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More than 50 years after Atlas Shrugged and after much years of being Objectivist, I strongly believe that some update is necessary to Rand's original approach

In fact more than an update is an extension consisting in applying Objectivism deeper to the Human Animal: Ourselves

The Aristotelian "A is A" means also that WE are what we are, and in recent years after Rand's main body of work, several science disciplines has gone much further in the research about our very own nature as "biological machines".

In an oversimplified analogy our body and specially our brain would be the "hardware", our mind the "software" and our emotional system standing between both, and functioning as some kind of "firmware" specially in our early years of life

Rand focused her wonderful insights in our mind, the software, which is of course the proper terrain for philosophy but I think now that she overlooked the strong influence of our hardware in our behavior, moods, and choices, specially our Emotional System which is shaped by our "sense of life" = values in Randian terms but also by our biology and even the particular chemistry and hormone balance inside our brains

What follow are some concepts for discussion, followed by some Conclusions at the end:

1- Modern Evolutionary Psychology and Neuroscience are progressing more and more in revealing how strong is the influence of DNA-inherited traits in our behavior and moral choices and preferences

So Aristotle-Locke's concept of "Tabula Rasa" is valid to a certain (great) extend but not absolute since we have innate tendencies acquired thru darwinian evolution

2- The (also Aristotelian) "Eudaimonia" and thus our pursuit-of-happiness are very strongly influenced by our emotional system, in fact happiness itself is an emotionally based state of mind, complex, quite different for each individual, hard to define, but emotional in nature: We feel happy as opposite to we think we are happy

3- Altruism and Religiosity, two apparently DNA-inherited traits are central to the discourse of Objectivism vs traditional organization in Society

Recent studies strongly suggest that these two tendencies found in all World's societies across all Ages, are "hardwired" in our brains and helped specie's survival

As a sample of this line of though please read Matthew Alper's book "The God part of the Brain" or this article in LA Times: http://articles.lati...theism-20110718

4- Human Society's evolution leads also to "biological weakness"?

Not to mention modern medicine hindering Natural Selection, Capitalism as the best-to-date political system is strongly linked to an evolved morality, and any regression in human history would likely diminish or eliminate Capitalism in modern Society with the subsequent possibility of returning to more savage relationships among men that in turn would also call for "less evolved" individuals in order to survive?

5- Beatles' classic "All you need is love" is an expression that probably would produce revulsion in Rand and most Objectivists BUT there is something extremely important inside the very concept of "Love" that is essential to our survival as individual and species: The DNA-inherited natural tendency of "attachment" in the Human Animal which is also emotionally driven. Attachment to our beloved ones, to our projects, to other people, even to objects or devices that become important for us, allowing to move towards needs generated by these feelings that not always have an easy or even logic explanation.

6- Ayn Rand stressed the essential importance of a John-Galt style of relationship with Nature, absolutely agreed BUT dominion of Nature is dominion of just one half of our environment, as social animals we usually live in groups so our "Reality" is compressed of Nature and People with the latter posing also multiple challenges coming from our relationship with others, personal interactions, rules and laws, rewards vs punishment, control vs freedom, etc.

Conclusions:

A- We are what we are, A is A and it is pointless to deny our very own nature consistent with our current degree of evolution as species. Thus integrating Objectivist Philosophy into our complex "interior" (including specially our Emotional System) is a challenge that everyone has to solve in his/her own way. But to me we need adequate managing not denial, of all these DNA-inherited traits and tendencies that are more strong in some individuals than others but always present in the end.

B- Borrowing from conflict management strategies an interesting option I found is working "in the frontiers", meaning accepting that conflict is an essential part of existence and try to make our choices accordingly and as smart as possible. This is specially important in the relationship with all other people around us who usually are far more unpredictable and illogic than Nature that is much more benevolent in David Kelley's sense of the word

C- It sounds politically incorrect but I also believe that we should contemplate the need to be less overcivilized in some cases, keeping deep inside ourselves some residual "primitivism" just in case modern Society collapses and relationships among men change in some future. This applies also to the sometimes overprotective environment and education we are giving to our children?

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1. "Tabula rasa" refers to the knowledge/value content of the brain, not to one's genetic tendencies, so you are misusing the term.

2. See Rand's discussion on emotions. Nowhere does she claim that the internal functioning of one's emotional system does not play a factor in determining one's emotional responses.

3. What is the relevance of this? Our bodies are hard-wired to do many things that may be contrary to our goals - e.g. allergic reactions, programmed cell death, etc. That does not change how we *should* act. The fact that we have a lot of evolutionary baggage does not mean that baggage takes precedence, nor implies what goals we should aim for.

