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Objective vs Subjective Truth

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GE Morton
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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by GE Morton » April 8th, 2019, 8:04 pm

Consul wrote:
April 8th, 2019, 12:59 pm

"The famous distinction between objective and subjective is ambiguous between an epistemic sense, where 'epistemic' means having to do with knowledge, and an ontological sense, where 'ontological' means having to do with existence. In the epistemic sense, the distinction between the objective and the subjective is between different types of claims (statements, assertions, beliefs, etc.): epistemically objective claims can be settled as matters of objective fact, the subjective are matters of subjective opinion.
Searle gets this wrong. Not all subjective propositions are matters of opinion. I.e., it is not my opinion that I have a headache; it is a matter of concrete, painful fact. But it is a fact only I can observe. That is what makes it subjective. Propositions asserting or implying values, such as his van Gogh/Gauguin example, are likewise based on facts: e.g., the fact that a van Gogh painting produces more delight, pleasure in me than a Gauguin painting. That, too, is a fact to which only I can attest. Propositions asserting opinions are indeed subjective, but not because they are not based on facts. It is because the facts on which they are based are not public, they can be apprehended only by the speaker.
Underlying this epistemic distinction is an ontological distinction between modes of existence. Some entities—mountains, molecules and tectonic plates for example—have an existence independent of any experience. They are ontologically objective. But others—pains, tickles and itches, for example—exist only insofar as they are experienced by a human or animal subject. They are ontologically subjective.
He gets it wrong here too. We actually have no idea whether anything exists that has not come within the gamut of human experience, that is "independent of any experience." What we do know is that many things are independent of any particular person's experience, and that the evidence for their existence can be apprehended by any suitably situated person. We can call those things "ontologically objective" if we wish, but we need to realize that phraseololgy is derivative from the epistemic facts: that the truth conditions of propositions asserting their existence or predicating properties to them are publicly accessible. The "objectivity" imputed to those things a pseudo-property imputed to them by us, just as "goodness" is a pseudo-property imputed by us to things that please us. It is not an independent sense or category of "objective."

"Does one need to defend the phrase 'as it is in itself', when one uses it in philosophy? I fear one does, for some think (incoherently) that it is somehow incoherent. Still, it is easy to defend. The supposition that reality is in fact a certain way, whatever we can manage to know or say about it, is obviously true. To be is to be somehow or other. Nothing can exist or be real without being a certain way at any given time. And the way something is just is how it is in itself."

Strawson is quite right. We can indeed safely say that whatever exists must exist in a certain way, "whatever we can manage to know or say about it." It is when we try to say what that "way" is, and claim that is different than what we can observe with our senses, that we abandon science and wander into mysticism. I.e., we can assume the ding an sich exists (indeed, we have to assume that if we hope to explain anything). But we can say nothing sensible about it. We can only describe it in terms of the information our senses deliver and our brains interpret for us.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by GE Morton » April 8th, 2019, 8:25 pm

Arjen wrote:
April 8th, 2019, 1:16 pm

The we cannot know the noumenon in the sense of that we see phenomena only is exactly that: The subject perceives something. The observations are subjective. However, using our minds, we can come to some conclusions.
Are suggesting we can reach "objective" conclusions from "subjective" data?

An observation is not "subjective" merely because it is made by a human (or other conscious creature). All observations would then be "subjective," and the subjective/objective distinction vanishes. Surely you realize this, and you're trying to resurrect it by speculating about properties things might have "in themselves," uncorrupted by the human perceptual apparatus. But that leaves only mysticism as a source of knowledge.
An important question is if it is even possible to make any objective statement.
You said something to that effect earlier. I asked, "What difficulties do you see in deeming the proposition, 'It is raining outside' objective?" You didn't answer.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by GE Morton » April 8th, 2019, 8:28 pm

Surreptitious75 wrote:
April 8th, 2019, 1:49 pm
There is no such thing as objective truth in any absolute sense.
What there is no such thing as is "absolute sense." That construct is far more problematic than any of the constructs or theses it is invoked to criticize.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by Consul » April 8th, 2019, 9:21 pm

Surreptitious75 wrote:
April 8th, 2019, 1:49 pm
There is no such thing as objective truth in any absolute sense. All truth statements held to be objectively true are at best inter subjective
consensus with as high a degree of rigour as possible. But true objectivity is independent of consensus and the rigour would also be absolute
Therefore when we say objective truth we mean something that has been subject to the most exacting standards possible so as to distinguish
it from less objective truth [ subjective truth ] Since if everything was labelled subjective then it would be harder to separate the wheat from
the chaff so to speak - hence the distinction
<Truth> is an objectivistic concept! It makes no sense to say that p is true but not objectively.

