Posts Tagged ‘relativity’

understanding metaphorical parables like the tree of life, the eyes to see and the ears to hear

April 12, 2012
This image depicts the Tree of Life derived fr...

This image depicts the Tree of Life derived from the Flower of Life. Created by sloth_monkey 11:48, 4 November 2006 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cover of "How Language Works"

Cover of How Language Works

Language is amazing. In fact, life is amazing and language is just one of the many amazing parts of life.

If life was like a tree, then we could say that there are stages in the growth of the tree of life. At one point, there may be exactly one trunk with exactly two limbs. Then, at a later point in the development of the tree of life, there might be several limbs, like spreading out in radiating circle from the trunk, right? The two original limbs are still there, not gone, but later there can be additional limbs beyond the original two.

Now, if language was was like a tree, then we could say that language can be divided in to two distinct categories: good language and bad language. Or, we could say that there is proper language and improper language. We could even say that there is proper pronunciation and improper pronunciation. Or we could say that, when babies make sounds, there are sounds of language and sounds of gibberish or nonsense.

Here is an example of another kind of gibberish: no anti-negativity metaphors understanding ears hearing eyes seeing tree life understanding nonsense literal interpretations could bee impossible 42ds53hsf FIVE. So, that was mostly a sequence of recognizable words of the English language, but stuck together in a way that is not especially meaningful, similar to a sequence of numbers like 1240834034. Those are real alphanumeric digits, but that is about all that is identifiable about them, right?

Video: Neva takes up gibberish

Video: Neva takes up gibberish (Photo credit: JasonUnbound)

However, language can be very meaningful. Language allows us to divide life in to categories. We could divide like in to exactly two categories, such as either “proper or improper” as in either “good or evil.” Those would be binary dichotomies of contrasting duality.

For thousands of years, people could have been attempting to point out that language can create exclusive binary categories as well as one-dimensional spectrums. For instance, language can create a categorization of “either only good or only evil,” yet language can also create categories of relativity, like “exactly how good or bad.”

I could say that eating apples is good and eating live bees is bad. I could say that eating fuji apples is best and eating allergic bees is worst. I could say that eating rotten apples is actually not so good and eating a tiny bee larvae accidentally in a honeycomb is really not so bad.

Adam and Eve by Albrecht Dürer (1507) given by...

Adam and Eve by Albrecht Dürer (1507) given by Christina of Sweden to King Philip IV in 1654. taken from http://www.owenbarfield.com/Images/Paintings/Durer%20Adam%20and%20Eve.jpg see also: http://museoprado.mcu.es/iadan_eva.html (links no longer work, see below) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That would be a one-dimensional spectrum: a relative range between good and bad. So, first there is only good or only evil, which is a binary dualism or dichotomy. That is the first stage in the development of language. Later, there can be spectrums of relativity in language, like brightness, loudness, height, weight, and so on.

We all know that the linguistic construction of “4 pounds” is not inherently better in any particular way than “400 pounds.” We can say mathematically that 400 is 100 times as much as 4, but are we talking about pounds of silver, British Pounds, pounds of body weight, pounds of payload on an airplane or what? That is just a spectrum.

Similarly, linguistic constructions of morality can occur as binary dichotomies of either only good or only evil. Or, they can occur as spectrums of relative value or morality. There could be perhaps 5 distinct ranges in language of moral relativity: morally repugnant, morally unfavorable, morally questionable, morally favorable, and morally excellent.

Could there be 4 categories of moral value or 10? Sure! There is no single “correct” number of moral categories.

Eating Shiva

Eating Shiva (Photo credit: Mirror | imaging reality)

For a child, two categories are how we begin to develop discernment, like the most basic distinction between right and wrong or acceptable and unacceptable or rewarded and punished. Later, we develop discrimination, like assessing between several different alternatives.  Eventually, we recognize that context matters and moral values can change.

We might not wear the same clothes to a wedding or funeral that we would wear to a beach or in the privacy of our own home. That gets in to the issue of discretion and etiquette and so on.

It is not immoral to wear a tuxedo to the beach, but it would be unusual and perhaps inappropriate. However,  someone could have a wedding at a beach and then wearing a tuxedo on the beach at the wedding would not be so unusual.

All values or norms are relative. Relative to what? To social context. In other words, “context is decisive.”

So, along come some wise people who realize that a lot of folks are not clear about what works and how language works. So, they use some metaphors like “the tree of life” to explain how something can have exactly two distinct branches, but then later can have 5 or 6 branches, and later can have dozens of branches spreading in lots of directions.

