Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
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24-06-2011, 10:55 AM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(23-06-2011 11:17 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  
(23-06-2011 05:56 PM)sy2502 Wrote:  
(23-06-2011 05:43 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  I think Absolute morality vs relative morality should not be confused with Universal vs cultural morality. They are very different concepts.
I was reading some of the comments and noticed that people use these terms interchangeably.

Then why don't you clear the air for us by explaining the difference? Smile

haha, true!
I think
Absolute Morality = morality that does not change over time. An action/attitude that was "right" years ago, is right now and will be forever.
Relative Morality = morality that changes over time. An action/attitude that was "right" years ago, might or might not be right now or in future.
Universal Morality = An action/attitude that is "right" everywhere and is independent of a culture or context.
Cultural Morality = An action/attitude that is "right" in one culture but is not right in another culture. (Which I think is similar to Cultural relativism)

Something can be universal but relative (And vice versa), and things can be cultural but absolute (and vice versa) and ....


what do you guys think? Am I wrong?

I don't see the reason for these distinction. Relative morality can be relative to a number of things. Relative in time (what was good 100 years ago isn't good now). Relative to individuals (what's good for John may not be good for Jill). Relative to cultures (what's good to a Muslim Middle Eastern may not be good to an American). These are all example of relative morality.

Relative: existing or having its specific nature only by relation to something else; not absolute or independent.

English is not my first language. If you think I am being mean, ask me. It could be just a wording problem.
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24-06-2011, 07:04 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
I think there is no 'absolute' anything - except maybe 0 - not even concepts much easier to nail down than morality. I mean, this is a great big nebulous cloud of an idea. Of course it's relative!
Moral systems vary because they are the products of culture, and cultures develop in different environments.
If you want to refine definitions, though, you might also consider how an individual`s personal morality relates to the moral code of that individual's society. You will find a very wide range of discrepancies, because societies are at different stages of the formation/ development/ maturity/ decline cycle.

There is a period in every society when the code (clay tablet, parchment, Magna Carta, constitution - however it's set down) is taken seriously; almost everyone adheres to the ideals and obeys the law. It's not a question of religion, it's a question of loyalty to the group: the members feel involved, responsible, invested in the society and want to serve it well. (There are a few crimes but justice is effectively and universally administered.)
There follows a period of growth and expansion, during which the members are proud to belong, want to add to the glory of the state as well as partake of it. But, as a group, they`re doing some pretty mean things to other peoples, and maybe to the weaker members of their own, and the guys at the top are vying for position: cutting the odd corner, telling the odd fib, bending the odd rule, pocketing the odd coin.... (Crime is still low; generally a result of rowdiness or personal enmities.)
Then comes maturity, when the nation, tribe or federation has achieved its maximum prosperity and power. Of course, only future historians will know when that point was reached, but you can make some observations: It`s not uncommon or surprising to find a public official (anyone from park rangers to the head of state) breaking rules that they claim to revere and swore to uphold. All kinds of considerations seem more important to the leadership than morality.
(Crime increases across the whole society. Zealous legislators create too many impractical laws; a portion of the population has become marginalized and is not getting its share; law enforcement is uneven and unfair; rivalries develop among political factions and classes and interest blocs; bad example set by the leaders; and the people lose their attachment to the original set of ideals.)
This inevitably leads to decline. Corruption, power-struggles, contract-breaching, bad policing, dishonesty and greed become common everywhere.

During the entire process, which may take a few centuries or several millennia, each individual in that society has a place, a family background, a social status, a set of affiliations, a work environment, romantic encounters, a home life. And each individual has a personal morality, which operates independently of, yet still within, the moral climate of the society. Imagine the possible range of variations!

