moral nihilism

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Channel72
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Channel72 » 2012-07-02 01:17pm

Darth Wong wrote:The worst side-effect of western individualistic culture is the idea that if morality is not purely objective or cosmic in origin, then it falls to each individual to make up his own morality. Does it not occur to anyone that there is a middle-ground between universal morality and individual morality?

Morality is an inherently social concept, and so the source of morality is bound to be society. The fact that a society can have bad moral values does not invalidate this idea; it just means that some societies' moral codes are counter-productive, and hence objectively inferior in that sense.
I like what you say in your first paragraph - morality is an inherently social concept. Each individual is a node in a network of individuals, and morality concerns the fitness of the network. The fitness of each individual node is a secondary concern, however the interests of the network and the interests of each node overlap substantially. I agree with this.

But, I'm not satisfied with your second paragraph. The fact that some societies have "bad moral values" seems to be problematic. The problem is more than just an abstract problem, as real-world extreme societies such as Nazi Germany actually exist. How do you consistently argue that one society which adopts a policy of genocide is "bad", if this policy is not counter-productive to the fitness of the "bad" society (e.g. perhaps committing genocide benefits the "bad" society substantially in terms of acquiring all the land and resources of the "victim" society)?

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Sarevok » 2012-07-02 01:51pm

As much as I loathe to say this hongi is absolutely correct if you do not believe in Allah. Without the power of god almighty there is no good or morality in the universe. There is no reason to care about anyone or anything but yourself. All the lame justifications I can see is do something because that something is good about society. Well society!=me. As long as one dont get caught anything is fair game. Other than feeling bad there is no reason to maximise self benifit at the expense of others. Heck even feeling bad is questionable because under insane atheistic worldview a person is as alive as a rock. There is no difference than smashing a piece of rock and a human skull because they are both same bunch of chemicals and atoms.

*vomits for typing the above*

But yes truth is if you apply logic the kind of extremist transhuman logics like our banned posters expoused is quite correct. We banned them because they were sentimental but their logic was rather correct.
I have to tell you something everything I wrote above is a lie.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-02 01:59pm

Channel72 wrote:
Darth Wong wrote:The worst side-effect of western individualistic culture is the idea that if morality is not purely objective or cosmic in origin, then it falls to each individual to make up his own morality. Does it not occur to anyone that there is a middle-ground between universal morality and individual morality?

Morality is an inherently social concept, and so the source of morality is bound to be society. The fact that a society can have bad moral values does not invalidate this idea; it just means that some societies' moral codes are counter-productive, and hence objectively inferior in that sense.
I like what you say in your first paragraph - morality is an inherently social concept. Each individual is a node in a network of individuals, and morality concerns the fitness of the network. The fitness of each individual node is a secondary concern, however the interests of the network and the interests of each node overlap substantially. I agree with this.

But, I'm not satisfied with your second paragraph. The fact that some societies have "bad moral values" seems to be problematic. The problem is more than just an abstract problem, as real-world extreme societies such as Nazi Germany actually exist. How do you consistently argue that one society which adopts a policy of genocide is "bad", if this policy is not counter-productive to the fitness of the "bad" society (e.g. perhaps committing genocide benefits the "bad" society substantially in terms of acquiring all the land and resources of the "victim" society)?
Sorry, I should have elaborated: just as one can argue that (as a general rule) organisms prefer pleasure over pain, it is reasonable (despite apparent exceptions) to say that societies prefer prosperity over self-destruction. Ergo, moral values which lead to the decline and fall of a society can be classified as "counter-productive".

Contrary to popular belief drawn from movies, ruthless evil does not always beget victory. In fact, one can easily tie the Nazis' defeat to their moral values: their incredibly ruthless treatment of the Ukrainians, for example, eliminated the possibility of co-operation from people who might have actually been relieved to be released from the yoke of Stalin.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-02 02:02pm

Sarevok wrote:As much as I loathe to say this hongi is absolutely correct if you do not believe in Allah. Without the power of god almighty there is no good or morality in the universe. There is no reason to care about anyone or anything but yourself. All the lame justifications I can see is do something because that something is good about society. Well society!=me. As long as one dont get caught anything is fair game. Other than feeling bad there is no reason to maximise self benifit at the expense of others. Heck even feeling bad is questionable because under insane atheistic worldview a person is as alive as a rock. There is no difference than smashing a piece of rock and a human skull because they are both same bunch of chemicals and atoms.