"Mr B. Erdmann equates truth with general validity, grounding the latter on general certainty regarding the object judged, and this in turn on general consensus amongst those judging. And so, in the end, truth is reduced to being taken to be true by individuals. In opposition to this, I can only say: being true is different from being taken to be true, be it by one, be it by many, be it by all, and is in no way reducible to it. It is not contradiction that something is true that is universally held to be false."
(pp. xv-xvi)

"Can the sense of the word 'true' be subjected to a more damaging corruption than by the attempt to incorporate a relation to the judging subject!"
(p. xvi)

(Frege, Gottlob. Basic Laws of Arithmetics, Vol. 1. 1893. In Basic Laws of Arithmetics, Vols. 1&2, translated and edited by Philip A. Ebert and Marcus Rosenberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by Consul » April 9th, 2019, 11:43 am

GE Morton wrote:
April 8th, 2019, 8:04 pm
Consul wrote:
April 8th, 2019, 12:59 pm
"The famous distinction between objective and subjective is ambiguous between an epistemic sense, where 'epistemic' means having to do with knowledge, and an ontological sense, where 'ontological' means having to do with existence. In the epistemic sense, the distinction between the objective and the subjective is between different types of claims (statements, assertions, beliefs, etc.): epistemically objective claims can be settled as matters of objective fact, the subjective are matters of subjective opinion. – John Searle
Searle gets this wrong. Not all subjective propositions are matters of opinion. I.e., it is not my opinion that I have a headache; it is a matter of concrete, painful fact. But it is a fact only I can observe. That is what makes it subjective. Propositions asserting or implying values, such as his van Gogh/Gauguin example, are likewise based on facts: e.g., the fact that a van Gogh painting produces more delight, pleasure in me than a Gauguin painting. That, too, is a fact to which only I can attest. Propositions asserting opinions are indeed subjective, but not because they are not based on facts. It is because the facts on which they are based are not public, they can be apprehended only by the speaker.
First of all, opinions can be true; and Searle affirms that there can be epistemically objective opinions (beliefs/assertions/judgements/statements) about ontically subjective entities or facts such as headaches or your having a headache. When you have a headache, there is a fact of the matter which makes your corresponding opinion true, such that it is epistemically objective.

When "a van Gogh painting produces more delight, pleasure in [you] than a Gauguin painting," then this is a psychological fact, and the corresponding judgement/statement is epistemically objective. But this descriptive psychological statement is different from the evaluative aesthetic statement that van Gogh was a better painter than Gaugin, which is regarded as epistemically subjective by Searle.

(Note that by "fact" I don't mean "truth"/"true proposition", but "actual, obtaining state of affairs"!)

Psychological facts concerning (the content of) your consciousness/experience such as your having a headache or your feeling sad are ontically subjective and private in the sense that others cannot (directly) perceive and cognize them.

By the way:

"We often speak of judgments as being 'subjective' when we mean that their truth or falsity cannot be settled 'objectively', because the truth or falsity is not a simple matter of fact but depends on certain attitudes, feelings, and points of view of the makers and the hearers of the judgment."

(Searle, John R. The Construction of Social Reality. New York: Free Press, 1995. pp. 7-9)

It's one thing to say that a judgement or statement is subjective because its truth-value depends on or is relative to the individual attitudes, beliefs, interests, preferences, tastes, or values of persons; and it's another thing to say that it is subjective because it lacks a truth-value due to the absence of facts making it true or false, such that it merely reflects or expresses personal attitudes, beliefs, opinions, interests, preferences, tastes, or values.

Whether there are (evaluative/normative) aesthetic or ethical properties, facts, and corresponding knowledge is a highly contentious issue in philosophy. If there are, aesthetic or ethical judgements are epistemically objective too.
GE Morton wrote:
April 8th, 2019, 8:04 pm
Underlying this epistemic distinction is an ontological distinction between modes of existence. Some entities—mountains, molecules and tectonic plates for example—have an existence independent of any experience. They are ontologically objective. But others—pains, tickles and itches, for example—exist only insofar as they are experienced by a human or animal subject. They are ontologically subjective. – John Searle
He gets it wrong here too. We actually have no idea whether anything exists that has not come within the gamut of human experience, that is "independent of any experience." What we do know is that many things are independent of any particular person's experience, and that the evidence for their existence can be apprehended by any suitably situated person. We can call those things "ontologically objective" if we wish, but we need to realize that phraseololgy is derivative from the epistemic facts: that the truth conditions of propositions asserting their existence or predicating properties to them are publicly accessible. The "objectivity" imputed to those things a pseudo-property imputed to them by us, just as "goodness" is a pseudo-property imputed by us to things that please us. It is not an independent sense or category of "objective."
There's a distinction between rigid ontological dependence and non-rigid, generic ontological dependence, such as the distinction between depending on the existence of one particular person and depending on the existence of persons, i.e. on the existence of at least one person.
Generally, rigid existential dependence is dependence on the existence of some instance of some kind, whereas nonrigid, generic existential dependence is dependence on the existence of some kind (with a kind existing iff at least one instance of it exists).