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12-08-2011, 04:16 PM (This post was last modified: 12-08-2011 04:23 PM by Thomas.)
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
There is interesting research in psychology concerning moral standards. It appears that the human brain (mind) is set up to learn moral behavior as defined by the group just as we are predisposed to learning language grammar, what is art, music, etc.
No god required. Just evolution.
(24-06-2011 10:55 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
(23-06-2011 11:17 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  
(23-06-2011 05:56 PM)sy2502 Wrote:  
(23-06-2011 05:43 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  I think Absolute morality vs relative morality should not be confused with Universal vs cultural morality. They are very different concepts.
I was reading some of the comments and noticed that people use these terms interchangeably.

Then why don't you clear the air for us by explaining the difference? Smile

haha, true!
I think
Absolute Morality = morality that does not change over time. An action/attitude that was "right" years ago, is right now and will be forever.
Relative Morality = morality that changes over time. An action/attitude that was "right" years ago, might or might not be right now or in future.
Universal Morality = An action/attitude that is "right" everywhere and is independent of a culture or context.
Cultural Morality = An action/attitude that is "right" in one culture but is not right in another culture. (Which I think is similar to Cultural relativism)

Something can be universal but relative (And vice versa), and things can be cultural but absolute (and vice versa) and ....


what do you guys think? Am I wrong?

I don't see the reason for these distinction. Relative morality can be relative to a number of things. Relative in time (what was good 100 years ago isn't good now). Relative to individuals (what's good for John may not be good for Jill). Relative to cultures (what's good to a Muslim Middle Eastern may not be good to an American). These are all example of relative morality.

Relative: existing or having its specific nature only by relation to something else; not absolute or independent.

There is no answer to this. Morality is argued by philosophers constantly back to Plato, Aristotle (virtue ethics), etc. Morality is what we collective decide it will be based on the needs of society. Not all members agree, but we find a way to fuction. The proof in this is that we are here.
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13-08-2011, 07:21 AM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
To paraphrase Richard Carrier: There are two kinds of people-those who admit that their morality is relative and those who don't.

Having said that, there is a kind of basic 'genetic' morality that could fall under that "universal" heading that others have brought up here. I would include moral precepts against murder and rape in this sub-category, as widespread violation of these precepts would lead to the destruction of the species and/or breakdown of society. (and since we are social animals, breakdown of society would ultimately [in a genetic sense] be a threat to the species.)

Even these universals are relative however--in wartime for example, murder is considered acceptable--although only under a different name. Historically, rape was also considered acceptable during wartime, although not in the modern world.
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13-08-2011, 09:28 AM
 
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(13-06-2011 04:20 PM)Peterkin Wrote:  There is a more or less universal human morality, of which the fundamental tenet is: Don't risk the long-term survival of the group for the short-term satisfaction of an individual. (Because if the group dies, so do you, selfish little shit!)

Resolving conflicting loyalties

We live in tribes (nations) and the question of loyalty to our tribes often comes up, usually conflicting with our other loyalties: to family, humanity, religion, etc. The human species is a tribal species, just like the wolves and the gorillas. We depend on each other for our survival. The relationship of our social concepts can be seen as follows:

1./ Nature created us near identical, with near identical needs of survival.

2./ Our near identical needs created near identical values.

3./ Our near identical values created a set of ethical rules (do-s and don’t-s)

4./ Our dependence on each other created a need for loyalty to our ethical rules

5./ Our loyalty to ethical rules created an unwritten social contact. This contract is not the same as the laws of the land as defined by the ruling elite. As a matter of fact it can be diametrically opposed to it. The laws are specific to one culture or one nation-state. The unwritten social contract, recognizing our human interdependence, is universal. All cultures through history have known that murder, rape, incest and theft are wrong. Being aware of the rules of this social contract is called our ‘conscience’. Sometimes it is described as knowing right from wrong. This universal concept of ‘right conduct’ is called morality.

