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Thread: Atheism And Moral Progress

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
    The indices regarding The World Happiness Report and The Human Development Index are designed to minimize such discrepancies.
    That doesn't make sense, you are just using the fallacy an appeal to the majority. That because the majority believes A makes them happy, then A is good. And the fact that A does not make everyone happy.


    And in YOUR world also. The evolving social values of the day are what guide community morality. YOUR so-called “objective moral goals” have changed over time according to these social values. And scriptural texts have been selected accordingly to support them. Slavery is one example of evolving “objective morality”, as was the subjugation of women until relatively recently.
    Nonsense Tass, first my moral beliefs are the same as I find in the New Testament. Second, in my world there is the possibility of finding objective moral truth in your world that possibility does not exist.


    Exactly. There is demonstrable, ongoing moral “change” in our world and there has been throughout human history.
    Right, and Europe under sharia law is objectively no better or worse than liberal democracy.

    Yeah right: “it wasn’t me, it’s them others.”
    No it is a fact Tass, look at the abolition movement in New England - the Churches were the driving force. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Abolitionism


    There were sufficient Christians who supported slavery in the US, to necessitate a civil war to end the practice. And it took the Civil Rights Act, to enforce equal rights for blacks and the rest of the population.
    Right, the country was split, as were the churches. You just conveniently leave out all the Christians who were against slavery. Bad form...


    The social mores of our current society value ALL human life equally. Hence “slavery or genocide” are considered an abomination. For more primitive tribal societies this was not the case (e.g. Moses and the Israelite's), but, as you acknowledge above, social values “change” over time.
    That is just silly, some western countries believe that, yet slavery is growing world wide and genocide still happens - just ask the Tutsi.

    We are NOT “more worthy of life than all the species that went extinct in the past”. But we instinctively care whether we survive or not…as do all living creatures.
    I'm not sure how you know a house fly cares about his survival. Did he tell you?

    So, you are claiming the right to discriminate against those you dislike on the basis of personal prejudice.
    I'm saying the government has no right to force a man to violate his religious beliefs.
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Heumer makes another error in that very first sentence: he assumes "rational judgement" requires objective premises, thereby assuming his conclusion. Rationality is not limited to objective premises. Rational arguments are arguments that are valid and sound. A valid argument takes the form:

    P1) If a then b
    P2) a
    C) Therefore b

    The conclusion of a valid argument is true if the premises are true. A valid argument with true premises is called a sound argument. You will find this definition in pretty much every Logic 101 textbook. Notice that the definition says nothing about the premises of a sound argument being objectively true. They merely must be true.


    P1) If that restaurant services pizza, I want to eat there
    P2) That restaurant serves pizza
    C) I want to eat there.

    Perfectly valid structure, and the conclusion is true if P1 and P2 are true. P2 is objectively true, P1 is subjectively true. Perfectly rational. We make decisions like this all the time. Rationality is not constrained to the world of the objectively true. However, there is a constraint here: there is no mechanism I know of by which a subjectively true premise can be PROVEN to be true by rational means. We are dependent on the report of the subject in question.

    At the end of the day, morality is a specific form of preference. Each of us roots our morality in a variety of things. Personal experience is key, but it includes experiences of society, religion, family, local community, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. We are influenced by these sources via personal contact, social media, media in general, education systems, books, movies, etc. But morality is rooted in the individual, and the individual always has primacy. Short of some form of mind-control (which strips an individual of moral agency, negating the concept of morality completely), there is no means by which one individual can impose or force their moral agency on another because morality is a function of the mind. We can and do control behavior - but not the underlying moral principles. At best we can attempt to influence them, and will be more or less successful depending on a variety of circumstances.

    Carp, I'm not sure what exactly you disagree with here:


    By analogy, if someone says that values have no objective existence, moral philosophy is undermined since it has no subject matter. It is then comparable to the study of unicorns. Nothing positive you say about unicorns can be true since there aren't any unicorns. And it makes no sense to say, "Well, I agree that unicorns are not real, but I still think this is a unicorn." How is it any different to say, "Well, I agree that values aren't real, but I still think this is a value"?

    Even with your pizza example you are still pointing to the objective existence of pizza. It would be strange if you showed a preference for pizza when pizza did not objectively exist.
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Carp, I'm not sure what exactly you disagree with here:


    By analogy, if someone says that values have no objective existence, moral philosophy is undermined since it has no subject matter. It is then comparable to the study of unicorns. Nothing positive you say about unicorns can be true since there aren't any unicorns. And it makes no sense to say, "Well, I agree that unicorns are not real, but I still think this is a unicorn." How is it any different to say, "Well, I agree that values aren't real, but I still think this is a value"?