*vomits for typing the above*
Are you being serious when you spout this idiotic bullshit, or are you mocking the stupidity of Muslims and Christians who can't understand the evolutionary origins of morality as sympathy, which in turn is a Stone Age social pack-animal survival instinct?
But yes truth is if you apply logic the kind of extremist transhuman logics like our banned posters expoused is quite correct. We banned them because they were sentimental but their logic was rather correct.
It sure sounds like you're one of those fucking morons who doesn't understand the evolution of sympathy.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by General Zod » 2012-07-02 02:04pm

Sarevok wrote:As much as I loathe to say this hongi is absolutely correct if you do not believe in Allah. Without the power of god almighty there is no good or morality in the universe. There is no reason to care about anyone or anything but yourself. All the lame justifications I can see is do something because that something is good about society. Well society!=me. As long as one dont get caught anything is fair game. Other than feeling bad there is no reason to maximise self benifit at the expense of others. Heck even feeling bad is questionable because under insane atheistic worldview a person is as alive as a rock. There is no difference than smashing a piece of rock and a human skull because they are both same bunch of chemicals and atoms.

*vomits for typing the above*

But yes truth is if you apply logic the kind of extremist transhuman logics like our banned posters expoused is quite correct. We banned them because they were sentimental but their logic was rather correct.
Do you feel you should be able to choose what you do and what happens to you? Do you place value on your ability to make a choice? If you think through it for more than 30 seconds you can form a moral framework based on things like the ability to make a choice. By murdering someone, or stealing, or raping them you deprive them of their ability to choose. Following through on that, how do you justify the ability to deny someone else's choice? What makes it acceptable? Toss in some basic empathy and you have a reasonably functional system of morality, albeit kind of half-assed.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Questor » 2012-07-02 02:17pm

DW, Zod, what Sarevok is doing is following the concept of solipsism to its logical conclusions.

Solipsism has its uses, particularly in describing thought and the development of reasoning and the description of certain types of mental illness, but attempting to construct an ethical system around solipsism is doomed to fail.

Without using the proper name, (which I admit I had to google for) solipsism is a common accusation from the extremely religious against athiests and agnostics. They will also frequently claim that anyone with an ethical system must believe in god.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Questor » 2012-07-02 02:25pm

Edit: I have no idea of he's trolling or not.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-02 03:22pm

Questor wrote:DW, Zod, what Sarevok is doing is following the concept of solipsism to its logical conclusions.

Solipsism has its uses, particularly in describing thought and the development of reasoning and the description of certain types of mental illness, but attempting to construct an ethical system around solipsism is doomed to fail.

Without using the proper name, (which I admit I had to google for) solipsism is a common accusation from the extremely religious against athiests and agnostics. They will also frequently claim that anyone with an ethical system must believe in god.
The problem with solipsism is that it presumes that (knowledge|morality) can only come from sources deemed "absolute", and that anything less than "absolute" knowledge or moral authority is worthless. This is kindergarten-level philosophy, derived from the childhood belief that your parents are absolute authorities on everything and that nothing less will do.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Questor » 2012-07-02 04:07pm

Solipsism postulates that nothing outside the self exists at all. It's a useful philosophical construct, as it is the simplest postulate possible, cannot be refuted, but also cannot be defended. If you take it to it's extremes and build a ethical system around the idea that you are the only thing that exists, you get something rather disturbing.

I'd argue that authoritative moral and ethical systems are at least one step less fundamental than solipsism, in that they also postulate, at a minimum, that the outside power exists.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Sarevok » 2012-07-02 04:19pm

So the entire arguement against solopism is it is not cool/hip (as exemplified by DWs kindergarten comment)? Basically like saying ipods are inferior because hipsters use it instead of stating technical facts on why it is inferior.
I have to tell you something everything I wrote above is a lie.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by General Zod » 2012-07-02 04:21pm

Sarevok wrote:So the entire arguement against solopism is it is not cool/hip (as exemplified by DWs kindergarten comment)? Basically like saying ipods are inferior because hipsters use it instead of stating technical facts on why it is inferior.
What evidence would you accept as proof that something exists outside of the self? Or have you even thought it through that much?
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Questor » 2012-07-02 04:26pm

No, the argument against solipsism is that it's not an ethical system, but a philosophical concept that can be used to build an ethical system. The argument against that ethical system is that it is reprehensible.