6./ The unwritten social contract created standards of socially acceptable behaviour. Any act or attitude that enhances the chances of survival for the group is good. Any act or attitude that harms the chances of survival for the group is bad. Since individual members accept the protection and nourishment of the tribe, the only moral conduct is to seek individual survival/welfare only through the survival/welfare of the tribe. If the two are in conflict, the needs of the tribe come first. Primitive human tribes take this for granted, only ‘advanced’ human beings want it both ways. We call those who consistently demonstrate their willingness to defend the tribe, even at great personal sacrifice, ‘heroes’. Those who betray the tribe for personal gain we call ‘traitors’ and treason is usually punishable by death or expulsion.

7./ In our complicated world, individuals have simultaneous and often conflicting memberships in many tribes: immediate family, extended family, work-group, religion, political party, social organizations, country, race, species and life.

8./ Resolving conflicts requires prioritizing our loyalties.

9./ Since an individual group accepts the protection and nourishment of the larger group it depends on, the only moral conduct is to seek survival/welfare of a group ONLY through the survival/welfare of the containing group. If the two are in conflict, the needs of the containing group come first.

10./ In this sense our ultimate loyalty should be to life. Life on this Planet is the ultimate containing group. We are all part of it. It nourishes us all. If we betray it, if we destroy it, we will have destroyed ourselves.

Morality is about survival of the whole we are part of. Just like at Nuremberg, claims of loyalty to country did not excuse crimes against humanity. There should be 'crime against life' trials for those busily destroying it. Like cancer cells in a body, we destroy the host giving us life. Guess what happens to cancer cells after the body dies.

I felt ashamed during the first Gulf war when they showed us the oily cormorants on TV. I felt that 'we' betrayed our common heritage. I felt the need to apologize to the cormorants. To other animals at large. To life.

Many unspoiled native cultures think of Earth as their Mother. One can betray one's mother. Even rape her. If I ever had to face the terrible choice of saving my own species at the price of destroying all other life on Earth, I don't think I could do that. And I think my choice would be a moral one.

Morality has always been in human consciousness. Not always verbalized: defined, analyzed, explained, but lived by a sufficient number of the tribe to assure survival. Tribes that failed the test of morality died and disappeared.

Morality is the prerequisite of survival. Nature created us. We are an inextricable part of it, and have no choice but to behave by its rules. Morality is our interdependence embodied.

Morality is life affirming. Immorality embraces death. Maybe not immediately, not personally, but the human species can die by many, many little incremental steps. Destroying our habitat bit by bit will do it. We see it around us every day: the poison in our air, our water, our food – it is all a material manifestation of immorality: of some human beings, somewhere, in some capacity, failing the test of ethical, honourable behaviour.

We have to sort out our loyalties in a way that doesn’t destroy us. Each containing group takes precedent. My loyalty to my country has to take second place behind my loyalty to humanity. And my loyalty to my species has to come behind my loyalty to universal, interconnected, miraculous and fragile life we are all part of. It could take one dumb asteroid to destroy it. Or it could take one dumb humanity that developed too much power before developing enough sense. Morality could save us from that fate.

Random House defines the word ‘honour” as: “high respect as for worth”, or “honesty or integrity in one’s belief and actions”. ‘Honourable’ is defined as “worthy of honour and high respect”. An honourable man is someone who follows the universally accepted rules of right and wrong and, as a consequence, is admired by human beings everywhere. Gandhi was admired around the world, even though he was treated, by the British ruling class, as a criminal.

The word ‘honour’ (just like love, faith, patriotism, etc.) has been hijacked and co-opted by the elite, that holds most of the wealth and power, and its primary motivation is to maintain this position. Honour came to mean ‘loyalty’ to whatever group, standing for whatever goal or principle. German officers’ sense of ‘honour’ prevented them from standing up to Hitler. However, we all understood why John Le Carre named one of his best books “The Honourable Schoolboy”. Even though Jerry Westerby betrayed his masters who had thought he was one them.

‘Honour’ does not mean loyalty. SS guards had loyalty. It does not mean ‘integrity’. Bin Laden had integrity of some sort (his belief in his horribly misguided crusade seems genuine).