Linguistic categories can form various numbers of categories. For an infant, it is enough to know “good” and “bad.” As a child grows, they learn to discriminate between several alternatives- not just two- and they can dress themselves and be trusted to pick clothes that not only match the weather, but with each item of clothing matching all of the others. They learn discernment and discrimination and eventually even discretion.

Of course, it would be fruitless to try to explain this to an infant. They do not have the linguistic complexity or intelligence to be familiar with “big words” like distinction and discernment and discrimination and discretion.

In fact, before those particular words existed, wise people could not just use those words. They had to use stories and examples and metaphors and parables- even silly parables.

They said things like “do not get bogged down in categorizing everything as either good or evil. That is a low level of knowledge or comprehension or maturity or intelligence. However, do not discard those categories either. Those categories are valid and useful. Just go beyond fanaticism and fundamentalism and learn to appreciate all of life and even how and why various things are good or evil. First, children just learn to repeat the categorizations they are trained to identify in regard to what actions are good and what is evil or bad or dangerous. Later, someone can learn WHY and WHEN and HOW those actions fit or not. They can learn of the relativism of all things, as referenced in this ancient scripture:”

1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

http://bible.cc/ecclesiastes/3-1.htm

They can learn of scriptures like this:

Romans 14:14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced 

 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself,
but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean
//bible.cc/romans/14-14.htm – 17k

Mark 7:18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing 

 Don’t you know that nothing that goes into a person from the outside can
make him unclean Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand? 
//bible.cc/mark/7-18.htm – 17k

They can learn also of these radical statements of “moral relativism.”

Titus 1:15 To the pureall things are pure, but to those who are 

To the pureall things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe,
nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 
//bible.cc/titus/1-15.htm – 17k

Romans 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. 

 All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 
All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eats with offense. 
//bible.cc/romans/14-20.htm – 17k

Romans 14:2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

Here is a much older scripture than those of the old or new testament:

Good and evil of this world of duality are unreal,
are spoken of by words, and exist only in the mind.”
– Bhagavatam, XI, ch. XXII.

Here is a rather recent comment, which even if a frightening and challenging idea for some people, it may reflect the actual experience of many actual people.

“…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Shakespeare (spoken by the character Hamlet).

John 8:15 ”You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.” (Jesus speaking to the orthodox religious leaders)

The one who judges other seeks to glorify himself. (See John 8:50)

“Judge not. Condemn not. Resist not evil. Turn away from evil. Remove the obstruction from your own perception before go poking around in other people’s perception. Yo, chill out, player. Have mercy on their innocent mistaken presumptions, like for your own good, baby, just forgive them and be responsible and clear, clean, open, humble, meek, godly, holy, perfect, pure, dignified. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!”

For those who have the capacity to understand these metaphors in language, let them understand. For those who have the ears to hear beyond their own confusion and fanaticism and fear and idealism, let them hear. For those who have the eyes to see beyond their own arrogance and shame and blame, let them see.

Ezekiel 12:2 “Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people 

“Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but
do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people. 
//bible.cc/ezekiel/12-2.htm – 16k

Deuteronomy 29:4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind 

 But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to
understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. 
//bible.cc/deuteronomy/29-4.htm – 15k

Romans 11:8 as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor 

 just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO
SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY 
//bible.cc/romans/11-8.htm – 17k

Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your 

 Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. 
//bible.cc/psalms/119-18.htm – 15k

Isaiah 43:8 Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf.


Jeremiah 5:21 Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear:


Ezekiel 2:7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.

Matthew 13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.


Matthew 13:14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.


Mark 4:12 so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'”


Mark 8:18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?


Luke 8:10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’


John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”


John 12:40 “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.”


Acts 28:26 “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

<< Ecclesiastes 3 >>
King James Version

1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

http://kingjbible.com/ecclesiastes/3.htm

Arbre de la vida

Arbre de la vida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ernst Haeckel's "tree of life", Darw...

