I think those choices have consequence to our lives -- not necessarily in terms of "survival value" (or survival value alone), but importantly in terms of happiness/sadness or pleasure/pain. When I conceive of "life" as it relates to morality, I am sensitive to all of those consequences, as I believe I must be, because: they matter to me.

30 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

As long as a salad or an apple are both healthy, fundamentally, the choice between A) eating the apple on Monday and the salad on Tuesday or B ) eating the salad on Monday and the apple on Tuesday,  is not a moral choice (i.e. not a CHOICE of moral consequence), the ACTIONS A and B are both moral and they are interchangeable as far as life is concerned.

They may be interchangeable as far as survival, as such, is concerned, but they are not interchangeable as far as the experience of one's life is concerned. They may both be healthy, equally healthy, but one may take more pleasure in one versus the other -- and that, the fact of pleasure-taken, matters to our calculation and subsequent decision. That is, in fact, how we make actual choices in real life.

We do not treat salads and apples as interchangeable, because they are not. And if you recognize this fact (a fact of your own life), and if it matters to the decisions we make, then it is a matter of morality.

30 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

You ARE free to simply choose arbitrarily which of A or B to go with.

I completely disagree. I do not make choices arbitrarily, and if it is in my interest to experience happiness or pleasure, to maximize my experience of life, then "arbitrary choices" and whim will not get me there. Just as we do not accidentally stumble over longevity, we will not accidentally or by whim find the experiences that make life worth living.

30 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

If you value eating ice cream enough, such even after some person of authority told you (and you trusted them) that you would die one day earlier by eating ice cream in moderation over your entire life, you would still choose it, then more likely than not it is pleasurable enough to you in reality such that it is psychologically instrumental enough for you in fact to mean that you would (in all likelihood) live a few more days more. 

Insofar as the psychological pleasure of eating ice cream extends my longevity, this expert can factor that into his calculation and still determine that I will live one day fewer by choosing a life with that pleasure.

I would yet choose it.

Because: a life filled with the pleasurable experience of eating ice cream is worth more to me than a marginally longer life devoid of that pleasure.

30 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Clearly you have chosen a different standard for morality.  That standard flows not merely from the choice to "live".  This means that your ethics will judge certain choices of right and wrong based ultimately on something other than life, i.e. life + experience, life + pleasure, life + happiness

Yes, absolutely, though I do not look at it as "life+experience" or "life+pleasure" or "life+happiness": when I say "life," I mean all of those things already; to do otherwise is to delimit "life" to mean "survival" or "longevity," but the true standard is closer to: "longevity+pleasure+happiness," which is also closer to what we mean when we speak of "flourishing."

And I also believe that this standard I'm expressing is more consistent with Rand's use of "life," though that is a secondary consideration. (Though not completely consistent with Rand's use of "life," because I do not believe that Rand was, herself, 100% consistent in her use or discussion of that term; I think that helps to account as to why the Objectivist community is, itself, often divided on this subject.)

30 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

What in reality would be the consequences to me in taking this approach versus taking your approach?  According to what standard can you claim this choice is "bad"?

I believe that the consequences in holding longevity as the standard of value are a long life filled with fewer pleasures and happiness than otherwise possible; more sadness, more suffering, more pain, generally. And those things are "bad" by the standard of the nature of the human organism. I cannot describe the badness of pain or suffering, as such, but it is on the basis of pain and suffering that we may sensibly think in terms of "bad" in the first place.

Whatever the role of psychology and "fuel," with respect to longevity, I think that it is possible to live a long life of pain and sadness (I think many do it), but that this is not a value. Morality is not alone about how to live long lives, but how to live long lives characterized by happiness and pleasure, and we must act with that undiluted standard in mind if we have any hope to achieve it.

Or, as Rand put it, "The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live."

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36 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

I believe that the consequences in holding longevity as the standard of value are a long life filled with fewer pleasures and happiness than otherwise possible; more sadness, more suffering, more pain, generally. And those things are "bad" by the standard of the nature of the human organism. I cannot describe the badness of pain or suffering, as such, but it is on the basis of pain and suffering that we may sensibly think in terms of "bad" in the first place.