    Even with your pizza example you are still pointing to the objective existence of pizza. It would be strange if you showed a preference for pizza when pizza did not objectively exist.
    Again - you are assuming your conclusion. A thing does not cease to exist because it is subjective. My love of pizza exists - but it exists subjectively in me. The concept of a unicorn also exists, as an idea in a mind. The unicorn does not exist objectively - it does not have an existence separate from the mind. Likewise, morality does not have an existence separate from "mind."

    As for the pizza - you are conflating the object of my liking with the liking itself, hence your confusion.
    Last edited by carpedm9587; 09-20-2019 at 06:42 AM.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Again - you are assuming your conclusion. A thing does not cease to exist because it is subjective. My love of pizza exists - but it exists subjectively in me. The concept of a unicorn also exists, as an idea in a mind. The unicorn does not exist objectively - it does not have an existence separate from the mind. Likewise, morality does not have an existence separate from "mind."

    As for the pizza - you are conflating the object of my liking with the liking itself, hence your confusion.
    So like with the unicorn when you speak of values you are speaking of something that doesn't exist. There is no subject matter as Heumer states...
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    So like with the unicorn when you speak of values you are speaking of something that doesn't exist. There is no subject matter as Heumer states...
    Morals don't exist in and of themselves, or as if they are existing things emanating from a source, they are indeterminate laws and the source of them is ourselves by way of reason.

  6. #1606
    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    That doesn't make sense, you are just using the fallacy an appeal to the majority. That because the majority believes A makes them happy, then A is good. And the fact that A does not make everyone happy.
    It’s simply a statement of fact: Certain societies (mostly secular ones) top The World Happiness Report and The Human Development Index. It does not mean that everyone is necessarily happy.

    Nonsense Tass, first my moral beliefs are the same as I find in the New Testament. Second, in my world there is the possibility of finding objective moral truth in your world that possibility does not exist.
    New Testament moral beliefs are not fixed, they have demonstrably changed over time. The New Testament moral beliefs of many Christians once disenfranchised women, discriminated against blacks and homosexuals and saw nothing wrong with depriving millions of indigenous peoples of their land and culture. But, overall, this is not the position nowadays.

    Right, and Europe under sharia law is objectively no better or worse than liberal democracy.
    As always, morality reflects the values of the people.

    No it is a fact Tass, look at the abolition movement in New England - the Churches were the driving force.

    Right, the country was split, as were the churches. You just conveniently leave out all the Christians who were against slavery. Bad form...
    And yet slavery and racial discrimination was initiated and accepted in America for over two hundred years with the latter being enforced until 1964 in the Southern States…and even then, being practiced in many instances.

    That is just silly, some western countries believe that, yet slavery is growing world wide and genocide still happens - just ask the Tutsi.
    Nevertheless, the social mores of our current society value ALL human life equally. Hence “slavery or genocide” are considered an abomination. The Israelites under Moses felt differently, but moral values have changed over time.

    I'm not sure how you know a house fly cares about his survival. Did he tell you?
    The resistance to being swatted is indicative of a house-fly’s survival instinct.

    I'm saying the government has no right to force a man to violate his religious beliefs.
    So, you agree that you have no right to discriminate against those you dislike on the basis of personal prejudice.
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

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    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    So like with the unicorn when you speak of values you are speaking of something that doesn't exist. There is no subject matter as Heumer states...
    No - if someone is making a claim about unicorns objectively existing, then the claim is (as far as we know) false, because they do not exist objectively (or at least have never been shown to). They DO exist in the minds and ideas and fantasies of humans, so they have a subjective reality.

    Likewise, if someone makes a claim that morality exists objectively, then the claim is (as far as I can tell) false, because they do not exist objectively (or at least have never been shown to). Moral principles DO exist in the minds and ideas (and even fantasies) of humans (or any sapient species), so they have a subjective reality. And many moral principles are held in common by many people - even whole societies - so they have an inter-subjective reality (much like language) as well.

    Your suggestion that only objective things are "real" flies in the face of how you function every day. Subjective realities exist differently than objective ones - but that does not mean they do not exist.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Since rational judgement presupposes some ground apart from the judgement on which for it to be based, the denial of objectivism implies the intrinsic impossibility of rational moral judgement,since said denial means that moral values cannot have any independent existence apart from the mind.