Ernst Haeckel’s “tree of life”, Darwin’s metaphorical description of the pattern of universal common descent made literal by his greatest popularizer in the German scientific world. This is the English version of Ernst Haeckel’s tree from the The Evolution of Man (Published 1879), one of several depictions of a tree of life by Haeckel. “Man” is at the crown of the tree; for Haeckel, as for many early evolutionists, humans were considered the pinnacle of evolution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

morality over legality

morality over legality (Photo credit: GoatChild)

morality over legality (Photo credit: GoatChild)

why I do not believe in the existence of atheists

March 29, 2012

Below is a dialogue between myself and Mark Newbrook, “resident” Linguist of Skeptical Humanities (as of a few weeks ago): http://skepticalhumanities.com/

http://skepticalhumanities.com/2012/03/01/introducing-our-new-contributor-linguist-mark-newbrook/

http://skepticalhumanities.com/2012/03/01/im-very-pleased-to-be-a-new-contributor-to-skeptical-humanities

Major levels of linguistic structure

Major levels of linguistic structure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This dialogue emerged from my recent post linked below, with Mark’s original comment (not interspersed with my reply) posted at this link: https://jrfibonacci.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/language-can-form-anything-the-new-realm-of-possibility-or-kingdom-of-heaven/#comment-3176

…It is claimed here that language means nothing and never will mean anything.
It is claimed where? Let’s imagine that someone did claim exactly what you stated. Wouldn’t it be self-evident as nonsense and thus inspire no further comment?
Given my deep appreciation for parody, let’s imagine that I may have said “language does not mean anything.” If I were to say something so obviously absurd, such as “this sentence is not an instance of language,” that might only be for the “philosophical” point of playfully demonstrating the absurdity of the issue.
Of course language has meaning. For instance, one obvious definition would be that language means “symbolic codes for directing the attention and behavior of other humans.”
However, what I may have written (and I also reserve the right to make innocent typographical mistakes), is that no particular symbolic code has any particular meaning. The same word can denote a few very different things or a multitude of not very related things, and that is just denotation- not even connotation.
The mere fact that there is such a thing as connotation (as well as “secret codes”) points to the fundamental reality of language: the meaning is not in the words themselves. The meaning is in the social context in which the words arise- not just in the context of syntax, but of non-linguistic social “cues.”
From sounds, language arises. However, the mere fact that it is possible NOT to be fluent in a particular language is prima facie evidence that the language itself inherently means nothing. Only in a particular social context can language arise, and the social context DEFINES the meaning of the language.
What do these shapes on this screen “mean” to my cat or my infant? Nothing at all.
What do these shapes on this screen “mean” to you? Something very specific!
Language is amazing. In fact, it is so amazing that I titled this video that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoBIYEqiRDA
Now, is this supposed to be news to linguists or anyone else? Of course not. It is self-evident. Everyone knows from direct experience that language is amazing and that social contexts define the meaning of language, like “I love you” can be spoken with several different tones that all communicate different WAYS OF RELATING, such as the soothing “oh, sweetie, I love you” and the apologetic “Really, I love you” and the defensive “hey, I love you, alright?” and the longing, manipulative “but, but…. I love you!”
Actually, it is all manipulative. Language is manipulating. That is what it is for- at least in the broad sense of manipulating as influencing or re-organziing.
So, I state the obvious not to inform you of something new, but to establish a particular context or way of relating.  Now, let’s explore from here together, given that what we have been doing all along is self-evidently nothing more than that.
English Language and Linguistics