When Searle says that "[s]ome entities—mountains, molecules and tectonic plates for example—have an existence independent of any experience," this is generic existential independence, because mountains, molecules and tectonic plates can exist in worlds devoid of any experiences or experiencers. Generally, ontically objective entities or facts in Searle's sense are nonexperiences and generically independent of experiences.
GE Morton wrote:
April 8th, 2019, 8:04 pm
Strawson is quite right. We can indeed safely say that whatever exists must exist in a certain way, "whatever we can manage to know or say about it." It is when we try to say what that "way" is, and claim that is different than what we can observe with our senses, that we abandon science and wander into mysticism. I.e., we can assume the ding an sich exists (indeed, we have to assume that if we hope to explain anything). But we can say nothing sensible about it. We can only describe it in terms of the information our senses deliver and our brains interpret for us.
Sensations or sensory appearances are the medium through which we and scientists perceive/observe reality, but the perceptual/observational medium is not the subject matter of natural/physical science. Russell writes that "sensations are the sole data for physics" (Human Knowledge, 1948), but physics certainly isn't (reducible to) a psychology of sensations. Nor is it the case that there is no physical knowledge of unobservables.

(Yes, I'm a scientific realist: "Scientific realism is a positive epistemic attitude toward the content of our best theories and models, recommending belief in both observable and unobservable aspects of the world described by the sciences.")
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by Present awareness » April 12th, 2019, 10:21 pm

GE Morton wrote:
April 7th, 2019, 12:58 pm
Arjen wrote:
April 7th, 2019, 12:29 pm

After all, the proposition 'Grass is Green' is true If And Only If 'Grass is actually Green' (and objectively speaking, it is not.
Oh, but it is. I think you're confusing "objectively speaking" with a scientific explanation. The proposition "grass is green" is objective if the truth condition for it is public, i.e., any person (with normal vision) can make the necessary observation and confirm its truth. The scientific explanation for why we perceive that color is irrelevant. (We need to be more specific, of course, e.g., by saying, "This grass is green," while specifying a particular patch of grass).
It is a common mistake to think that intersubjective and objective are the same thing. Green is only the way that humans perceive grass (unless colorblind). An objective statement would be that there is something about grass that humans intersubjectively perceive as grass.
I assume you meant, " . . .intersubjectively perceive as green." If we intersubjectively perceive grass as green, then the proposition, "(This) grass is green" is objective.
Suppose that when I look at grass, I see the colour red and when you look at grass, you see the colour blue. We both agree to call the colour we see as “green” but have no way of knowing if we are in fact both seeing the same colour. All we know for sure is that when I see red, I call it green and when you see blue, you call it green.
Even though you can see me, I might not be here.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by GE Morton » April 13th, 2019, 9:59 am

Present awareness wrote:
April 12th, 2019, 10:21 pm

Suppose that when I look at grass, I see the colour red and when you look at grass, you see the colour blue. We both agree to call the colour we see as “green” but have no way of knowing if we are in fact both seeing the same colour. All we know for sure is that when I see red, I call it green and when you see blue, you call it green.
That's correct.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by Tamminen » April 13th, 2019, 12:09 pm

Present awareness wrote:
April 12th, 2019, 10:21 pm
Suppose that when I look at grass, I see the colour red and when you look at grass, you see the colour blue. We both agree to call the colour we see as “green” but have no way of knowing if we are in fact both seeing the same colour. All we know for sure is that when I see red, I call it green and when you see blue, you call it green.
If you are not colorblind, you know what 'green', 'blue' and 'red' mean. When you say you see green, and you do not lie, you see green, not red or blue.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by Present awareness » April 13th, 2019, 12:46 pm