Whatever the role of psychology and "fuel," with respect to longevity, I think that it is possible to live a long life of pain and sadness (I think many do it), but that this is not a value. Morality is not alone about how to live long lives, but how to live long lives characterized by happiness and pleasure, and we must act with that undiluted standard in mind if we have any hope to achieve it.

Or, as Rand put it, "The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live."

You miss my point, and while oddly supporting it.  I did not say one ceases to value pleasure and happiness, only that one does not import such things into the standard of morality.  they remain values to be pursued by choice and/or possibly sometimes values which also act as means to "longevity" (as you say).

Your waffling about the "badness" of pain and suffering to the human organism belies your rejection of an objective standard to the definition of the "good".  In a sense you are caught in a trap.  You want to say things beyond survival are "good", but you cannot say what they are good for, you've taken them as good in themselves and hence simply declare them as part of the standard.  So. although you want to say choosing a standard of morality which is more than longevity is "good", you have no objective basis for it, you simply have chosen it to be so for yourself. 

This goes back to our discussion about meta ethics and the fundamental choice.

You simply are choosing "longevity + pleasure + happiness" as the standard of morality instead of simply "longevity" (as you put it), but you cannot articulate an objective basis for that choice versus the choice of "longevity" (as required by the nature of man), because there is no objective basis for this.  Insofar as there is not objective basis it is subjective. But why build a morality with subjectivity baked into it, when the subjectivity can be shorn off, and embraced a second choice, a choice of what to live FOR, what life MEANS, what to get out of life, and leave morality in its place... the code that guides you in staying alive, so you CAN fully live?

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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55 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

You miss my point, and while oddly supporting it.

I don't think so.

Quote

I did not say one ceases to value pleasure and happiness...

Neither did I say that you did.

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Your waffling about the "badness" of pain and suffering to the human organism belies your rejection of an objective standard to the definition of the "good".

I'm not "waffling" about anything. I cannot describe the "badness" of pain and suffering because it is pain and suffering that allow for a conception of "bad" in the first place; "bad" without pain and suffering is meaningless and arbitrary. My definition of "good" is equally rooted in human experience -- specifically my experience.

Happiness is not good because it lets us live longer; happiness is good because that's what happiness is.

Those are the experiences (pleasures and pains and their emotional analogues) that allow us to talk in terms of "good" and "bad" at all; that teach us such a distinction exists in the first place. They are, in fact, the only possible justification for maintaining such a distinction: sans pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, none of us would care about "life" or "death" at all.

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 In a sense you are caught in a trap.  You want to say things beyond survival are "good", but you cannot say what they are good for...

Enjoying a day soaking in the sun is not "good for" anything in particular, except that the experience of it is good, of its nature. Listening to some beautiful music is not good for how it enables you to live an extra month; it is good for the experience of it, for the pleasure of it, in the moment that it is experienced, and that is all (and it is enough).

I'm not trying to justify the experiences of pleasure or happiness according to what they mean for the physical survival of the organism. That's not a "trap," it is the point.

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...you've taken them as good in themselves and hence simply declare them as part of the standard.

They are good in themselves; not because I've declared them so, but because that is how human beings are hardwired. In reason, and with experience, we can understand that these things take place over the course of a human lifespan, and seek to maximize them (and that's why we value longevity; and that's why we need a moral code -- to maximize, which does require survival). We do not value longevity for its own sake, but for the sake of the greater pleasures (physical and emotional) it allows us.

But you did not respond as to whether you think it would be immoral for me to choose a life of eating ice cream (though of slightly shorter duration) -- even when all factors, including psychological, are accounted for. Would you mind doing so now?

Edited by DonAthos

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24 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

But you did not respond as to whether you think it would be immoral for me to choose a life of eating ice cream (though of slightly shorter duration) -- even when all factors, including psychological, are accounted for. Would you mind doing so now?