English Language and Linguistics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  Subject to the major issues regarding how the term nothing is being used here, this viewpoint is, of course, contrary to prevailing opinion both popular and academic (the latter including both linguists and philosophers), and thus needs to be justified at this point. Indeed, it might be suggested that if language ‘means nothing’ it cannot itself be used to say anything useful.  And, while – as is proclaimed here (albeit in somewhat strange wording) – language can be seen as ‘a sequence of codes for the directing of attention’, it is generally taken as obvious that language has other functions and aspects in addition to this.
Such as? I challenge you to name one instance of language that is not directing my attention to whatever alleged instance of language you might name.
You could say that language is the moving of attention or the motion of intelligence or the activity of consciousness, but all that would be a trivial variation on the other statement. You can say that “unconscious linguistic events” do not qualify as “directing attention,” but that is limiting the verb “directing” to its transitive case only, which is not the only possible meaning.
Within language, it is accepted here that different words and letters are distinct.  (The use of the term letters seems to betray a folk-linguistic starting-point; a writer with knowledge of linguistics would instead talk here primarily of phonemes.)
…perhaps unless writing for an audience that may lack a knowledge of the formal lexicon of non-folk linguistics. Whatever, though…. Or are you unplayfully applying the standards of a academic linguistics journal to a non-academic linguistics journal internet blog entry?
  But these words and letters are all seen as variations on ‘nothing’ (this raises the above-mentioned issues regarding this term); and, while they do possess meaning (this apparently contradicts what is said earlier), this supposedly arises only ‘through perception’. Concepts are identified as ‘linguistic formations’ arising ‘out of nothing’, which is ‘the capacity for linguistic formations to simply happen by themselves’.  Like individual words and ‘letters’, each specific language is distinct, being seen as ‘a specific set of distinct, isolated formations’ – and is ‘finite’, in contrast with ‘language itself’ which is ‘infinite’; it is not clear how the terms finite and especially infinite are to be understood here.  And boundaries between languages are, again, seen as different manifestations of ‘nothing’.  I find the conceptualising obscure at this point, and it is difficult to comment helpfully.
What if all concepts are inherently obscure and only so precise? What if the spectrum ranging between precision and obscurity is one which language can never escape?
Further, returning to the issue of language as a utilitarian (or “useful”) phenomenon, what if directing attention does not require any more precision than actually “required?” What if, upon the fulfillment of whatever amount of clarity is deemed subjectively “enough,” the activity of language simply ceases?
I add here brief comments on some specific points in later sections of the material.‘One language evolves into another, with perhaps an entire family of languages being similar to each other’While essentially ‘along the right lines’, this claim apparently mixes diachronic and synchronic points and needs to be clarified.  (The term evolve is also contentious here.)
I admit that in the case in point, I was just synchronicalizing mixtures of diachronology. Okay, I might have just made up those words, but apparently you made up synchronic and diachronic first before I did because, when I see those words, I instantly recognize that they are synonyms for harmeronomic diaxophosphate, by which I mean slightly unfamilair to me.
linguistics

linguistics (Photo credit: quinn.anya)

‘Languages mix and influence each other.  Languages may be called distinct, but the boundaries between them shift’Although the reference to shifting boundaries is obscurely expressed and perhaps mis-conceptualised, these general points are, of course, very familiar to linguists. 
This reminds me again of my clearly stated disclaimer at the beginning of the article: “this is written exclusively to professional full-time linguists, both of them.”
‘If the boundaries shift, then the boundaries are arbitrary. In fact, the alleged boundaries between various languages are alive, existing only through the declaration of language’This appears obscure.  There may be a good (if familiar) point in the former of these two sentences, though it needs to be much more clearly expressed; but the second sentence, as expressed, is very strange (what do alive and declaration mean here?).
Alive means changing or evolving. And that was a great question: what do these words actually MEAN?
My analogy is this: how many colors are there. Are there exactly 6 colors, as any 2 year old can tell you? Or, are there actually 24 different colors, as anyone 4 year old with the big yellow box can tell you? Or, are there any number of colors depending on however many distinct labels one chooses to categorize?
Language is categorizing. How many languages are there? 214? 32,915? That is a trivial question. Fundamentally, there is one language which is language itself.
The most famous poets of human history, such as Lao Tzu and Buddha and Abraham, have referenced the singularity of that universal meta-language by such labels as Logos, Tao, and even The Heavenly Father, through which “the world of subjective experience” is “created” by what method: speech!
Name one word that is not fundamentally just a word. Yahweh? YHWH? Jehovah?
No, those are all words, too- though those “words” are all references to something “subtler than all other concepts.” Linguists who do not comprehend “metaphysics” may be liars, insofar as metaphysics and linguistics could be two labels for the same- but wait, that simply could not be possible to have two labels or appellations or names or titles for the exact same pattern, right?
What if when ignorant translators translate some ancient Sanskrit phrase in to the English words “name and form” and then call it “Buddhist mystical metaphysics,” that is an ENTIRELY ARBITRARY way of relating to those Sanskrit terms, though of course an entirely valid way of interpreting them or labeling them or translating them or relating to them? Was the Buddha a linguist or not? Well, if the English word “linguist” had not been invented by the time of his life, then how could he have been a linguist? Maybe he is finally now a linguist, but only became a linguist within the last few sentences- not that I care, by the way- but that brings me back to the earlier question raised by our academic correspondent of what is meant by declaration: by declaration, I mean all instances of language, as in all instances of the directing of attention, including gestures or then again possibly not… 😉
Anyway, there was no such thing as a linguist until someone created the term “linguist” and then declared self-authoritatively themselves to be the apt target of such a label. “Linguist” is a totally arbitrary label like all labels of symbolic code, but many “academic” linguists may or may not pretend otherwise, even though they do not deny the self-evidence of any of it.
Before there was a linguist, there was language. Linguist is just an instance of language, as is “The Buddha” and “metaphysics” and “spiritual poetry” and “incurable diaxyphosphatitis.”
I am the author of language. Why? Because I said so.
Is it even true, though? Well, declarations in language are never exactly TRUE. They are just more or less USEFUL. Precision (aka “TRUTH”) is a spectrum invented in language and language never can get all the way to the end of a spectrum that only exists as a linguistic concept.
In other words, precision is just a relative term. In fact, because precision is just a relative term, all terms are just relative terms. Truth is just a relative term. Language is just a relative term. “Absolute” is, ironically, just a relative term.
In the ancient Hindu tradition of Advaita (“non-dualism”), the fundamental relativity of all terms of linguistic relating is relatively recognized as just one way of relating to the absolute relativity of all language, except of course for the word “joke,” which is actually not a word at all. 😉
‘Is Creole [= a particular creole language? (MN)] a language? Clearly it is entirely composed of other languages.  [Not necessarily the case. (MN)]  However, it is also not a dialect of any particular language. What is it? It is whatever it is called!’It is not clear that there is a genuine issue here regarding creoles as such.  There are relevant definitional-cum-philosophical issues at a more general level concerning the individuation of languages, the ‘language’-‘dialect’ distinction, etc.; but these are not rehearsed here.
Labelification is individuation. That was my point.
The fact is that “languages” is just a label and so is “dialects.” You can’t get away from the fact that all words are just symbolic categorical linguistic conceptualizations of individuation or division or duality. Beyond language is the non-duality called “nothing” by certain Buddhists, about which there is really not a lot that can be said, but then again, all language is an expression of that nothing and a labeling of that nothing and a directing of that nothing.
While quite contradictory, language is inherently contradictory. Or then again, maybe not. However, there either are or are not any instances of contra-diction except only in language. If language is not inherently contradictory, fine, then I take it back and contradict myself as if to demonstrate the point: language gives rise to the possibility of contradiction, not that it is at all important to point this out.
It may simply be a lot of fun. But that could be important, too, right?

