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Do Objectivists Truly Understand the "Other Side" that They're Lambasting?

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I really think not with the exception of a few who have become academic philosophers. When I had my disillusionment with Objectivism, I discovered a wonderful world of ideas beyond. Then I could come back and find a renewed appreciation for the good parts in Objectivist philosophy. Objectivism is like most other philosophies, it has its good parts, and it has its bad parts.

Many Objectivists who hate Nietzsche, Hume and Kant and existentialism haven't really read them or given them a proper go. The intense moralizing makes it nearly impossible.

I'm reminded of Bruce Lee's saying. 'Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.' - A great piece of meta-philosophical advice. I'll take the good ideas and discard the rest.

Edited by Nerian

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8 hours ago, Nerian said:

I'm reminded of Bruce Lee's saying. 'Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.' - A great piece of meta-philosophical advice. I'll take the good ideas and discard the rest.

What about the contradictions? How do you deal with those?

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12 hours ago, Nicky said:

What about the contradictions? How do you deal with those?

Try to resolve them where possible. I try to build a consistent and empirically verifiable world view.

There are linguistic slight of hands, contradictions and plain empirically false premises in Objectivism too. That's why I have to discard a lot of it. Keeping only what makes sense and is verifiable.

Sometimes when reading philosophy you can see how something is not quite right, but onto something important, has a point, while not being totally correct.

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22 hours ago, Nerian said:

Many Objectivists who hate Nietzsche, Hume and Kant and existentialism haven't really read them or given them a proper go. The intense moralizing makes it nearly impossible.

Maybe moralizing is an issue, but these aren't issues of Objectivism per se. Nothing in Objectivism makes Nietzsche, Kant, or Hume inherently wrong. That is, evaluating whether they are right or wrong is a matter of studying them.

1 hour ago, Nerian said:

There are linguistic slight of hands, contradictions and plain empirically false premises in Objectivism too.

I guess (I'd say there aren't a ton), but whatever the case, don't be pragmatic with what's useful! Ask what is true or really does evaluate the world. Dustin seemed to be saying Objectivist type people are simply unwilling to understand any alternative views.

I agree that other philosophers have great and valuable ideas - only you can ultimately judge their words.

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On 7/12/2017 at 6:19 AM, Nerian said:

Try to resolve them where possible. I try to build a consistent and empirically verifiable world view.

There are linguistic slight of hands, contradictions and plain empirically false premises in Objectivism too. That's why I have to discard a lot of it. Keeping only what makes sense and is verifiable.

Sometimes when reading philosophy you can see how something is not quite right, but onto something important, has a point, while not being totally correct.

Ok, well, hopefully you'll hang around on the forum, and, over time, prove these (thus far superficial) claims by getting into specifics.As a start, would you mind describing what you consider the biggest contradiction within Objectivism?

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Try to resolve them where possible.

 

Ok, but what do you do about the actual contradictions (meaning the ones that can't be resolved)?

While we're on the subject, how do you define a "contradiction"? Do you accept the Objectivist premise of the supremacy or logic applied to reality? In other words, do you believe that contradictions, as defined by Ayn Rand, are flaws?

Edited by Nicky

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On 13/07/2017 at 3:32 PM, Nicky said:

Ok, well, hopefully you'll hang around on the forum, and, over time, prove these (thus far superficial) claims by getting into specifics.As a start, would you mind describing what you consider the biggest contradiction within Objectivism?

Ok, but what do you do about the actual contradictions (meaning the ones that can't be resolved)?

While we're on the subject, how do you define a "contradiction"? Do you accept the Objectivist premise of the supremacy or logic applied to reality? In other words, do you believe that contradictions, as defined by Ayn Rand, are flaws?

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these (thus far superficial) claims

I'm not sure if I detect an accusatory tone or not. If asked, I'm happy to elaborate a bit. If you want elaboration and some amount of proof to accept a claim, that's natural, of course so, but you can't expect a full elaboration and proof every time someone states any opinion on a forum. Not only is that just impractical, it'd make any normal discussion impossible. You'd have to write an essay or a book in some cases. Hopefully that's not your attitude, and I misread the tone.

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Ok, but what do you do about the actual contradictions (meaning the ones that can't be resolved)?