Honour is the highest praise among human beings. A judge is called ‘your honour’ because he is supposed to have the wisdom and integrity to represent our best interests. Honour means representing this interest, even if it contradicts our paper-obligations. A spy, pretending and lying in order to defeat evil from inside is an honourable man. A law abiding citizen in the same regime is also a dishonourable human being.

Our social concepts are linked into a cause-and-effect logical chain: survival – needs – values – ethics – social contract – morality - honour.

This chain ties honour to our survival needs. Regardless what our rulers pretend our interests are. We know what our interests are, without being told. We want to be healthy, secure, productive human beings, raising our families in a healthy, peaceful, cooperative society. We don’t believe we need to send our sons and daughters to the other end of the Globe to kill and be killed. Only madmen and morons could believe in that.
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13-08-2011, 12:20 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
I will throw in my two cents from an evolutionary perspective. Morals as they apply to the individual are concerned with that individuals survival and reproductive success. Morals as they apply to a species are concerned with the propagation and health of the species as a whole.

On the individual level a healthy male who is physically desirable to females may easily attract multiple mates. It is not immoral for that male individually or on a species level to do so. If multiple females see him as a genetically superior specimen then it is in their benefit to mate with him to ensure the same benefits for their offspring. This benefits the individual and the species. We however frown upon this because we no longer need such actions to ensure the survival of our species. It may be considered fine on the individual level in humans but as a species we are in no danger (relatively speaking) of going extinct because we are not producing enough offspring as a species. Ergo we have constructed a social stigma around this and consider it socially immoral. If our numbers begin to dwindle and we are nearing extinction this will surely go by the wayside.

Another reproductive strategy for less desirable males is to find a single female that will mate with him and remain with her to ensure the survival of the offspring. In this way the individual ensures the proliferation of their genes which is good on the individual level and reproduction is good on the species level. This is now considered to be the most socially acceptable form of reproduction. Most likely because we rear our offspring for so long this method ensures that both parents input a similar amount of energy and since we are not on the verge of extinction there is no need for rampant reproduction.

The last method available to males is rape/forced intercourse. This exists in nature because some males have difficulty finding suitable mates that are willing. Instead the individual desire to pass on their genes takes over and they will force intercourse to ensure that they reproduce. This is physically damaging to the female and hurts her chances of future reproduction but successful fertilization and birth is a benefit to the species. So even this can be seen as morally right from an evolutionary standpoint, but even in nature it is an undesirable method. Mainly because of the damage to the females. This may keep them from producing as many offspring over the course of their lifetime as they would have otherwise. Needless to say this is now a very big social issue and is considered socially immoral. To reiterate once more, we are in no danger of extinction so such drastic methods for reproduction are NOT an advantage for us.

Needless to say I could bring more examples for thievery, murder and most other socially immoral actions but the story is essentially the same. These things are immoral because they no longer benefit us as a species because we are in no danger of extinction.

Being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets
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13-08-2011, 02:36 PM
 
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(13-08-2011 12:20 PM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  ... we are in no danger of extinction.

You wish! Big Grin
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13-08-2011, 05:33 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
Quote: Zatamon:
We have to sort out our loyalties in a way that doesn’t destroy us. Each containing group takes precedent. My loyalty to my country has to take second place behind my loyalty to humanity. And my loyalty to my species has to come behind my loyalty to universal, interconnected, miraculous and fragile life we are all part of.

This notion of containing groups makes perfect sense. Of course! Everything that's alive today is a direct linear descendent of the the original life-form - whatever that was - and are therefore part of the trunk from which the sub-groups to which we owe allegiance branched off. Everything that's alive is related to every other living thing that is or ever has been.

The biggest problem is that genetically, experientially and emotionally, we are closest to the creatures who sit next to us on the twig. It takes some heavy moral commitment to sacrifice one's kid! But people have always done it, for the larger human containing group, and for the gods, who are depicted as external to, above, and embracing the all the collectives.

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13-08-2011, 07:56 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(06-06-2011 10:13 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  So i've been thinking about morality for a long time, but I can't decide if morality is relative or if it is absolute, and if it evolves!