4. Natural selection does not have a plan, and thus there is no goal to be "hindered" by modern medicine.

5. See 2.

6. ???

7. I don't see how your "conclusions" follow from the statements preceding them. And regarding those conclusions:

A - Nobody is claiming to "deny" that we have different tendencies which we must consider when striving to be rational in determining our values and the proper course of action to further those values. It is not Objectivist philosophy that must be adapted to each individual - it is each individual who must adapt to Objectivist philosophy. For example, a person with a tendency to alcoholism must recognize that that tendency is due to an inherent trait which is self-destructive, and that he must learn to continually fight that trait in order to act rationally.

B - ???

C - ???

Edited by brian0918
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C- It sounds politically incorrect but I also believe that we should contemplate the need to be less overcivilized in some cases, keeping deep inside ourselves some residual "primitivism" just in case modern Society collapses and relationships among men change in some future. This applies also to the sometimes overprotective environment and education we are giving to our children?

I'm not sure I'm understanding you correctly here. What you mean by retaining primitivism in case society collapses.

Are you conflating a healthy body and basic self preservation skills with primitivism?

If so I would argue that this is incorrect.

It is not primitivism to keep a healthy body and have basic survival skills.

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What Brian said. You completely misunderstand Rand's conception of tabula rasa as well as her view of the scope of our control over our emotions. In addition, you also completely misunderstand the content of 'altruism' that Rand opposed. Altruism in the biological literature refers to a sense of empathy or concern for the well-being of others of our species. This is a completely different usage of the word than philosophical altruism, which originated with Comte and consists of self-denial of values. It is this second sense of altruism that was virulently opposed by Rand. And as for conclusion C, if you have grave concerns about society collapsing, just build an underground bunker somewhere out in the woods like everyone else who worries about that.

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1. "Tabula rasa" refers to the knowledge/value content of the brain, not to one's genetic tendencies, so you are misusing the term.

Well...

Before nothing I think this topic is very debatable so it should go in the Debate Section but I couldn't find a way to post there, it used to be more easy in the past...

So it would be great if someone can move it there

About "Tabula Rasa" it is not a concept so strictly defined as you think, as example see this brief article in Wikipedia

Here the somewhat broader definition also mention "...aspects of one's personality, social and emotional behaviour, and intelligence..."

No doubt the brain doesn't carry at birth any "high level" information but it has been demonstrated by several experiments that we do carry inherited traits, some personality profile, etc. which strongly influence our life

It is not Objectivist philosophy that must be adapted to each individual - it is each individual who must adapt to Objectivist philosophy.

I disagree. As a philosophy Objectivism comes to life only inside each individual, so each one of us must integrate it into the structure of our own conscious "building" and not the other way around

Edited by Tonix777
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I disagree. As a philosophy Objectivism comes to life only inside each individual, so each one of us must integrate it into the structure of our own conscious "building" and not the other way around

While definitions will be updated when new knowledge is gained, the underlying concepts and principles subsumed in Objectivism, which make it the system that it is (integrated) remain unchanged.

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I'm not sure I'm understanding you correctly here. What you mean by retaining primitivism in case society collapses.

Are you conflating a healthy body and basic self preservation skills with primitivism?

If so I would argue that this is incorrect.

It is not primitivism to keep a healthy body and have basic survival skills.

You are right I think I misused the term "primitivism" according to the Dictionary:

"primitivism |ˈprimətivˌizəm|

noun

1 a belief in the value of what is simple and unsophisticated, expressed as a philosophy of life or through art or literature.

2 unsophisticated behavior that is unaffected by objective reasoning."

I was referring more to the idea I have that our sophisticated and pacific lifestyle makes us somewhat weak or should I better say "unprepared" for limit situations

Have you by example ever had to defend yourself or your family from direct violence without intervention of the Police?

In an extreme case would you be really able to kill someone in self-defense?

I always remember the fall of the Roman Empire, the most sophisticated society of its age at hands of brute barbarians who probably only knew how to kill without piety...

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What Brian said. You completely misunderstand Rand's conception of tabula rasa as well as her view of the scope of our control over our emotions. In addition, you also completely misunderstand the content of 'altruism' that Rand opposed. Altruism in the biological literature refers to a sense of empathy or concern for the well-being of others of our species. This is a completely different usage of the word than philosophical altruism, which originated with Comte and consists of self-denial of values. It is this second sense of altruism that was virulently opposed by Rand. And as for conclusion C, if you have grave concerns about society collapsing, just build an underground bunker somewhere out in the woods like everyone else who worries about that.