Do you acknowledge that things outside yourself exist? Is your ethical system based on the idea that only you exist?

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-02 04:54pm

Questor wrote:Solipsism postulates that nothing outside the self exists at all.
Not precisely; it actually says that you cannot know that anything exists outside the self, and it arrives at this conclusion by employing the reasoning that anything less than absolute knowledge is worthless. Since the only thing you can know with absolute certainty is that you exist yourself, the false dichotomy between "absolute knowledge" and "no knowledge at all" is the philosophical under-pinning of solipsism.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by hongi » 2012-07-02 05:34pm

Darth Wong wrote: Sorry, I should have elaborated: just as one can argue that (as a general rule) organisms prefer pleasure over pain, it is reasonable (despite apparent exceptions) to say that societies prefer prosperity over self-destruction. Ergo, moral values which lead to the decline and fall of a society can be classified as "counter-productive".

Contrary to popular belief drawn from movies, ruthless evil does not always beget victory. In fact, one can easily tie the Nazis' defeat to their moral values: their incredibly ruthless treatment of the Ukrainians, for example, eliminated the possibility of co-operation from people who might have actually been relieved to be released from the yoke of Stalin.
Does it strike anyone else as a bit strange that 'do not be ruthlessly evil to your conquered subjects because it'll be harmful to you in the long run' is a good defense for not being ruthlessly evil? Isn't that rather selfish? It may very well be the case that this is the sort of moral logic that underlies our actions, but we don't normally and explictly set out our moral choices in terms of how it benefits me, do we?

I think it's doubtful to tie the Nazi's success or defeat to their morality. Sure their morality of helping the self at the expense of others bought them a few enemies among their conquered subjects, but that could just prove that they weren't careful enough in their application of ruthlessness. I'm not sure it says anything about ruthlessness itself.
General Zod wrote: The point is that if your system of ethics is consistent it won't matter how contrived the situation is.
Exactly.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Questor » 2012-07-02 06:01pm

Darth Wong wrote:
Questor wrote:Solipsism postulates that nothing outside the self exists at all.
Not precisely; it actually says that you cannot know that anything exists outside the self, and it arrives at this conclusion by employing the reasoning that anything less than absolute knowledge is worthless. Since the only thing you can know with absolute certainty is that you exist yourself, the false dichotomy between "absolute knowledge" and "no knowledge at all" is the philosophical under-pinning of solipsism.
I'll admit that it's been a while, but I remember it being stronger than that. Looking it up, what i remember seems to correspond with "Metaphysical Solipsism" - WikiWarning, but there do seem to be softer versions which focus on the duality you mention.

Solipsism doesn't seem like that useful a construct if you say "I don't know if the world outside myself exists, so for the sake of argument - and simply not being an asshole - I'll assume it does." That just ends up with no functional difference between solipsism and any other idea.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-02 06:04pm

hongi wrote:
Darth Wong wrote:Sorry, I should have elaborated: just as one can argue that (as a general rule) organisms prefer pleasure over pain, it is reasonable (despite apparent exceptions) to say that societies prefer prosperity over self-destruction. Ergo, moral values which lead to the decline and fall of a society can be classified as "counter-productive".

Contrary to popular belief drawn from movies, ruthless evil does not always beget victory. In fact, one can easily tie the Nazis' defeat to their moral values: their incredibly ruthless treatment of the Ukrainians, for example, eliminated the possibility of co-operation from people who might have actually been relieved to be released from the yoke of Stalin.
Does it strike anyone else as a bit strange that 'do not be ruthlessly evil to your conquered subjects because it'll be harmful to you in the long run' is a good defense for not being ruthlessly evil? Isn't that rather selfish? It may very well be the case that this is the sort of moral logic that underlies our actions, but we don't normally and explictly set out our moral choices in terms of how it benefits me, do we?

I think it's doubtful to tie the Nazi's success or defeat to their morality. Sure their morality of helping the self at the expense of others bought them a few enemies among their conquered subjects, but that could just prove that they weren't careful enough in their application of ruthlessness. I'm not sure it says anything about ruthlessness itself.
Even the Nazis did not worship selfishness itself as an ideal; their military machine, for example, ran on individual sacrifice for the greater "good" of their society. Without it, the citizens would not have accepted the harsh rationing and other measures that were used to build the German war machine.

