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moral values

Comments on moral values

libertygrl
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#76 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/07/09 - 3:33 PM:

MM wrote:
a thing cannot possess value only in relation to itself

MM wrote:
Honour, for example, is a supremely individual value, and one that applies to the agent whether or not they are living admist others of their kind.

(i think) i understand the point you're making about adhering to a certain discipline in order to achieve a personal goal. however, these two statements above seem to be at odds with each other and i'm not sure how to go about reconciling them. can it be said that honor is a way of having value in relation to one's self?

MM wrote:
No one can 'have' moral values, because they are not objects that an agent can possess. Nor are they properties that an agent can perceive.

if we can say a person has a sense of humor, i don't see why we can't say a person has moral values. like a sense of humor, moral values are not always perceptible, but sometimes - i'd dare say usually - they are. they are perceptible through a person's behavior, as is a sense of humor.

MM wrote:
What you're implying is that people have certain tendancies towards acting in certain ways. We have genetic dispositions. We have reflexes.

sorry, i'm not following your train of thought here. are you disagreeing that people have tendencies toward certain behaviors?

MM wrote:
If that were true, then no child would ever need to be socially conditioned to respond to moral rules. Children are naturally selfish, for example. But this tendancy is often broken by the chastizement of moral authorities, who more or less force this tendancy away from fledgling moral agents, and towards the standard recommended by the extant society.

i think if left to their own devices, children would learn naturally how to overcome selfish desires in the interest of soliciting help from others in order to achieve things. clearly this is what has already happened at the beginning stages of our evolution, wouldn't you say? that we now teach children at an early age how to cooperate with others i think is evidence that we tend naturally toward the development of moral values.
henry quirk
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#77 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/07/09 - 3:40 PM:

again: 'morality' is a sometimes useful fiction
libertygrl
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#78 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/07/09 - 3:40 PM:

praxis wrote:
Not really, no. To invoke the cliché, no man is an island. We are dependent on other beings to live, and we must have some kind of sustainable relationship with other life in order to survive. That other life doesn't need to be human life, as I see it.

hi praxis, i see your point, but even still i think i tend to conceive of morality as primarily serving a relationship between the individual and others (even if the "others" aren't human); hence the pragmatic aspect. interestingly, though, merriam websters has this as one of its definitions of "moral":

3: perceptual or psychological rather than tangible or practical in nature or effect <a moral victory> <moral support>

which certainly puts a different spin on it. food for thought.
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#79 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/08/09 - 2:07 AM:

From #4, about eating the kids (the question was, "Why is it wrong for a mother and father to eat their own children?"), maybe you could derive an interesting array of moral concepts. At least some of the kids, if old enough to have opinions and express them, would object strongly to being eaten...but, presumably, in the model, their views and preferences are not to be consulted. Concepts of fair play, justice and human rights doubtless arise from models (and true situations) such as this. A number of purely pragmatic arguments could also be urged against eating the kids. If the practice became widespread, the community's survival would ultimately be affected. Also, as the taste for small children caught on, groups of women would be set aside as breeders; they would be urged to produce as many children as they could, as often as they could. But because of the purely physical character of their work, they probably would, in the minds of the community, come to assume a low status: thus a quasi slave class would be created. But historically, class distinctions have led to social unrest... Also, from the pragmatic point of view, waiting nine months for a scant morsel of food is lousy economy, especially since, during the nine months of her pregnancy the woman eats like a horse. Then there is the deontological category of ethical consideration. In certain ways this category seems to share some space with the pragmatic; one part of this consideration runs, "If you do something of that sort, you will become, on a permanent basis, utterly miserable. This is because the action will outrage some of the most valuable attributes of in your nature..." You can see that the deontological category is less easy to argue for than, say, the purely pragmatic. One can simply reply, "No it wouldn't. I wouldn't mind doing it." Another argument of the deontological sort might run, "The practice would brutalize the population and prevent the development of attachment between parents and children. Humans easily, readily and quickly become thugs, given certain circumstances, and affection for children is one of the species' most reliable preventatives. The opponent says, "Ah, but in a society in which everyone did it, there would be no remorse and no brutalization." The proponent: "Perhaps no remorse." Opponent: "Our society practices brutal actions and always has: we make war on nations frivolously and in those wars children are killed every day. Very few of us feel enough remorse to consider ways to stop these actions; as a people we are not especially brutal." The proponent: "It is true that we feel little remorse." Zum
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#80 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/08/09 - 1:48 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

i think i tend to conceive of morality as primarily serving a relationship between the individual and others (even if the "others" aren't human); hence the pragmatic aspect.