    Huemer's error is in his first sentence, and involves two things. First, he is assuming that morality exists apart from the mind. That is pretty much the entire point: morality is strictly a function of the mind. It does not have an independent reality separate from sapient minds. No one has ever shown morality to have such a separate existence - it is merely assumed. Moral principles are not "out there to be found" but rather "in here to be defined." The only moral principles that are "out there to be found" are the generalized principles that govern the operation of societies - but those principles are nothing more than the collective principles of the members of that society, typically as expressed by the majority. When a principle is very widely held (i.e., prohibitions against random killing or forced sexual activity), those who do not agree are seen as outliers and generally shunned in one form or another. When the moral principle is NOT widely held, but held by a substantial part of the society, the society is in conflict and there is no clear "social moral principle."
    He's not assuming it. He's making an actual argument for it. You assume your position because you merely stipulate it over and over without argument. All you're doing is listing some lazy descriptive pop-anthropological banalities as a placeholder for something resembling an 'argument'. The fact is neither of us have the right to be dogmatic, but I've never seen anything remotely approaching humility from your side.
    Heumer makes another error in that very first sentence: he assumes "rational judgement" requires objective premises, thereby assuming his conclusion. Rationality is not limited to objective premises. Rational arguments are arguments that are valid and sound. A valid argument takes the form:




    P1) If a then b
    P2) a
    C) Therefore b
    I think you're getting confused by the word "ground." He makes absolutely no reference to premises having to be objective in nature. He is saying that there must be a rational foundation or set of reasons for my belief apart from the mere act of the propositional state of my believing it in order for my belief to be rationally held or defensible. That seems like a given.

    The conclusion of a valid argument is true if the premises are true. A valid argument with true premises is called a sound argument. You will find this definition in pretty much every Logic 101 textbook. Notice that the definition says nothing about the premises of a sound argument being objectively true. They merely must be true.

    P1) If that restaurant services pizza, I want to eat there
    P2) That restaurant serves pizza
    C) I want to eat there.

    Perfectly valid structure, and the conclusion is true if P1 and P2 are true. P2 is objectively true, P1 is subjectively true. Perfectly rational. We make decisions like this all the time. Rationality is not constrained to the world of the objectively true. However, there is a constraint here: there is no mechanism I know of by which a subjectively true premise can be PROVEN to be true by rational means. We are dependent on the report of the subject in question.

    At the end of the day, morality is a specific form of preference. Each of us roots our morality in a variety of things. Personal experience is key, but it includes experiences of society, religion, family, local community, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. We are influenced by these sources via personal contact, social media, media in general, education systems, books, movies, etc. But morality is rooted in the individual, and the individual always has primacy. Short of some form of mind-control (which strips an individual of moral agency, negating the concept of morality completely), there is no means by which one individual can impose or force their moral agency on another because morality is a function of the mind. We can and do control behavior - but not the underlying moral principles. At best we can attempt to influence them, and will be more or less successful depending on a variety of circumstances.
    You miss the point. It's not and never has been about "mind control." It's about autonomy, the polar opposite. Of course, it's "rooted in" personal experience, just as everything we do is, but again, that's kind of beside the point. What I've been suggesting is for you to shift your focus, that maybe you're looking at the wrong explanatory/descriptive level, that everything you say is "right," but that it doesn't have the greatest explanatory power.
    Last edited by Jim B.; Yesterday at 07:46 PM.

  9. #1609
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    A fairly quick, easy overview in a Reddit article:

    Are there good arguments for objective morality? What do philosophers think about moral realism?
    Answer

    What do philosophers think about moral realism?

    Surprisingly, a slim majority of philosophers are “moral realists”: they think that there are some objective moral facts. The 2009 PhilPapers survey asked just under a thousand philosophers and philosophy graduate students about moral realism, and discovered that 56.4% were moral realists, 27.7% weren’t, and 15.9% held some other position. Isn’t 56.4% a pretty small majority? Well, among philosophers it’s actually quite significant. Only about eighty percent of philosophers were prepared to say that they believed in the existence of the external world, for instance: ten percent denied it, and ten percent held some other position. In any case, for every philosopher who thinks there aren’t any objective moral facts, two philosophers think there are. This result isn’t indicative of philosophers being religious, either. The same survey found that just under fifteen percent of philosophers accepted or leaned towards theism. Over seventy percent were atheists, and twelve percent held some other position. So quite a lot of philosophers think that there are moral facts but don’t think that God exists.