If you determine there to be a genuine contradiction, one way to resolve it is to discard one or both of the contradicting premises. If neither premise can be discarded, the contradiction is left unresolved, and that is life. I note this problem and as stated try to resolve if I can. I may never. I don't think I have everything figured out. This may seem strange to Objectivists, to have unresolved questions.

One example for me is the contradiction between my direct experience of my free will and the fact that there's no conception of free will that makes any sense in a universe with cause and effect. From subjective first person view it seems directly apparent that I have free will, but it also makes no sense from a third person view of the universe for free will to exist. (I don't find the Objectivist arguments persuasive.) Since I cannot get rid of cause and effect, and I see no way to resolve the contradiction. I have no resolution. One or both premises must be incorrect, but nevertheless I cannot determine which.

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As a start, would you mind describing what you consider the biggest contradiction within Objectivism?

I can only point out what I think are contradictions. The only fair and complete treatment would require me to go through OPAR line by line and point out exactly where it goes wrong in my view.

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Do you accept the Objectivist premise of the supremacy or logic applied to reality?

I accept reason and evidence as the only way to know and understand anything about reality. Insofar as we know and understand anything about reality, we do so by reason (and evidence).

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 how do you define a "contradiction"? 

a combination of statements, ideas, or features which are opposed to one another
a contradiction consists of a logical incompatibility between two or more propositions
a statement that is at variance with itself 

Quote

do you believe that contradictions, as defined by Ayn Rand, are flaws?

Yes. lol

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8 hours ago, Nerian said:

I can only point out what I think are contradictions. The only fair and complete treatment would require me to go through OPAR line by line and point out exactly where it goes wrong in my view.

Still, ... with the caveat that you may have misunderstood, and "E&OE", what are some things that seem like they're probably contradictions in Objectivism. Not asking for a thesis. As you said yourself, this is a forum. A conversational few lines will suffice to keep the conversation going.

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11 hours ago, Nerian said:

I have no resolution. One or both premises must be incorrect, but nevertheless I cannot determine which.

An additional way to look at it is to actually combine them! The free will thing is hard to get, in particular if you use the typical definition of free will. A combination can lead you to see that first- and third- person can be -of- the same process. I think this relates to the OP since if "lambast" another side you also need to grasp the foundation of ideas and errors, not just being right or wrong. Similarly, some people are caught up in a definition of free will without looking at the possibility of other foundations, -then- judging that side or what value is present in that side.

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12 hours ago, Nerian said:

I'm not sure if I detect an accusatory tone or not. If asked, I'm happy to elaborate a bit. If you want elaboration and some amount of proof to accept a claim, that's natural, of course so, but you can't expect a full elaboration and proof every time someone states any opinion on a forum. Not only is that just impractical, it'd make any normal discussion impossible. You'd have to write an essay or a book in some cases. Hopefully that's not your attitude, and I misread the tone.

Not accusatory...just pointing out a fact you seem to be agreeing with: what you're saying needs to be backed up with some substance, eventually.

So far, you haven't even touched on any actual ideas. Everything you said could've just as easily been said by someone who has never read a single sentence of philosophy, and just happens to know the names of a few philosophers.

Again: not accusing you of anything. Just pointing out what you have and haven't said.

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If you determine there to be a genuine contradiction, one way to resolve it is to discard one or both of the contradicting premises. If neither premise can be discarded, the contradiction is left unresolved, and that is life. I note this problem and as stated try to resolve if I can. I may never. I don't think I have everything figured out. This may seem strange to Objectivists, to have unresolved questions.

Why? We don't think we're omniscient. We're confident in our ability to answer questions (because, unlike most people, we believe reason can be used to figure out the answer to any question there is), but that's not the same as believing we have answered all questions.

Edited by Nicky

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2 hours ago, Nicky said:

So far, you haven't even touched on any actual ideas. Everything you said could've just as easily been said by someone who has never read a single sentence of philosophy, and just happens to know the names of a few philosophers.

That is true.

2 hours ago, Nicky said:

Why? We don't think we're omniscient. We're confident in our ability to answer questions (because, unlike most people, we believe reason can be used to figure out the answer to any question there is), but that's not the same as believing we have answered all questions.

Unfortunately, I've experienced the type of Objectivist who thinks failing so solve all questions in philosophy means one cannot be happy, is suspect morally, and cannot even hope to live on this earth without inevitable self destruction looming. But I can accept most are not like this.