Yeah, I think one thing we can say for sure is that other beings, and not necessarily the same species of beings, are essential for the development of moral values.

I can't imagine how an intelligence could arise singularly, with no other things in which to relate. Funny thought just now... if God is a singular being of its kind and there were no other beings before it created us, how did God develop a moral sense?

interestingly, though, merriam websters has this as one of its definitions of "moral":

3: perceptual or psychological rather than tangible or practical in nature or effect <a moral victory> <moral support>

which certainly puts a different spin on it. food for thought.

Moral support is practical in the sense that it encourages shared moral values. Can you give moral support to someone with very different moral values, like a nazi or something?
Nihil Loc
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#81 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/08/09 - 4:37 PM:

Praxis wrote:
Can you give moral support to someone with very different moral values, like a nazi or something?


Can moral support be (en)forced, or falsified? There are moments where we pretend to be something we are not in order to protect ourselves and the perpetuation of our values.

Imagine yourself as a German citizen during the Third Reich who participates as a willing member in the national fervor but who also hides the persecuted.

Then we might also identity with a Nazi soldier in the way he is a pawn of a local cultural script. Any one of us could just as well have been thrown into that kind of existence. What in us then is truly responsible for what we choose?

I say culture and genes. This doesn't deny us freedom. Culture makes us (un)free.

The royal existential conflation of Sartre: "we are condemned to be free."
There is a black box situated in the fabric of our design which couples intelligence with goodness, and freedom with choice. We have room to say and do otherwise; even to do in spite of the need of society and its oughts and thou shalts.



Edited by Nihil Loc on 02/08/09 - 4:54 PM
Monk2400
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#82 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/08/09 - 7:00 PM:

Another question that we might consider.

Is morality only a form of social control? Thus, is it entirely irrelevant outside of the interpersonal relationship/context of two or more moral agents?

Or can moral agents also have moral relationships with non-moral agents? Can a human being have a moral relationship with a non-human being, even though the latter does and can not participate in a meaningful way in the socio-context of the human being?

To respond, it seems to be intuitive that moral values apply to any and all acts performed by moral agents, regardless of whether they are couched in terms of social responsibilities etc.

8)
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#83 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/08/09 - 7:25 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

(i think) i understand the point you're making about adhering to a certain discipline in order to achieve a personal goal. however, these two statements above seem to be at odds with each other and i'm not sure how to go about reconciling them. can it be said that honor is a way of having value in relation to one's self?


These are very different contexts.

A thing having value in relation to itself is trivial. Does a diamond have inherent value? Well, if the standard is itself, then it is clear that it can only be the best itself that is it, since its being is the standard by which it is judged AND is also the subject of the judgment. In this sense, a thing--be it a diamond, a rock, a tree, whatever--cannot help but fulfill itself, that is, there is a perfect correspondence of subject and standard.

In the case of the acts that an axiological agent performs, their worth--in and of themselves--is always perfect. But the agent hirmself can place those acts in a value context, and weight them in reference to a goal, a state of affairs, or whatever. This is not the same as a judgment of inherent value, because the agent constructs a standard that is distinct from the act evaluated.


libertygrl wrote:

if we can say a person has a sense of humor, i don't see why we can't say a person has moral values. like a sense of humor, moral values are not always perceptible, but sometimes - i'd dare say usually - they are. they are perceptible through a person's behavior, as is a sense of humor.


Well, that's a fine turn of speech, but entirely misleading.


libertygrl wrote:

sorry, i'm not following your train of thought here. are you disagreeing that people have tendencies toward certain behaviors?


No. I agree. But I make a distinction between the factual nature of some act and its axiological valuation. For example, just because humans have a tendency to act in certain ways doesn't mean that those acts are 'good' or 'right'. Their value is something added to them over and above their factual nature.

Also, the meaning of 'good' or 'right' is not synonymous with 'tendencies that human beings have'.

libertygrl wrote:

i think if left to their own devices, children would learn naturally how to overcome selfish desires in the interest of soliciting help from others in order to achieve things. clearly this is what has already happened at the beginning stages of our evolution, wouldn't you say? that we now teach children at an early age how to cooperate with others i think is evidence that we tend naturally toward the development of moral values.


Which is only to say, more precisely, that human beings are social animals, and the most typical forms of activity they engage in reference social contexts.

My point, I suppose, was that these tendencies are socially conditioned, and not something that individuals manifest all by themselves--such that a person that lacks this conditioning or has different conditioning will not express these same tendencies. Hence, they are very, very far from being the ground of absolute moral value.