Sam Harris always say that morality is like health, you never say that a person who likes to vomit is healthy! (he gives many examples). He also said that you don't question your doctor when he tells you you have a problem. So to Harris, morality is fairly objective and we just need to discover the moral values (or i am wrong and he says something else?)

I sometimes think morality is relative, but then again it can be absolute!Huh
What do you guys/girls thinks?

Also, do you think morality evolves?

The issue of an evolving morality is a really good question.
It is very difficult to distiguish some so called morally justifiable acts, or altruism ,from acts that are simply self serving. Quite often so called moral choices may be coerced by third parties of questionable repute. Fascism is one example of much of a whole socety thinking that their acts were moral from a utiltarian perspective. Do people act morally for their own peace of mind or some vague concern for the welfare of others?
Dawkins writes about memes or an evolving learned ethic; to me this is a bit of a cop out as it still involves a self protecting urge a spart of the very tricky notion of morality as something shared and unique.
Personally, I prefer moral relativism, despite all the problems, simply because I see the other systems as worse. For example Kant's categorical imperative involving absolute truths, carried to extremes suggests that telling a lie to save someone from, say, prolonged torture would be essentially wrong.
Moral issues open cans filled with lethall diemmas and we can realy only try.Undecided
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06-11-2011, 06:05 PM
 
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
Sorry to bump this up, but I really tried to create a logical chain here (to the best of my abilities) and I would love to get some feedback on it.

Is it as logical as I think it is, or I made an error somewhere, forging this chain of thought?

Please respond! Smile

(13-08-2011 09:28 AM)Zatamon Wrote:  
(13-06-2011 04:20 PM)Peterkin Wrote:  There is a more or less universal human morality, of which the fundamental tenet is: Don't risk the long-term survival of the group for the short-term satisfaction of an individual. (Because if the group dies, so do you, selfish little shit!)

Resolving conflicting loyalties

We live in tribes (nations) and the question of loyalty to our tribes often comes up, usually conflicting with our other loyalties: to family, humanity, religion, etc. The human species is a tribal species, just like the wolves and the gorillas. We depend on each other for our survival. The relationship of our social concepts can be seen as follows:

1./ Nature created us near identical, with near identical needs of survival.

2./ Our near identical needs created near identical values.

3./ Our near identical values created a set of ethical rules (do-s and don’t-s)

4./ Our dependence on each other created a need for loyalty to our ethical rules

5./ Our loyalty to ethical rules created an unwritten social contact. This contract is not the same as the laws of the land as defined by the ruling elite. As a matter of fact it can be diametrically opposed to it. The laws are specific to one culture or one nation-state. The unwritten social contract, recognizing our human interdependence, is universal. All cultures through history have known that murder, rape, incest and theft are wrong. Being aware of the rules of this social contract is called our ‘conscience’. Sometimes it is described as knowing right from wrong. This universal concept of ‘right conduct’ is called morality.

6./ The unwritten social contract created standards of socially acceptable behaviour. Any act or attitude that enhances the chances of survival for the group is good. Any act or attitude that harms the chances of survival for the group is bad. Since individual members accept the protection and nourishment of the tribe, the only moral conduct is to seek individual survival/welfare only through the survival/welfare of the tribe. If the two are in conflict, the needs of the tribe come first. Primitive human tribes take this for granted, only ‘advanced’ human beings want it both ways. We call those who consistently demonstrate their willingness to defend the tribe, even at great personal sacrifice, ‘heroes’. Those who betray the tribe for personal gain we call ‘traitors’ and treason is usually punishable by death or expulsion.

7./ In our complicated world, individuals have simultaneous and often conflicting memberships in many tribes: immediate family, extended family, work-group, religion, political party, social organizations, country, race, species and life.

8./ Resolving conflicts requires prioritizing our loyalties.