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

An additional way to look at it is to actually combine them! The free will thing is hard to get, in particular if you use the typical definition of free will. A combination can lead you to see that first- and third- person can be -of- the same process. I think this relates to the OP since if "lambast" another side you also need to grasp the foundation of ideas and errors, not just being right or wrong. Similarly, some people are caught up in a definition of free will without looking at the possibility of other foundations, -then- judging that side or what value is present in that side.

I do have an affinity for compatibilist arguments, but it seems to me that there is a point to the retort that it's merely shifting the definition and moving the goal post, not resolving the actual issue. 

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5 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

Still, ... with the caveat that you may have misunderstood, and "E&OE", what are some things that seem like they're probably contradictions in Objectivism. Not asking for a thesis. As you said yourself, this is a forum. A conversational few lines will suffice to keep the conversation going.

Well, the whole thesis of life as the standard of value, yet morality starts with a choice to live. Why choose to live?

That the value in life is to be happy, but life is the standard of value, which makes all other values have value, and you be happy by achieving life, why achieve life, well to be happy, why be happy, to survive, why survive, cause happy. It's circular and sterile. And it contradicts what is understood about evolution and human psychology. And it even contradicts direct personal experience. And it even contradicts Objectivism's view that life's value is the things we enjoy in it. Which is it?

And the answer in OPAR is just moralizing assuming the premise.

Problems with the view of happiness and survival. Happiness is good because it helps survival, but the point of living is to be happy, but to be happy you must be successful at living, but being successful at living is the point of being happy. We really just want to be happy for its own sake. The way you want an orgasm 'cause it feels good. Pleasure is really the intrinsic value in life. And what we find pleasure in, and what makes us happy, is at root unchosen. Once you go looking into psychology, you find a world of interesting ideas about what we want for its own sake. What our innate drives are.

That takes us onto tabula rasa in the face of all the logic and evidence counter to it. Innate drives and inclinations are almost self evident at this point. Especially if you recognize humans are animals like any other.

It seems to me also that Objectivism makes no attempt to integrate itself with facts of human nature, what is understood about psychology and cognitive science, how desires and motivations actually work, where they come from and how they interact with our beliefs. Because of this, you find claims that are in gross contradiction with reality, such as reason can determine what is worth doing, that reason can motivate. And I believe it can cause suffering and emotional distress amongst believers. Rand's issues in her life initially surprised me, back when I read her biographies, but not anymore. They follow logically. Living in contradiction with reality is often painful.

Edited by Nerian

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2 hours ago, Nerian said:

That takes us onto tabula rasa in the face of all the logic and evidence counter to it.

What does the concept tabula rasa refer to? Why would such a concept arise, and furthermore persist, if it were invalidly based?

Another way of asking this is: What was the logic and evidence, or reasoning, that gave rise to the concept of tabula rasa?

(Hint: John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding would be a good start. What, since this, has been discovered that obsoleted his investigative report?)

Edited by dream_weaver

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44 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

What does the concept tabula rasa refer to? Why would such a concept arise, and furthermore persist, if it were invalidly based?

Another way of asking this is: What was the logic and evidence, or reasoning, that gave rise to the concept of tabula rasa?

(Hint: John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding would be a good start. What, since this, has been discovered that obsoleted his investigative report?)

Modern cognitive science, neuroscience, behavioural genetics and evolutionary psychology

Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

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Why would such a concept arise, and furthermore persist, if it were invalidly based?

Persistence of concepts is no sign of their validity. (if that's what you are insinuating)

You can water down tabula rasa and it has some validity. It's true that we aren't born with proper knowledge or innate ideas of objects. But Rand herself said, you don't even have any innate tendancies and that man has no instincts, etc. She meant it in the strong sense, not the watered down sense.

Edited by Nerian

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5 minutes ago, Nerian said:

Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

The title is certainly spontaneous. The modern denial... Why this comes off as trying proving a negative escapes me at the moment.

 

12 minutes ago, Nerian said:

Persistence of concepts is no sign of their validity. (if that's what you are insinuating)

Agreed. The validity of any concept rests on a much more intensive (and investigative) basis.

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5 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Why this comes off as trying proving a negative escapes me at the moment.

It escapes me too. It's not trying to prove a negative at all.

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15 minutes ago, Nerian said:

It escapes me too. It's not trying to prove a negative at all.

Off the top of my head, I can't conceive of something that would invalidate man's nature as a conceptual being.