8)

Edited by Midnight_Monk on 02/08/09 - 7:29 PM
libertygrl
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#84 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/08/09 - 11:50 PM:

zum wrote:
From #4, about eating the kids (the question was, "Why is it wrong for a mother and father to eat their own children?")

hi zum! a thorough exploration of the question, and i thoroughly enjoyed your answer clap

i wrote:
if we can say a person has a sense of humor, i don't see why we can't say a person has moral values. like a sense of humor, moral values are not always perceptible, but sometimes - i'd dare say usually - they are. they are perceptible through a person's behavior, as is a sense of humor.

MM wrote:
Well, that's a fine turn of speech, but entirely misleading.

how so?

if a person expresses moral values, can it not be said that they have them?

praxis wrote:
Can you give moral support to someone with very different moral values, like a nazi or something?

MM wrote:
Can a human being have a moral relationship with a non-human being, even though the latter does and can not participate in a meaningful way in the socio-context of the human being?

to me, moral decisions are those grounded in an attempt at empathy. in working to prevent cruelty to animals, the humane society, for example, makes moral decisions on behalf of animals. moral dilemmas, such as nihil cited, confront us with the challenge of trying to reduce the amount of damage to others to the smallest amount possible, in spite of compromising other established values. whether the intent is physical gain (support or services from others in return) or spiritual gain (good karma, earning god's favor, etc), to me the key element in a moral decision is always empathy.
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#85 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/09/09 - 12:58 AM:

libertygrl wrote:

whether the intent is physical gain (support or services from others in return) or spiritual gain (good karma, earning god's favor, etc), to me the key element in a moral decision is always empathy.

Moral decision are often difficult to make. One reason for that is because empathy, in many cases, must be suppressed in order to act or reason more objectively. Nihil's imaginary German citizen during the Third Reich who participates as a willing member in the national fervor but who also hides the persecuted is effectively suppressing his empathy for the national fervor while in the midst of it.

Empathy is merely the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. That ability can be used to manipulate others.
Nihil Loc
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#86 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/09/09 - 3:31 AM:

Disclaimer: digressive poetic rant.

Is there a telos (purpose) here. I feel like this is a thread of eternal digression, or that there is nothing to answer.

What "ought" we to do and why? This anxious, very personal question for some, looms in the background of any discussion about morality. The particulars are left out: when, where, how, why. Or possibly, who should we condemn and punish for what has already happened in a when, where, how, why? What behavior or custom, learned method, in me precludes mutual intimacy, or a distant but satisfying accord here, or even truth? Am I a juror in these forums, bearing witness to the rhetorical distortions, or the sincere outpourings, of hazy events? Why not call it Error Supreme at a Nihilistic Taco Bell?

I'm an economy of invisible values. No one sees clearly the empirical cause and effect chains of life. There is a plurality of distances here, between each of us on plural plains, synonymous with value distortion. Values might as well be invisible, even if we obstinately proclaim we are only honest to ourselves and others. They arrive when we cry wolf and then mutate. They change color and shape through hermeneutic veils, like humans do.

All I get through my tuning station is the
absence of an absolute moral ground." My grasp of our abstractions doesn't seem to work any magic within me. "God is dead" is too boring these days. The world has moved on, apparently, evolved into a million of value rooms where doing is for doings sake (refer and regress infinitely).

We populate rooms today. Not but a handful fit in the in the smallest of them. There are even rooms for one. We go from there to here, and back again, meeting different people on the way. We shove forward to get where we need to be. We shove also, to get where we want.
___________

So, here is the bad news. I'm going to put one of you to sleep and then preform surgery on you. I'll extract a kidney and then sell it to some friends I know. Since I also value population control, your gonads will disappear in the process. Sorry. Say "Lo Vie." "Lo Vie"

So, here is the bad news. *Censored for fear of crying wolf one to many times.*

____________

Do you think there is anything we could discuss on this forum that would then be monitored by a national security agency or the federal government?

What if we played with media in such a way that we could engineer an empty threat, taken so seriously that it impacted our lives?




Edited by Nihil Loc on 02/09/09 - 3:37 AM
libertygrl
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#87 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/09/09 - 10:42 AM:

hi nihil,

of course i can't speak for anyone else's purpose here, but mine i feel is exploration. true that we're fraught with impermanent waves, which pass through us as relative specks on the vast spectrum of time. can we say due to their fleeting nature that they were never here to begin with? as for me, i'd rather look around and say, this is our time now, and this is how we are. i'll look, and i'll try to appreciate it for what it is, because i may never see it again.

or maybe i'll see it again, and again, and be happy in the constancy of something. or i may tire of a thing's constancy and seek to change it, and feel satisfaction in the experience of will.