You are right about the difference between the two types of Altruism BUT I believe the philosophical Altruism grown thanks to the biological one

The LA Times article I cited speaks about inherited traits used by religions as "building blocks" of their business, one of these traits is the biological Altruism which served as foundation for the religious Altruism which in turn gave birth to the philosophical one since Philosophy was more or less born from Religion. These three types of Altruism reinforce each other in a vicious circle in modern society

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Have you by example ever had to defend yourself or your family from direct violence without intervention of the Police?

In an extreme case would you be really able to kill someone in self-defense?

Yes to both questions.

I can also grow my own food, chop my own wood, build a shelter if necessary, hunt and fish.

I believe it is in one's rational self interest to enjoy the ease and protections of modern civilization while always being prepared for those niceties to be stripped away.

Edited by SapereAude
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About "Tabula Rasa" it is not a concept so strictly defined as you think, as example see this brief article in Wikipedia

Here the somewhat broader definition also mention "...aspects of one's personality, social and emotional behaviour, and intelligence..."

The point of contention here is what Ayn Rand was referring to when she used the term 'tabula rasa.' Thus, it doesn't help at all to show how other people use the term. Rand made her claim concerning tabula rasa very clear: people are not born with any conceptual knowledge. To saddle her with some other claim just because other people use the same term to refer to different things is equivocation.

I disagree. As a philosophy Objectivism comes to life only inside each individual, so each one of us must integrate it into the structure of our own conscious "building" and not the other way around

The point here is that if we have been successful in identifying true moral principles, then they apply whenever their context obtains. They are absolute within that context, like scientific principles. If you find yourself defying one, you know that you're harming your own life in the long run. 'Adapting yourself to Objectivism' in this case means taking those moral principles seriously and attempting to use them to better your own life, rather than pretending they aren't true when you don't feel like following them. Of course, applying these principles to concretes often involves a lot of individual context, so it is also true that concrete applications of principles are highly individualized.

You are right about the difference between the two types of Altruism BUT I believe the philosophical Altruism grown thanks to the biological one

The LA Times article I cited speaks about inherited traits used by religions as "building blocks" of their business, one of these traits is the biological Altruism which served as foundation for the religious Altruism which in turn gave birth to the philosophical one since Philosophy was more or less born from Religion. These three types of Altruism reinforce each other in a vicious circle in modern society

I disagree. Biological altruism, to the extent it is true, is a fact about human nature. It cannot be wished away by any philosophy, including Objectivism, and no philosophy should seek to. It must be taken as given when constructing a moral system. Philosophical altruism, on the other hand, is a man-made position on the fundamental nature of morality, one that should be rejected in the strongest terms. Objectivism is a fact-based philosophy, and biological altruism is a fact. There is no conflict there. Philosophical altruism, on the other hand, is in direct conflict with Objectivist moral philosophy. Any 'reinforcement' that occurs between different usages of the term altruism is only due to confusion about the issues and unclear thinking.

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I disagree. As a philosophy Objectivism comes to life only inside each individual, so each one of us must integrate it into the structure of our own conscious "building" and not the other way around

At each step of integration into our minds we are making a conscious choice - essentially saying "Yes!'

There will be the occasional "maybe', "not sure"- let me think about that...

The authority of one's mind is (or should be) paramount, which is why I totally agree with Tonix here.

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Yes to both questions.

I can also grow my own food, chop my own wood, build a shelter if necessary, hunt and fish.

I believe it is in one's rational self interest to enjoy the ease and protections of modern civilization while always being prepared for those niceties to be stripped away.

Agreed and congratulations, I like to think the same way about myself but even when I am prepared and somewhat trained in 47 years I never had YET to hurt anyone in self defense besides a couple of street fights in my youth. Experience also tells me that "thinking" that you can is not the same as actually can, but the proper self-image is a good start anyway :)

Returning to the topic I have the impression just by looking around that most people aren't as prepared as you are. I live in NY and it seems to me that majority of population here is quite "domesticated"

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The point of contention here is what Ayn Rand was referring to when she used the term 'tabula rasa.' Thus, it doesn't help at all to show how other people use the term. Rand made her claim concerning tabula rasa very clear: people are not born with any conceptual knowledge. To saddle her with some other claim just because other people use the same term to refer to different things is equivocation.