Sure.  According to my standard of morality, choosing a life of eating ice cream with a slightly shorter duration is immoral.  Why?  Because I firmly believe, that due to the complex nature of man and a wide and varied  complex reality, there exists something else, which would give you just as much pleasure as the ice cream, without slightly reducing the length of your life.  In fact I would submit there are countless activities and things which could replace your ice cream and in fact provide you with pleasure much greater and perhaps extend your life even longer.  Given the almost endless possibilities and alternatives to ice cream, yes, choosing it with it known effect of reducing the length of your life is immoral.

 

I may respond to other details of your post.  We may not agree but the subject of objectivity and whether or not the life-death alternative  truly is or is not fundamental to Objectivist ethics is something I would like to address.

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24 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Sure.  According to my standard of morality, choosing a life of eating ice cream with a slightly shorter duration is immoral.  Why?  Because I firmly believe, that due to the complex nature of man and a wide and varied  complex reality, there exists something else, which would give you just as much pleasure as the ice cream, without slightly reducing the length of your life.

This is why I believe that someone who holds longevity as the standard of value is apt to live a long life filled with fewer pleasures and less happiness than otherwise possible.

I am not convinced that there exists something which would give just as much pleasure as ice cream (in some given context) without the associated health hazard; this is why, in those situations (even knowing that ice cream is not the healthiest option), I do choose to eat ice cream. (If there were something simply better, and I was aware of it, I would choose it instead.) I don't know with specificity what the consequences will be in terms of longevity, but I am aware of the potential trade-off; I don't try to convince myself that I'm somehow actually increasing my lifespan when I eat ice cream, or steak, or etc.

To make such a choice, I am appealing to some standard -- but it is not longevity alone. And if it were, to be frank, I think I would have to cut out ice cream, steak, sunbathing, and many other things that currently fill my days and nights with joy.

Quote

I may respond to other details of your post.  We may not agree but the subject of objectivity and whether or not the life-death alternative  truly is or is not fundamental to Objectivist ethics is something I would like to address.

To try to communicate some of my meaning in a slightly different way, let us imagine one of our famous hypothetical robots: this one is alive, and may die, and it experiences sensation... but not pleasure or pain. It thinks and has volition, but does not experience happiness or sadness.

Imagine that we are trying now to instruct it in ethics: If we were to tell it that choices which help it to continue to live are "good" and choices which lead to its destruction are "bad," the robot may well accept our definitions -- but what would it care? Why should it perform "good" actions or eschew "bad" ones? What difference would it make to the robot whether it lived or died?

If it asked what "good" or "bad" mean, such that living is good and death bad, what could we say? How could we communicate these concepts to the robot? It would be like trying to describe "yellow" to the blind.

For a human being, if he wants to know what "bad" is, in some fundamental sense, we may pinch his arm. That is bad. And if we suddenly turned on pleasure and pain and happiness and sadness in our robot, now we would have a basis for it to understand what we mean by "good" or "bad," and then we could eventually reason our way towards survival being good and death being bad. Survival is that which allows for more of this good: ice cream, sunsets, Tchaikovsky, etc.; death means never being able to experience any of those things again.

Edited by DonAthos

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2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Survival is that which allows for more of this good: ice cream, sunsets, Tchaikovsky, etc.; death means never being able to experience any of those things again

Without condemning or condoning, it appears to me your ultimate chosen standard is not longevity + pleasure + happiness... it is pleasure itself. 

These things, life, pleasure, and happiness are not identical and thus they are also cannot always be perfectly aligned in the actions and things of the day to day...  one must choose between them, one must choose which of these is the ultimate end.  When pleasure and longevity conflict (on the order of a few days survival versus the amount of pleasure of ice cream) you choose pleasure.

Survival, as you say, is a means to pleasure, and some would say happiness is a means or form of pleasure as well.  Staying alive is instrumental to your pleasure... pleasure is the consequence you have chosen and living is a means to it.

Is this closer to the truth?

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8 hours ago, DonAthos said:

We are agreed to this, but don't all of these virtues yet acquire their meaning (i.e. that we describe them as "virtue" and not "vice") according to the consequences that we expect to reap from them (in terms of not longevity alone, but the quality of life)?