what ought we to do, and why? i say we ought to do what feels right, because it feels right. and in the absence of being able to feel right, we should do what feels good. and in the absence of that, we should roll the dice.

cheers,
heartlib

p.s. dear nihil, i enjoy your poetic and thoughtful contributions. i hope you participate in the exploration because you want to. and if not because you want to, then i hope for you (and everyone) to find the way to choose the path you want. i'll be cheering you all.
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#88 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/09/09 - 10:49 AM:

praxis wrote:
Empathy is merely the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. That ability can be used to manipulate others.

it can be, true. perhaps i should qualify it then, by saying that a moral decision is the use of empathy to benefit someone other than one's self. of course, it can be argued back that helping others ultimately = helping one's self. but a moral decision is that point at which one throws the boomerang.
Monk2400
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#89 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/09/09 - 12:36 PM:

Nihil Loc wrote:

Do you think there is anything we could discuss on this forum that would then be monitored by a national security agency or the federal government?


What makes you think forums like this one aren't already being monitored by the massive underground CIA computers at Langley?

Start talking about how 911 was an inside job and false flag event perpetrated by the CIA in concert with Mossad. Start talking about the FEMA concentration camps that are popping up all around the country. Start talking about why American port security was sold to the Chinese. Or what the 'amero' is and how it will be forced upon us. Start talking about how American politicians sold out the people, the nation, and the concept of liberty when they allowed the creation of the Federal Reserve.

Or generally say anything negative about Israel and the genocidal Zionist policies that it has been pursuing.

Bomb, bomb, bomb, white house, skyscraper, allahuakbar.

And then let's note how a government in the hands of the few and powerful actually define what is and is not 'moral' for its citizens and the world, and punishes dissent with death (sometimes figuratively, but most often literally).

8)
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#90 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/09/09 - 12:54 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

how so?

if a person expresses moral values, can it not be said that they have them?


We don't 'have' moral values like we 'have' a bad back or a club foot or a lazy eye. We don't possess moral values like a car, a house, or beloved pet.

The act of assuming a standard of judgment defines the scope and range of all possible moral valuations for all possible states of affairs that fall under the domain of that standard.

Why the concept of possession is misleading here is because it implies that moral values are something external to axiological agents, that they are something an agent can discover and pick up, like an element of nature. But values, as I've aruged, are not part of the natural world in this sense. They are entirely synthetic constructs borne of the imaginative facutly of rational agents.

If one says that people 'have an intuitive sense of what's moral', what one is saying is just that people instinctively act in certain ways that are characteristic of their genus. Humans act in human ways. We have social tendencies because our existence in the world is by and large socially constructed.

But the goodness or rightness of states of affairs cannot be reduced to these instances of 'instinctive tendencies'. When we say 'murder is wrong' we do not merely mean that 'people tend not to murder'. We are attempting to say something more definitive, more concrete and objective about the state of affairs 'murder' and its consequences. But always in relation to some ideal or standard.

If our ultimate standard is only pleasure and pain, then we will reduce morality to absurdity. In fact, while empathy for sentience is a good starting point for acting with compassion, it is a poor ground for moral judgment because it lacks clear and thorough objectivity. It is inherently variable, hence, unreliable. Not to mention that some pains are pleasures, and some pleasures, pains, and we don't always tend towards actions that promote pleasure or avoid pain. Nor are these feelings in and of themselves, good or bad, right or wrong.

What we should not imply when we say that people 'have an intuitive sense of what's moral' is that is that those tendencies to act in certain ways are equivalent to judgments of good and right, that a tendency IS what is right because some sentient being 'feels' that it is so. If this were the case, then morality is doomed to be utterly subjective, a mere mode of 'taste' and never an objective mode of judgment. There can be no moral knowledge and no moral judgment can be incorrect.


libertygrl wrote:

to me, moral decisions are those grounded in an attempt at empathy. in working to prevent cruelty to animals, the humane society, for example, makes moral decisions on behalf of animals. moral dilemmas, such as nihil cited, confront us with the challenge of trying to reduce the amount of damage to others to the smallest amount possible, in spite of compromising other established values. whether the intent is physical gain (support or services from others in return) or spiritual gain (good karma, earning god's favor, etc), to me the key element in a moral decision is always empathy.


lib, do you think that we can have a moral relationship to the ecosystem or environment?

8)
libertygrl
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#91 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/09/09 - 9:39 PM:

MM wrote:
We don't 'have' moral values like we 'have' a bad back or a club foot or a lazy eye. We don't possess moral values like a car, a house, or beloved pet.

the verb "to have" has a lot of meanings that don't indicate literal possession. case in point, i just used it in the preceding sentence. how can a word "have" meanings?