    Does this represent a worrying consensus for the person who thinks there aren’t any objective moral facts? Yes, it does, and it’s worse than it initially appears. The skeptic thinks that there obviously aren’t any objective moral facts. But even philosophers who are committed to moral anti-realism think that there are some good reasons to be a moral realist. They don’t think that proponents of objective morality are just confused, rhetorically sneaky, or crypto-theists. Unfortunately, there is no study on whether philosophers think that moral realism is obviously false - in part because many philosophers would find the question too silly to answer. But if the question was not “is moral realism true” but “is there a good case to be made for moral realism”, I suspect the percentage would jump from 56.4% to somewhere in the high nineties. The moral skeptic will certainly be able to find philosophers who agree with him that there aren’t any objective moral facts. However, he won’t be able to find many philosophers who agree with him that moral realists are all horribly confused. He might not be able to find any.

    Arguments for moral realism

    I’m going to quickly run through short versions of two standard arguments for moral realism, and some standard responses to common arguments that skeptics put against moral realism. Let’s start with some arguments for moral realism.

    Argument from taste: Even if we call ourselves moral anti-realists, our attitude to moral preferences is significantly different from our attitude to ordinary preferences. If I don’t like noodles, it doesn’t make much sense for me to say “I’m glad I wasn’t born in China, because then I would probably like noodles”. But it makes perfect sense to say “I’m glad I wasn’t born in the Middle Ages, because then I would think the sun revolved around the earth.” And it makes perfect sense to say “I’m glad I wasn’t born in antebellum America, because then I would probably support slavery”. So it looks like we treat our attitude towards slavery more like a matter of empirical fact than a matter of mere preference. This argument is lifted wholesale from David Enoch, who calls it the “spinach test”. Given that, our intuitive starting point seems to be some kind of moral realism. Of course, our intuitive starting point might be wrong! But if it is, we’ll need to be persuaded to abandon it. We shouldn’t assume that moral anti-realism is the default view and expect moral realists to convince us otherwise.

    Argument from plausibility: When we’re deciding what to believe, we should try to only start with the premises we’re most confident in. If a premise seems a bit dubious, we should take a step back to a safer one. But our confidence in at least one moral proposition seems to be greater than our confidence in any of the arguments for moral anti-realism. Take the claim “it is objectively wrong to torture your infant son to death for fun”. To me, this claim seems to be as secure as what I can see with my own eyes. In fact, it seems more so: if I somehow became convinced that either I was hallucinating or torturing my infant son to death for fun was right, I would immediately assume I was hallucinating. This claim certainly seems more secure than claims like “moral realism is a bit weird”, or “if people disagree about morality, there might be no right answer”. This is a gloss on arguments made by G.E. Moore and Michael Huemer. Of course, a knock-down proof of moral anti-realism should give me pause. But if there’s no knock-down proof available, I’ve got no reason to abandon a premise I’m very secure in for a premise that just seems plausible.

    Note that neither of these arguments depend on God. So far we’ve established that moral realism is an attractive position, and that we need some actual reasons against it if we’re to reject it.

    But what about...?

    Let’s address some common reasons against moral realism now. As we’ll see, none of these reasons are strong enough to rule out moral-realism.

    The evolution objection: We can explain our moral intuitions by evolution. Given that, isn’t it silly to think that they’re connected to the truth? Note that we can explain our intuitions about physics by evolution too, and we all agree that they’re loosely connected to the truth: objects fall down, throwing something hard makes it move quickly, and so on. The fact that our moral intuitions evolved doesn't automatically mean that moral realism must be false, or that our moral intuitions can’t be connected to the truth.

    The disagreement objection: People disagree a lot about morality, and different cultures have very different ideas about what’s morally acceptable. Given that, isn’t it silly to think that there’s one moral truth? First, disagreement about morality is a bit overblown. Pretty much everyone agrees that there’s something morally wrong with torturing children for fun, that we ought to keep promises, that being kind is usually better than being cruel, and so on. Second, areas of apparent moral disagreement, such as the arguments over gay marriage, often rest on a disagreement about non-moral matters: for instance, whether same-sex parenting causes children psychological distress. Third, disagreement about a topic isn’t itself a reason to think that there’s no truth there. People disagree about physics, especially between cultures, but nobody takes that to be a reason to doubt physics. Most people - or everyone - could just be wrong.

    The strangeness objection: It makes sense to say that we should eat if we don’t want to be hungry, or that we should be kind if we want to be liked. But it’s very weird to say that we should be kind to people full stop. This looks like a different, strange sense of the word “should”. Isn’t it a bit too strange to be plausible? Note that there’s one other area in which this unconditional sense of “should” gets used: talking about truth and evidence. It’s natural to say that we should only believe what we’ve got evidence for, or that we should try to believe true things even if we’d be happier believing false ones. If these statements aren’t too strange, then saying “we should be kind to people” isn’t too strange either.