9./ Since an individual group accepts the protection and nourishment of the larger group it depends on, the only moral conduct is to seek survival/welfare of a group ONLY through the survival/welfare of the containing group. If the two are in conflict, the needs of the containing group come first.

10./ In this sense our ultimate loyalty should be to life. Life on this Planet is the ultimate containing group. We are all part of it. It nourishes us all. If we betray it, if we destroy it, we will have destroyed ourselves.

Morality is about survival of the whole we are part of. Just like at Nuremberg, claims of loyalty to country did not excuse crimes against humanity. There should be 'crime against life' trials for those busily destroying it. Like cancer cells in a body, we destroy the host giving us life. Guess what happens to cancer cells after the body dies.

I felt ashamed during the first Gulf war when they showed us the oily cormorants on TV. I felt that 'we' betrayed our common heritage. I felt the need to apologize to the cormorants. To other animals at large. To life.

Many unspoiled native cultures think of Earth as their Mother. One can betray one's mother. Even rape her. If I ever had to face the terrible choice of saving my own species at the price of destroying all other life on Earth, I don't think I could do that. And I think my choice would be a moral one.

Morality has always been in human consciousness. Not always verbalized: defined, analyzed, explained, but lived by a sufficient number of the tribe to assure survival. Tribes that failed the test of morality died and disappeared.

Morality is the prerequisite of survival. Nature created us. We are an inextricable part of it, and have no choice but to behave by its rules. Morality is our interdependence embodied.

Morality is life affirming. Immorality embraces death. Maybe not immediately, not personally, but the human species can die by many, many little incremental steps. Destroying our habitat bit by bit will do it. We see it around us every day: the poison in our air, our water, our food – it is all a material manifestation of immorality: of some human beings, somewhere, in some capacity, failing the test of ethical, honourable behaviour.

We have to sort out our loyalties in a way that doesn’t destroy us. Each containing group takes precedent. My loyalty to my country has to take second place behind my loyalty to humanity. And my loyalty to my species has to come behind my loyalty to universal, interconnected, miraculous and fragile life we are all part of. It could take one dumb asteroid to destroy it. Or it could take one dumb humanity that developed too much power before developing enough sense. Morality could save us from that fate.

Random House defines the word ‘honour” as: “high respect as for worth”, or “honesty or integrity in one’s belief and actions”. ‘Honourable’ is defined as “worthy of honour and high respect”. An honourable man is someone who follows the universally accepted rules of right and wrong and, as a consequence, is admired by human beings everywhere. Gandhi was admired around the world, even though he was treated, by the British ruling class, as a criminal.

The word ‘honour’ (just like love, faith, patriotism, etc.) has been hijacked and co-opted by the elite, that holds most of the wealth and power, and its primary motivation is to maintain this position. Honour came to mean ‘loyalty’ to whatever group, standing for whatever goal or principle. German officers’ sense of ‘honour’ prevented them from standing up to Hitler. However, we all understood why John Le Carre named one of his best books “The Honourable Schoolboy”. Even though Jerry Westerby betrayed his masters who had thought he was one them.

‘Honour’ does not mean loyalty. SS guards had loyalty. It does not mean ‘integrity’. Bin Laden had integrity of some sort (his belief in his horribly misguided crusade seems genuine).

Honour is the highest praise among human beings. A judge is called ‘your honour’ because he is supposed to have the wisdom and integrity to represent our best interests. Honour means representing this interest, even if it contradicts our paper-obligations. A spy, pretending and lying in order to defeat evil from inside is an honourable man. A law abiding citizen in the same regime is also a dishonourable human being.

Our social concepts are linked into a cause-and-effect logical chain: survival – needs – values – ethics – social contract – morality - honour.

This chain ties honour to our survival needs. Regardless what our rulers pretend our interests are. We know what our interests are, without being told. We want to be healthy, secure, productive human beings, raising our families in a healthy, peaceful, cooperative society. We don’t believe we need to send our sons and daughters to the other end of the Globe to kill and be killed. Only madmen and morons could believe in that.
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