MM wrote:
Why the concept of possession is misleading here is because it implies that moral values are something external to axiological agents, that they are something an agent can discover and pick up, like an element of nature.

i don't think it implies that at all, any more than saying you have time on your hands implies that time is something an agent can discover and pick up like an element of nature.

MM wrote:
In fact, while empathy for sentience is a good starting point for acting with compassion, it is a poor ground for moral judgment because it lacks clear and thorough objectivity.

what exactly is clear and thorough objectivity, and do you know of any beings that "have" it?

MM wrote:
lib, do you think that we can have a moral relationship to the ecosystem or environment?

if a person feels empathy with the environment and regards the environment as a sentient being, and does things the person feels will be appreciated by the environment, then sure, i'd say the person has a moral relationship with the environment.

how about you, what are your thoughts?
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#92 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/10/09 - 12:59 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

the verb "to have" has a lot of meanings...


Fine fine. Its not worth arguing about any further.


libertygrl wrote:

what exactly is clear and thorough objectivity, and do you know of any beings that "have" it?


A clear and thorough objectivity would be a rule that is not dependent on the ever-changing feelings of some sentient being, but rather, that is grounded in some fundamental rule of logic or derived from a law of nature--something that (at least to us) appears unchanging, or unchangeable by the whim of sentient beings. The speed of light, for instance, isn't dependent on the feelings of sentient beings, but is backed up by testing and mathematics, which are grounded in rules, and ultimately, logic.

An objectivity in values is also something that is applied consistently across the entire value domain (as defined). Empathy, however, varies from person to person in a wide range of degrees.


libertygrl wrote:

if a person feels empathy with the environment and regards the environment as a sentient being, and does things the person feels will be appreciated by the environment, then sure, i'd say the person has a moral relationship with the environment.

how about you, what are your thoughts?


My view:

The relationship of an axiological agent to value is one of actor to principle. Axiological agents do not, strictly speaking, have moral relationships to other beings, even other axiological agents. Their relationships may be given a moral (value) context, yes, but the relationships themselves are just what they are--facts about how the beings interact.

What an axiological agent does have a relationship with is an ideal: The value standard.

This is why even outside of a social context individual axiological agents can still behave morally--because they are still subject to the same moral ideal, which they themselves instantiate, project, and uphold.

Now what that ideal demands of the agent depends on how it is defined and to which ends and goals it is aligned. But I think it is clear that the demands can include rules that govern not only how the agent responds to social situations, but to ecological situations. Such responses could be driven out of a basic need to preserve one's own life (or the life/good of the tribe), or they might be driven out of a purely aesthetic value (to preserve beauty), or some other.

so in short, yes, I believe that it is perfectly consistent to construct a 'land-ethic' that places the good of the ecosystem as the primary moral value.

Or, to put it another way, I don't see that 'the good of the tribe/society/other people' is the only necessary moral context, or only one possible for an axiological agent. It may be one we all tend towards, but it is, in the end, only one choice of many.

8)
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#93 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 02/15/09 - 9:20 PM:

How much of what we did when we were born do we do now? Eat? sorry we were fed. Cry? No, at least not as much. Dress or Undress? if we dare to do what then, surely we should be in a mad house. So what else? Sleep? yes, more or less we do only this, as we did when born.

Why does a girl blush the same way whether in timbacktu or california? Why do we laugh as we do and why do we cry as we do? And why do we do it in the very same way where were we are and what ever be our creed or colour? Why does the rose always smells good and why does a drain stink? Well we might explain here as result of some olfactory system? But then why does a stink stinks and why does the rose smell always so god. Does rose smell the same for animals? And how do you know whether it smells the same as it does to me? How come a dog smells more and can even track?

Why is it for all normal, Red is always red and blue always blue? We feel, we see and we smell very similar and all is inborn. we never learn to smell good or bad. So is the MORAL VALUES ALSO INHERENT?

Why is the cow always a vegetarian? what if the cow can think? May be then it will think why only Grass? Why not a dog? And why is a dog always faithful? innate or conditioned?

Is it possible that such a vast universe and may be beyond is expanding without any real purpose? Or is it that the unknown purpose is why the creator is doing what he does and that is why we are all here. May be we are all here destined to perform as destined. If so then surely all moral values are innate and even if there are some changes later on, the change itself is destined and hence more or less innate.

No child learns, unless taught, the toilet lessons. But is it not true that we inherit lots of our values from our parents? or is it?

Well I am still searching for answers and may be when I get some of it I will be able to decide whether it is innate or conditioned. Till then no reply can satisfy me. That is my condition.

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