Good point, agreed that no conceptual knowledge comes inside before birth

The point here is that if we have been successful in identifying true moral principles, then they apply whenever their context obtains. They are absolute within that context, like scientific principles. If you find yourself defying one, you know that you're harming your own life in the long run. 'Adapting yourself to Objectivism' in this case means taking those moral principles seriously and attempting to use them to better your own life, rather than pretending they aren't true when you don't feel like following them. Of course, applying these principles to concretes often involves a lot of individual context, so it is also true that concrete applications of principles are highly individualized.

I also despise non-rigorous people without consistent moral and/or logical principles

I give these issues upmost importance: I knew Objectivism late in my life, around my 40's in a foreign Country where nobody knows about it. It made me to review absolutely all my previous premises that I held during most of my adult lifespan, "restart" my brain, fight with all my relatives and friends and finally leave my Country with my wife and kids to come to live in NY, all thanks to Ayn Rand. So don't tell me I don't take this seriously

In your case I can see you are young and smart so you are in a privileged position where it is easier to integrate Objectivism into your mind early in your life. You are lucky :)

When I say "integrate" Objectivism into your own mental structure I mean without contradiction BUT you can't just forget overnight who you where for the past 40 years at risk of losing your very own identity. Convincing yourself that you wasted a big part of your only life could be very hurtful for your self-esteem specially if you don't believe in any afterlife, so I had to re-analyze all my past and sometimes almost "rewrite" some parts.

I believe that you can even reserve a small room in an organized mental structure for non-essential-hard-to-eliminate contradictions (specially involving emotions) as long as you keep them at bay and know why they are there and where they come from

I disagree. Biological altruism, to the extent it is true, is a fact about human nature. It cannot be wished away by any philosophy, including Objectivism, and no philosophy should seek to. It must be taken as given when constructing a moral system. Philosophical altruism, on the other hand, is a man-made position on the fundamental nature of morality, one that should be rejected in the strongest terms. Objectivism is a fact-based philosophy, and biological altruism is a fact. There is no conflict there. Philosophical altruism, on the other hand, is in direct conflict with Objectivist moral philosophy. Any 'reinforcement' that occurs between different usages of the term altruism is only due to confusion about the issues and unclear thinking.

Philosophical Altruism doesn't come from nowhere, why would anyone try to hurt himself? I believe it is an effect and the main primary cause is biological Altruism as an inherited human trait

On a side note I always thought that Rand was a huge Altruist in the "biological" sense of the word because she chose to publicly share her wonderful insights helping millions of people around the World and for the years to come, while she could had easily kept them just for herself

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The point of contention here is what Ayn Rand was referring to when she used the term 'tabula rasa.' Thus, it doesn't help at all to show how other people use the term. Rand made her claim concerning tabula rasa very clear: people are not born with any conceptual knowledge. To saddle her with some other claim just because other people use the same term to refer to different things is equivocation.

In fact Rand did not limit her notion of "tabula rasa" to the idea that people are not born with any conceptual notion (which would be a rather uninteresting and trivial claim anyway - except perhaps some believers in reincarnation nobody thinks that people are born with knowledge what a table is, or a house, or philosophy):

The Virtue of Selfishness)']Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments.

Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both.

In other words: Rand claims that people are also born without emotions, as these in her opinion are the result of programming by the conscious mind. While this may be true in some cases, there is now overwhelming evidence that this is in general just false. And if we use Rand's own definition of values ("Value" is that which one acts to gain and/or keep), a baby does have value judgments, even if it doesn't have a conscious concept yet of what it values.

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In other words: Rand claims that people are also born without emotions, as these in her opinion are the result of programming by the conscious mind.

Source please. Rand describes emotions in the same section you quote:

Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.

How is that equivalent to "programming by the conscious mind", and what does that statement even mean?

And if we use Rand's own definition of values ("Value" is that which one acts to gain and/or keep), a baby does have value judgments, even if it doesn't have a conscious concept yet of what it values.

Since you give no specifics, I have nothing to evaluate. Please support your assertion with examples.

Edited by brian0918
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Source please. Rand describes emotions in the same section you quote:

How is that equivalent to "programming by the conscious mind", and what does that statement even mean?

"Emotions are produced by man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly." (The Virtue of Selfishness)

"Your subconscious is like a computer—more complex a computer than men can build—and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don’t reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance—and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted. But one way or the other, your computer gives you print-outs, daily and hourly, in the form of emotions—which are lightning-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values." ("Philosophy: Who Needs It")

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It is not Objectivist philosophy that must be adapted to each individual - it is each individual who must adapt to Objectivist philosophy.