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11 hours ago, Nerian said:

Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

Pinker, in his book, is critical of the Tabla Rasa view of Man's mind that led to Behaviorism in psychology and the cognitive sciences in the last Century.  And while I don't agree with everything in his book, he's far closer to Objectivist epistemology/psychology than not (he even mentions Rand in passing, if I recall). From a largely non-favorable and critical review of his book:

These [Pinker's books mentioned in the article] are both efforts to explain mind and behavior biologically, as products of natural selection and genetic endowment. Unless you are a creationist, there is nothing exceptionable about the approach. If opposable thumbs are the result of natural selection, there is no reason not to assume that the design of the brain is as well. And if we inherit our eye color and degree of hairiness from our ancestors we probably inherit our talents and temperaments from them, too. The question isn't whether there is a biological basis for human nature. We're organisms through and through; biology goes, as they say, all the way down. The question is how much biology explains about life out here on the twenty-first-century street.

 "Pinker's idea is that it explains much more than some people—he calls these people "intellectuals"—think it does, and that the failure, or refusal, to acknowledge this has led to many regrettable things, including the French Revolution, modern architecture, and the crimes of Josef Stalin. Intellectuals deny biology, according to Pinker, because it interferes with their pet theories of mind and behavior. These are the Blank Slate (the belief that the mind is wholly shaped by the environment), the Noble Savage (the notion that people are born good but are corrupted by society), and the Ghost in the Machine (the idea that there is a nonbiological agent in our heads with the power to change our nature at will). The "intellectuals" in Pinker's book are social scientists, progressive educators, radical feminists, academic Marxists, liberal columnists, avant-garde arts types, government planners, and postmodernist relativists.

11 hours ago, Nerian said:

You can water down tabula rasa and it has some validity. It's true that we aren't born with proper knowledge or innate ideas of objects. But Rand herself said, you don't even have any innate tendancies and that man has no instincts, etc. She meant it in the strong sense, not the watered down sense.

Rand was influenced by psychologists in the development of her ideas in epistemology.  You might like to read the following post by a regular, Boydstun.  It traces the influence of various psychologists (Piaget, James, etc.) on her thought.  Her ideas have more depth to them than you might realize.

 

Edited by New Buddha

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17 hours ago, Nerian said:

Well, the whole thesis of life as the standard of value, yet morality starts with a choice to live. Why choose to live?

Where in Ayn Rand's works did you read that one ought to choose to live?

Objectivism presents an ethical system for those who choose to live. It doesn't not tell people to choose to live. It states: "If you choose to live, here are some principles to help you. If you don't choose to live, Objectivism is not for you." There's nothing circular about that.

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That the value in life is to be happy, but life is the standard of value, which makes all other values have value, and you be happy by achieving life, why achieve life, well to be happy, why be happy, to survive, why survive, cause happy. It's circular and sterile.

 

As I explained above, you're wrong. That would be a circular reasoning, obviously, but it's not a line of reasoning that is a part of Objectivism.

But that aside, what do you mean by "sterile"? Is there some actual meaning you were trying to convey with that word, or is it an insult?

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18 hours ago, Nerian said:

Well, the whole thesis of life as the standard of value, yet morality starts with a choice to live.

Both together at once. In general, not even with Objectivist positions alone, people are resistant to arguments where one person says two things are simultaneous so they work in unity, and their own position is that one thing must be prior to the other. So with happiness and survival here, it's not that one causes the other, but happiness only happens when one survives, i.e. follows one's nature. Same with free will. It's not that a third person mechanism CAUSES the first person operation of free will, but that they really are the same thing (we can argue if they're parts of the same thing, but it's not two separate things). That's why it looks circular. Opposing sides, if their reasoning isn't top notch, easily fall into false dichotomy.

By the way, innate drives are still not as obvious as you say, as it does not address how that then translates into a behavior. People still study animals exactly because such drives are not a full story. Inclinations are no issue. She was wrong about instincts and her reasoning from that, but throwing that out doesn't undo Rand.

The wider idea here is that criticizing is easy to do, but it's hard to get a total picture of other sides. I often see people get REALLY riled up by one side, then fail to think about it. The harder thing is to offer a new idea. How well -your- ideas stand is the most important part.

 

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20 hours ago, Nerian said:

... And it even contradicts direct personal experience.