There is no society which can actually embrace selfishness as an ideal and succeed. The Nazis would not have even gotten as far as they did without at least an internal ethic of co-operation.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by hongi » 2012-07-02 06:16pm

General Zod wrote: Do you feel you should be able to choose what you do and what happens to you? Do you place value on your ability to make a choice? If you think through it for more than 30 seconds you can form a moral framework based on things like the ability to make a choice. By murdering someone, or stealing, or raping them you deprive them of their ability to choose. Following through on that, how do you justify the ability to deny someone else's choice? What makes it acceptable? Toss in some basic empathy and you have a reasonably functional system of morality, albeit kind of half-assed.
Valuing your ability to choose doesn't necessarily mean that you value other people's ability to choose. Many people value their ability to choose over and above another person's ability to choose, even to the extent of reducing that person's ability to choose. For example, parents often override the desires of their children. Heck, what makes that acceptable?

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by General Zod » 2012-07-02 06:24pm

hongi wrote:
General Zod wrote: Do you feel you should be able to choose what you do and what happens to you? Do you place value on your ability to make a choice? If you think through it for more than 30 seconds you can form a moral framework based on things like the ability to make a choice. By murdering someone, or stealing, or raping them you deprive them of their ability to choose. Following through on that, how do you justify the ability to deny someone else's choice? What makes it acceptable? Toss in some basic empathy and you have a reasonably functional system of morality, albeit kind of half-assed.
Valuing your ability to choose doesn't necessarily mean that you value other people's ability to choose. Many people value their ability to choose over and above another person's ability to choose, even to the extent of reducing that person's ability to choose. For example, parents often override the desires of their children. Heck, what makes that acceptable?
That wasn't an attempt at arguing your babbling, that was just an attempt at giving an example of how you could have a moral system without some kind of belief in a higher power.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Questor » 2012-07-02 06:43pm

hongi wrote:
General Zod wrote: Do you feel you should be able to choose what you do and what happens to you? Do you place value on your ability to make a choice? If you think through it for more than 30 seconds you can form a moral framework based on things like the ability to make a choice. By murdering someone, or stealing, or raping them you deprive them of their ability to choose. Following through on that, how do you justify the ability to deny someone else's choice? What makes it acceptable? Toss in some basic empathy and you have a reasonably functional system of morality, albeit kind of half-assed.
Valuing your ability to choose doesn't necessarily mean that you value other people's ability to choose. Many people value their ability to choose over and above another person's ability to choose, even to the extent of reducing that person's ability to choose. For example, parents often override the desires of their children. Heck, what makes that acceptable?
You know, the great philosophers have been thinking about this stuff for the last couple thousand years. Why don't you try to frame your argument in a way that doesn't come off as the whining of a teenager who doesn't understand why they have been told they can't do something. "And it all comes down to whoever can enforce their morality." can certainly be parsed as "Might makes right." would that be something you'd agree with? Can I do anything I want to you as long as I'm big enough and powerful (in all senses of the word) enough to get away with it?

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Darth Wong » 2012-07-02 06:44pm

The whole idea of "validating" moral values by passing them through a belief in a higher power is absolutely idiotic. The argument is that you cannot just choose moral values, and you need to defer to some "higher authority". But you choose the higher authority, because religious faith is voluntary. Therefore, the "higher power" is nothing more than an intellectual middle-man. You are still ultimately choosing your moral values when you get them from a religion.

Social morality gives us moral coercion, and evolution gives us moral instinct. Religious or "individual" morality are both prone to bullshit.
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Simon_Jester » 2012-07-02 07:26pm

There's a question I find interesting, which nobody thought to ask Hongi:
hongi wrote:...There is no rulebook to appeal to that would justify a person's saying that Stalin's morality was wrong, and theirs was the right one. That is my belief.

...I don't believe in objective morality, one that is handed down by God or imprinted into the Universe or engrained in us by evolution. Nor do I believe we can find an objective morality via the means of science or philosophy. Because I don't believe objective morality exists at all...
Why not? Why do you believe those things? Why do you believe them, instead of some other different things?
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by hongi » 2012-07-02 08:18pm

Simon_Jester wrote:There's a question I find interesting, which nobody thought to ask Hongi:
hongi wrote:...There is no rulebook to appeal to that would justify a person's saying that Stalin's morality was wrong, and theirs was the right one. That is my belief.