I for one would like to know the origins or rationale for this statement.

(Was it AR herself, or Dr Peikoff, who mentioned "swallowing Objectivism in one gulp"- or something?)

Still, I have serious doubts about this method.. I was no 'empty vessel' when I discovered Objectivism - much had to unlearned, first. Every conscious step from there was by choice, and by testing against reality.

Each should validate Objectivism for themselves.

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"Emotions are produced by man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly." (The Virtue of Selfishness)

"Your subconscious is like a computer—more complex a computer than men can build—and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don’t reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance—and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted. But one way or the other, your computer gives you print-outs, daily and hourly, in the form of emotions—which are lightning-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values." ("Philosophy: Who Needs It")

Agree with Tensorman, AR didn't know so well the biology of the brain the emotions and the subconscious, understandable because being a writer and philosopher she wasn't neither a psychologist nor a biologist. Plus she grew up in a time when the knowledge about the physiology of our brain was far less than current.

I don't think anyway that this invalidates any part of her philosophy and it is our "duty" to continue knowing deeper about this matter

On the other hand "Emotions" is a broad term, some fast-non-exhaustive research in Wikipedia tells that there are few primary emotions and a bunch other more "evolved" complex emotions in our brain where instinctual/primary emotions come from the amygdala, while cognitive emotions come from the prefrontal cortex

The six Primary Emotions according to Ekman are: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness, Surprise.

Which "mix" like primary colors to form the whole colorful spectrum of our emotional system:

Affection, Anger, Angst, Annoyance, Anxiety, Apathy, Awe, Contempt, Contentment, Curiosity, Boredom, Depression, Desire, Despair, Disappointment, Disgust, Ecstasy, Embarrassment, Envy, Euphoria, Fear, Frustration, Gratitude, Grief, Guilt, Happiness, Hatred, Hope, Horror, Hostility, Hysteria, Indifference, Interest, Jealousy, Joy, Loathing, Loneliness, Love, Lust, Misery, Panic, Pity, Pride, Rage, Regret, Remorse, Sadness, Satisfaction, Shame, Shock, Shyness, Sorrow, Suffering, Surprise, Wonder, Worry.

All emotions either primary, secondary, etc. can also blend with each other in different degrees or strengths giving infinite possibilities

Plus there are apparently even "meta-emotions" which are emotions about emotions...

In this complex scenario I think AR is correct about complex emotions which are highly a product of our conscious values and philosophy

Edited by Tonix777
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I for one would like to know the origins or rationale for this statement.

(Was it AR herself, or Dr Peikoff, who mentioned "swallowing Objectivism in one gulp"- or something?)

Still, I have serious doubts about this method.. I was no 'empty vessel' when I discovered Objectivism - much had to unlearned, first. Every conscious step from there was by choice, and by testing against reality.

Each should validate Objectivism for themselves.

Agree with whYNOT, Objectivism is the best philosophical foundation to build the structure of our mind, but there is in the World much more to know and to learn beside Objectivism. It is up to each one of us to select the mix of knowledge we integrate into our mental structure as long as we do it in a non-contradictory way. Objectivism is a wonderful tool to manage fundamentals and hierarchy in that structure

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I for one would like to know the origins or rationale for this statement.

I think you are reading too much into my simple statement. To consistently follow Objectivist philosophy will require undoing any pre-existing irrational thoughts, values, or emotions, and learning how to rationally judge situations and make proper decisions. All of these actions involve changing yourself, not changing Objectivist philosophy. That's all I meant by that.

Edited by brian0918
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Brian, there seems to be a bit of confusion over this statement you made. I think people are mistaking your meaning.

It is not Objectivist philosophy that must be adapted to each individual - it is each individual who must adapt to Objectivist philosophy.

What I took your statement to mean is that reality does not adapt to the individual, the individual adapts to reality. Objectivism being the philosophy of living within reality, this makes the point of your statement.

Is this what you meant? I ask because it seems that some are interpreting your statement to advocate a dogmatic approach, which is not how I understood it.

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What I took your statement to mean is that reality does not adapt to the individual, the individual adapts to reality. Objectivism being the philosophy of living within reality, this makes the point of your statement.

Is this what you meant? I ask because it seems that some are interpreting your statement to advocate a dogmatic approach, which is not how I understood it.

Yes, that is all I meant. The process of adapting to Objectivism necessarily involves investigating and integrating it. It would not be proper to accept Objectivism on faith, as that would go against Objectivist philosophy.

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