‘Is there such a thing as “I” (“me”)? In many languages there is such a thing as “I” or similar concepts to the concept of “I.” However, “I” is fundamentally a concept, a construct of language, merely a thing. “I” is not itself fundamental (which is the ancient teaching called anatma).’

There, of course, are words meaning ‘I’ in all languages.  But it is not clear how significant linguistic facts of this kind might be for philosophical issues regarding the reality or otherwise of persons; as I have argued elsewhere, it is probably dangerous in a philosophical context to focus too heavily upon the ways in which ideas are expressed in specific languages – although this approach is common enough in mainstream ‘analytical’ philosophy.

What do you mean by the “reality or otherwise?” What are you talking about in reference to something besides reality?
“Person” is a real WORD. Isn’t that enough? Is it so dangerous for me to just come out and say what is self-evident? Next thing you know you are going to launch in to some obscure poetry about “nothing.” That would be very diaxyphoshate of you, sir!
 ‘Language is more fundamental than “I,” and nothing is more fundamental than language.’It is not clear what fundamental means here, or what this claim amounts to.

 

The same source presents https://jrfibonacci.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/maturing-beyond-sinfulness/.  This material again deals with some linguistic issues, this time in the context of an essentially religious discussion involving claims regarding souls, sin, etc.  Linguistics, as an empirical discipline, cannot be grounded in specific theological viewpoints; and as an atheist I would prefer not to engage in this context in discussion which assumes a religious stance that I do not share.

“Religion” is just a category of language. If you deny the existence of that particular category of language, that is entirely alright with me.
As a worshiper of Santa Claus, I would just like to state for the record, your honor, that there is no such thing as mythology or poetry or humor. Also, I do not believe in atheists. There is simply no such thing, by which I mean no such word.
 However: it is undoubtedly true, as is claimed here, that it is a conceptual error to mistake a piece of language, such as a word, for the item in the non-linguistic world to which it refers.  Like the well-known picture of a pipe by Magritte, the word pipe is not itself a pipe.  Some such conceptual errors are potentially damaging.  But the further claim that ‘belief in words is the root of all malice or ill will’ is not adequately defended and appears vastly overstated.
I completely agree. I furthermore assert that the hypocritical idiot who made such a ridiculously dramatic accusation was entirely precise in an “absolute truth” kind of way. Forthwith, the diachronic subjective experiential pattern of “malice” is completely unrelated to words, which are just ways of relating, and therefore do not exist, at least not in the absolute sense of the word. I arrest my case.
More credentials of Mark:
http://www.csicop.org/author/marknewbrook

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