We do not counsel whatever virtue, like "honesty," because "it is man's nature to be honest" or any such thing, but because a life lived honestly will tend to be longer, richer, more productive, happier, etc., than otherwise. And in fact, our understanding of "honest" (that it does not mean "telling the truth" in all circumstances) must be further refined according to one's specific context, which means: the consequences one may expect, in reality, from pursuing some specific course of action in the name of "being honest."

It seems to me, just based on my naive reading of this thread, that a virtue ethics fundamentally supposes that man should want to be virtuous... just because. Just because it is good or right for a man to embody certain things we're calling "virtue": because it is "his nature" to do so, whatever that is supposed to mean and however it is we're supposed to divine it.

But this leaves unanswered "why": why these things are virtuous 

I'm not sure how you got such a reading. VE opposes Kantian ethics procisely because morals are disconnected from happiness. We even talked about this multiple times, the idea that you "just ought to do x" is exactly what Rand et al. are reacting to.

What modern VE and consequentialism has in common is its basic "if/then" construction of moral terms. See, for example, Philippa Foot "Morality As A System of Hypothetical Imperatives" published in a journal in 1972 which was extremely influential in academic philosophy and virtue theory.  Where they tend to disagree with consequentialism is its lack of regarding any sort of limit on what kinds of means can be employed to bring about good consequences, and its lack of recognition of ultimate ends.

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To review the definition of consequentialism given at wikipedia:

Consequentialism is the class of normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right act (or omission from acting) is one that will produce a good outcome, or consequence. In an extreme form, the idea of consequentialism is commonly encapsulated in the saying, "the end justifies the means",[1] meaning that if a goal is morally important enough, any method of achieving it is acceptable.

Note that the definition gives absolutely no guidance on what code of values is used to determine what the meaning of "good" is.  This is an empty doctrine, as value-free and meaningless as the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".  A blood thirsty conqueror can abide by the Golden Rule as long as he sincerely relishes combat and regards dying in battle as noble.  A blood thirsty conqueror can also be a consequentialist using his own victory as his standard of the good. 

Yes, you can bolt the Objectivist standard of value - your own life - onto consequentialism.  You can also do that with the Golden Rule.  However, Objectivism does not reduce to consequentialism because you omit a core feature of the philosophy by omitting its theory of the good.

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6 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Without condemning or condoning, it appears to me your ultimate chosen standard is not longevity + pleasure + happiness... it is pleasure itself.

No; it is an amalgamation of the three.

Or at least that is how I currently understand myself -- but perhaps I will discover something about my own ideas through further discussion, as I don't feel I completely understand them yet. Maybe we can root out some contradiction together. (And if we discover some contradiction, you will not have to condemn anything for me to voluntarily reject it. ;) )

6 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

These things, life, pleasure, and happiness are not identical and thus they are also cannot always be perfectly aligned in the actions and things of the day to day...  one must choose between them, one must choose which of these is the ultimate end.  When pleasure and longevity conflict (on the order of a few days survival versus the amount of pleasure of ice cream) you choose pleasure.

Yes, this is true. But if the disparity were greater... say eating ice cream were deleterious to health on the order of hard drugs, or even alcohol or cigarettes, all of which I abstain from almost entirely (save a glass of wine every once in a while), then it would be an easy decision for me to forego ice cream. I love it dearly, but not at such great cost to my longevity.

As for happiness, I think that it is the chief good, perhaps; I could (and sometimes do) refer to it as a kind of "pleasure," but obviously it is something quite different from physical pleasures, and it trumps many other emotional pleasures as well. I would (and do) "sacrifice" many other sorts of pleasures and endure many pains for the sake of achieving happiness.

6 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Survival, as you say, is a means to pleasure, and some would say happiness is a means or form of pleasure as well.  Staying alive is instrumental to your pleasure... pleasure is the consequence you have chosen and living is a means to it.

Is this closer to the truth?