...I don't believe in objective morality, one that is handed down by God or imprinted into the Universe or engrained in us by evolution. Nor do I believe we can find an objective morality via the means of science or philosophy. Because I don't believe objective morality exists at all...
Why not? Why do you believe those things? Why do you believe them, instead of some other different things?
Thanks for asking that. The short and simple answer is I don't know. I can't tell you the process that lead up to me believing in moral nihilism as true, but I'm convinced it was an organic process. I've been looking back at my old posts when I was doing apologetics debates, and I'm surprised by how similar I am now to myself as a kid.

At the time, I was outraged by Christian defenses of genocide. I still am. But that outrage, I think now, is at an intuitive level. Killing people for their race or religious beliefs is wrong. I didn't need any other explanation than that. And no one ever asked me why genocide was wrong. But if someone did, I truly wonder how I would have responded. It's one of those things that I really want to ask my younger self, just to see what my response would have been.

My memory isn't good enough to determine when exactly I started to become a moral relativist and a moral nihilist. It definitely had something to do with the apologetics debates I was in. But it wasn't one single book or a single event. The whole atheist vs theist debate forced me to think about morality deeply and in ways that I wouldn't have otherwise. Atheists may have been the ones to introduce me to moral relativism or maybe I picked it up while I was exploring how to defeat divine command theory. I think I met moral nihilists as well then. And their arguments struck me on an intuitive and intellectual level as correct. I'm pretty sure by the time I was 15, I believed much the same things as I do now.
Questor wrote:
You know, the great philosophers have been thinking about this stuff for the last couple thousand years. Why don't you try to frame your argument in a way that doesn't come off as the whining of a teenager who doesn't understand why they have been told they can't do something. "And it all comes down to whoever can enforce their morality." can certainly be parsed as "Might makes right." would that be something you'd agree with? Can I do anything I want to you as long as I'm big enough and powerful (in all senses of the word) enough to get away with it?
When I say that you can kill me, I mean that in one sense you have the ability to do all sorts of things to me. You could very likely kill me if you have the inclination to. But that's just a description of your physical capacity to kill me. You have the weapons, you have the intention, these all combine to say that you can kill me.

In another sense, it's about whether it's legally appropriate for you to kill me. The answer is yes and no. If you have good reason, like I was coming after you with a gun, then it'd be self defense.

In yet another sense, it's about whether I give you permission to kill me. I wouldn't give you permission right now. Maybe on another day.

Provisionally, so in some senses, yes you can do whatever you want to me. In other respects, no you can't.

It's partly because I like reading philosophy that I'm thinking about these issues. I made this thread in the first place so that my opinions have a chance to grow and reform. I want someone to prove me wrong.
Last edited by hongi on 2012-07-02 08:27pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Thanas » 2012-07-02 08:25pm

So in essence, your morality can be summed up as follows:
a) everythng is relative
b) there are no absolute evils
How is there any system to it and how can it serve as a guideline at all? Also, why do you reject objectivism in favor of subjectivism?
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hongi
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by hongi » 2012-07-02 08:33pm

Thanas wrote:So in essence, your morality can be summed up as follows:
a) everythng is relative
b) there are no absolute evils
How is there any system to it and how can it serve as a guideline at all? Also, why do you reject objectivism in favor of subjectivism?
To be completely accurate, that's not my morality. That's my view on the true state of the world. It's a description, like 'the sky is blue'. Morality is relative. There are no absolute evils. On the other thread, I said that I don't think other people should believe what I believe, I think it might be disastrous. Who knows what some people might do?

My actual morality, the way I act and justify my actions as well as what I'd like the world to look like, is not very different from other people. Sometimes, my beliefs about reality do overlap with my own morality. I don't think we should illegalise 'barbaric' customs like circumcision for example.
Thanas wrote:Also, why do you reject objectivism in favor of subjectivism?
I don't find it convincing.

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Thanas
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Re: moral nihilism

Post by Thanas » 2012-07-02 08:37pm

Why not? You write:
If you're wondering, this means that I don't believe rape and murder and pedophilia and the Holocaust and torture are objectively wrong.
I'll just use the holocaust example. Under what objective criteria was it a positive thing to do?
Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
------------
A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood
------------
My LPs

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