    TL;DR

    People who think there aren’t any objective moral facts ought to admit that they’re holding a position that a (slim) majority of experts disagree with. They shouldn’t treat moral realism as if it were obviously wrong, or as if it were already settled to be false. Most philosophers are moral realists, and there are good responses to the standard arguments many people give against objective moral facts.


    It should probably be noted somewhere that the average person asking about "objective morality" isn't using the term to mean mind independent, but universal. And if you're asking about a universal morality, the amount is even higher than 56.4%, because many anti realists still believe it exists via mind dependence. And this is something that someone unfamiliar with ethics asking the question will get confused by since they don't understand all the terms involved.


    Third, disagreement about a topic isn’t itself a reason to think that there’s no truth there. People disagree about physics, especially between cultures, but nobody takes that to be a reason to doubt physics. Most people - or everyone - could just be wrong.

    People disagree in physics about things that they can't observe easily. What makes physics possible at all is that we mostly agree about what we observe.

    When people disagree about morality, they are relating how they feel about something. It is analogous to an observation in physics. People are disagreeing about something that is immediate to them. It is like if in physics people had different opinions on whether things fall up or down. That kind of disagreement would make physics as on objective study impossible. That is the kind of disagreement that exists in morality and is indeed fatal to moral realism.

  10. #1610
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    From Michael Huemer's "Moral Objectivism":


    4.1. Value judgements as universally false

    This theory is really quite outrageous. It implies, among other things, that it is not the case that people generally ought to eat when hungry; that Hitler was not a bad person; that happiness is not good; and so on. I submit that this is simply absurd. I feel much more confidence in those denied judgements, as I think nearly everybody does, than I can imagine feeling in any philosophical arguments for relativism. At least, I think it would take an extremely strong argument to shake my confidence that happiness is preferable to misery, or the like. And there does not seem to be any argument at all with that import. It is hard to see how there could be.

    This discussion makes me feel like G.E. Moore, who refuted skepticism about the existence of external objects by making a certain gesture and observing, "Here is one hand," and, making another gesture, "and here is another." For just as Moore pointed out that no premises of any philosophical argument could possibly strike him as more obvious and certain than the proposition that "Here is a hand," I find it inconceivable how any philosophical premises could be more obvious and certain than the judgement that happiness is desirable, or numerous other similar value judgements I might make.

    I doubt that anybody actually holds this view. Even arch-subjectivist David Hume remarked that "those who have denied the reality of moral distinctions, may be ranked among the disingenuous disputants."(3)(4)


    4.3. "x is good" as synonymous with "I like x"

    This theory would have to be expanded to include (re-)definitions of all other evaluative terms as well, of course; however, we can refute this line of approach already.

    It makes sense to say, "I like it, but is it really good?" but it does not make sense to say "I like it, but do I like it?" nor "It's good, but is it really good?"

    One often thinks that one likes something because it is good, but one does not think it is good because one likes it (unless one is very egocentric).



    Therefore, some thing's being good must be different from its being liked. More simply, though, this should be immediately evident, since the statement that any given person has any given psychological state is a descriptive statement, whereas the statement that some thing is good is, of course, normative. The former denotes an empirical matter of psychology. The latter expresses a value judgement. In short, this theory is a simple instance of the naturalistic fallacy. I would lump together with this view any view that identifies good, virtue, and other moral qualities with the tendency to cause some psychological state.

    4.7


    Most versions of relativism involve a reinterpretation or redefinition of moral judgements. What is common to all of the redefinitions of moral concepts is that they leave out everything moral. The very essence of the concept of rightness is that something's being right is a reason to do it. But to say that I like something is not to give a reason for doing it - if somebody said, "Why should we do A?" and I said, "Because I like it," this would not give him a reason. To say that my society approves of something is not yet to give a reason for it either. To express one's emotions does not give anyone a reason for action. Et cetera. But something's being good or right is a reason for doing it (indeed, in the latter case, an absolutely compelling reason).


    5


    .....Finally, recall that I argued that the acceptance of relativism would undermine all morality. Although the apparent undesirability of this consequence does not prove the theory to be false, if our initial, intuitive confidence in our moral theories is greater than the prima facie plausibility of the arguments offered on behalf of relativism, as certainly seems to be the case, then it would be irrational to reject to former in deference to the latter.

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