I don't know quite how much I can reduce what I have in mind beyond saying that what I seek is a long life filled with pleasure and happiness. If we take any of those three things away, then what remains is not what I chiefly value or seek for myself. It isn't the sort of "life" I'm prepared to accept. (If we were to discuss a long life filled with happiness, but not pleasure, I'm not entirely certain that this is possible to man.)

We can conceive of other possible combinations, such as a long life filled with pain (as in a captive subject to torture by sadist, perhaps; or perhaps someone with a form of terminal cancer), and at such a point, not only is longevity no longer a value to me, but it becomes something dreadful.

I'd say something about these three aspects of "life" comprising something like a Trinity for me, except that I despise the religious connotation. So, perhaps it is a Triforce.

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I'm sorry, I haven't read all the answers, but I'll bring mine, if it can be useful. It might fit with what has already been said.

Everyone who is interested in Objectivism observes that this philosophy rejects many false dichotomy:

  • Body vs. Mind
  • Reason vs. Emotions
  • The moral vs. The practical
  • Free will vs. causality
  • Rationalism vs. Empiricism
  • Theory vs. Practice

Etc.

In my opinion, Consequentialism vs. Deontology is simply one of those false dichotomies, which has the same roots as "The moral vs. The practical".

Edited by gio

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On Tuesday September 22, 2009 at 9:55 AM, aequalsa said:

Would it be fair to characterize Objectivist ethics as consequentialist in the sense that if one wants to live a flourishing life one ought to behave in a self interested way?

I generally do not like to use academic terms when discussing Objectivism, and this is an example of why.

Consequentialism, as described by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy <https://plato.stanford.edu>, is a category of ethics in which (to simplify) the actual or intended consequences of an act determine its morality.  In this sense, Objectivism is consequentialist -- survival (not flourishing) is the touchstone of morality.  But later on that article explains that consequentialism is generally reserved for ethics that are in some sense utilitarian, which Objectivism is definitely not.

On Tuesday September 22, 2009 at 9:55 AM, aequalsa said:

"in Objectivism there are no thou shalts."

This is true.  The standard presentation of the Objectivist ethics applies in the context of a person who is capable of independent survival and living in a free society that is not in a state of emergency.  Even if one could find a "shalt" in that presentation, it would not necessarily apply to a young child or to someone living in Russia or during a natural disaster.
 

But that presentation doesn't really have "shalts".  It merely tells you what is conducive to your survival, leaving it up to you to determine what specific actions to take in your particular circumstances.  So, for example, eating is almost always pro-survival.  But what if you're in the last days of a terminal illness?  Food might even hasten your death!

On Tuesday September 22, 2009 at 9:55 AM, aequalsa said:

This would seem to imply that one could choose a sort of bohemian lifestyle-live in a yurt, smoke pot, and play x-box- rather then live a heavily productive life and that it may be perfectly moral for some individuals to do so since there is no moral imperitive that you must live a flourishing life..

First, Objectivism is about survival, not flourishing.  There is no requirement in Objectivism to live a flourishing life, whatever that means.  (As near as I can tell, "flourishing" is like "pornography": "I know it when I see it." :))

But, yes, there is no moral imperative in Objectivism to survive.  That is a pre-ethical choice.  If you don't choose to survive, ethics doesn't apply to you and you're free to ignore all of Objectivism. But once you do choose to survive, morality requires you to --- act on your choice.  That's all.   Objectivism merely guides you in that action.

So, yes, some individuals could conceivably choose a bohemian lifestyle over productivity.  I can't imagine a situation where doing so would be moral -- more survival-promoting than the alternative -- but that doesn't mean there isn't one.

On Tuesday September 22, 2009 at 9:55 AM, aequalsa said:

It seems like that what make objectivism subjective at the level of the ultimate choice to flourish as much as possible or only enough to sorta get by.

There is no subjectivity here.  Faced with the alternatives you outlined, an ethical person examines the facts and determines which alternative best promotes his survival.  Odds are he'll find that productivity is the better choice and he'll take it.  But if he should determine that "just getting by" is the better choice, he'll take that one instead.  (But even then, he'll probably try to be really good at "just getting by". E.g., Hugh Axston flipping burgers.)
 

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