This sentence interests me more than anything else in your post. To my mind, personal experience is a crucial litmus test, regardless of how logical an idea otherwise seems. So, I'd be interested in an example of this.

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20 hours ago, Nerian said:

And I believe [Objectivism] can cause suffering and emotional distress amongst believers. Rand's issues in her life initially surprised me, back when I read her biographies, but not anymore. They follow logically. Living in contradiction with reality is often painful.

Rand's style of issues can probably be attributed to her genius. But, she was a person like anyone else, who dealt with people. Interpersonal issues are inherent with everyone. I've done plenty of lousy things and dealt with plenty of lousy people. If I or they had backed up decisions with lines of condemning logical reasoning that went against commonspeak of the time, it might also seem like something different than plain old interpersonal issues.

What is an issue of Rand's in particular that you're thinking about? Then, we can pick it apart and try to analyze the possible differences between her and a typical person.

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9 hours ago, Nicky said:

Where in Ayn Rand's works did you read that one ought to choose to live?

Objectivism presents an ethical system for those who choose to live. It doesn't not tell people to choose to live. It states: "If you choose to live, here are some principles to help you. If you don't choose to live, Objectivism is not for you." There's nothing circular about that.

As I explained above, you're wrong. That would be a circular reasoning, obviously, but it's not a line of reasoning that is a part of Objectivism.

But that aside, what do you mean by "sterile"? Is there some actual meaning you were trying to convey with that word, or is it an insult?

If you  are founding an objective morality, and you start that morality with a subjective whim, how can you call that an objective morality?

When I say reason or an idea is sterile, I mean it to mean without any motive power.

In OPAR, Peikoff condemns one who chooses not to live to lowest rung of hell.

Edited by Nerian

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7 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

This sentence interests me more than anything else in your post. To my mind, personal experience is a crucial litmus test, regardless of how logical an idea otherwise seems. So, I'd be interested in an example of this.

What makes life worth living is not living life. Life for its own sake is tedious, boring, dutiful, meaningless.

What makes life living is the concrete experiences one enjoys within it. The pleasures one derives from things. Satisfying one's desires. Pre-rational, visceral, gut-level enjoyment. Withouth rhyme or reason, you just like it. And then life has value as a means to those experiences. Life is not the end, it's a means to an end. Strikingly opposite to Objectivist thought.

In my direct experience that is the case.

All the Objectivist virtue and ethics couldn't make me happy or make me want to live. It's when I started listening to my own desires and pleasures, and enjoying things for their own intrinsic pleasure that life started to have value and happiness seemed possible.

When you're depressed, the only thing that matters is how you feel. That life is a value has no power to shake them from their depression, because it's not true for them. Life is only a value if your specific life is a value to you for other things.

Many Objectivists will shift gears and agree that's what they meant all along but they are doing a bait and switch with the meaning of the term life, and it contradicts the fine print of the ethics.

Edited by Nerian

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9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

people are resistant to arguments where one person says two things are simultaneous so they work in unity

Isn't that just an apology for a circular argument?

9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

but happiness only happens when one survives

People survive all the time and aren't happy. The idea that you need to survive to be alive, and you need to be alive to bhappy, I have no problem with. Obviously, life is a prerequisite for, but doesn't lead to. And the fact that life is a prerequisite says nothing about what in life will make you happy. Achieving life might be in itself pretty boring and unfulfilling. Meaningless even. Life to life, what a drag.

9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

By the way, innate drives are still not as obvious as you say, as it does not address how that then translates into a behavior.

All behaviour is based on a drive. What other type of behaviour could there be? Non-driven behaviour? If you choose not to act on drive A that's just because drive B - not to act on it for some other drive - was stronger. I want the cake, but I don't want to be fat, so I don't eat it. A behaviour without a pre-rational drive is in essence a causeless behaviour. I find that logically incomprehensible. Perhaps you have a solution?

9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

but throwing that out doesn't undo Rand.

Well, her whole idea that value's can be based on reason is a pretty big part of Rand. One can only reason from one's pre-rational values, to determine higher order abstract values. because abstract, rational values only have value if they fulfil some pre-rational value. I have no problem with principles that help guide one's actions like independence in matter and spirit, integrity, etc. But living by those principles isn't the path to happiness, nor are they totally required for happiness. They are just functionally useful for getting through life with less problems.

 

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