Tamminen wrote:
April 13th, 2019, 12:09 pm
Present awareness wrote:
April 12th, 2019, 10:21 pm
Suppose that when I look at grass, I see the colour red and when you look at grass, you see the colour blue. We both agree to call the colour we see as “green” but have no way of knowing if we are in fact both seeing the same colour. All we know for sure is that when I see red, I call it green and when you see blue, you call it green.
If you are not colorblind, you know what 'green', 'blue' and 'red' mean. When you say you see green, and you do not lie, you see green, not red or blue.
Yes, what you say is true. The colour of the grass is called green, regardless of what colour you or I actually see. Same goes for all other colours. However, Since perception of colour is a personal experience, there is no way of knowing if we are seeing the same colour when we look at grass, only that what we see is called green.
All of our experience is subjective, since it takes place within our mind only. Although we may relate to another’s pain or joy, because we experience pain or joy ourselves, we may never actually know what it feels like to be someone else.
Even though you can see me, I might not be here.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by Tamminen » April 13th, 2019, 4:09 pm

Present awareness wrote:
April 13th, 2019, 12:46 pm
The colour of the grass is called green, regardless of what colour you or I actually see.
Why do you think there is some other color in addition to green if what you see is called green? Do you think you have private colors that have nothing to do with the colors we talk about? Can you compare those private colors to our public colors and with each other outside of language?
Since perception of colour is a personal experience, there is no way of knowing if we are seeing the same colour when we look at grass, only that what we see is called green.
How would you define sameness or difference here? I think sameness and difference are established and defined in language as far as language reflects similar phenomenal structures between people. So the fact that we have language in a way guarantees that we talk about the same green when we see green.
Although we may relate to another’s pain or joy, because we experience pain or joy ourselves, we may never actually know what it feels like to be someone else.
True, but pain and joy are still public concepts. Only in so far as we have similar experiences can we use concepts like pain and joy. Again the possibility of using those concepts in language guarantees that our pains and joys are similar. There is no private similarity ouside of language. We can say that if our experiences were totally different we could not speak about them, and also the word 'different' would lose its meaning.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by GE Morton » April 13th, 2019, 11:00 pm

Consul wrote:
April 9th, 2019, 11:43 am

First of all, opinions can be true; . . .
Of course. We normally dismiss as "opinion" a proposition the utterer believes to be true but for which definitive evidence is lacking. But those propositions may well be true, and the required evidence can appear at some point.
. . . and Searle affirms that there can be epistemically objective opinions (beliefs/assertions/judgements/statements) about ontically subjective entities or facts such as headaches or your having a headache. When you have a headache, there is a fact of the matter which makes your corresponding opinion true, such that it is epistemically objective.
As I suggested before, the "ontological/epistemological" distinction Searle tries to make is specious; the former merely a conceptual transference of the objectivity of a proposition about some thing to the thing itself. Subjective propositions may well be true, but being true doesn't make them objective. What makes a proposition objective is the fact that its truth conditions are public. Saying there may be "epistemically objective" propositions about "ontologically subjective entities" implies that there may also be epistemically subjective propositions about "ontologically subjective entities." What would be an example of one of those? Can I believe I have a headache when I don't? Or believe I don't have one when I do?

Nothing but confusion results from trying to apply the properties objective and subjective to entities, rather than to propositions. What grounds could we possibly have for claiming that a certain entity is "objective" other than the fact that propositions asserting its existence have public truth conditions? "Objective" does not mean "real." My headache is real, but the proposition asserting it is not objective.
When "a van Gogh painting produces more delight, pleasure in [you] than a Gauguin painting," then this is a psychological fact, and the corresponding judgement/statement is epistemically objective. But this descriptive psychological statement is different from the evaluative aesthetic statement that van Gogh was a better painter than Gaugin, which is regarded as epistemically subjective by Searle.
Evaluative aesthetic statements always turn on that psychological fact. They are nothing more than affirmations that the subject work produces, or fails to produce, a pleasurable or satisfying affective reaction in the speaker. The proposition "Van Gogh is a better painter than Gauguin" and, "Van Gogh's paintings please me more than Gauguin's" are, in most cases, truth-functionally equivalent. Yet the former is "epistemically subjective," and the latter "epistemically objective"?

To be sure, there can be "technocratic" aesthetic statements, wherein, e.g, ""Van Gogh is a better painter than Gauguin" means, "Van Gogh's work better satisfies criteria C than Gauguin's." That can be an objective proposition; if criteria C are clear and specific enough anyone can determine whether Van Gogh better satisfies them than Gauguin. (Of course, if the result of that test ends up favoring Gauguin, the Van Gogh fan would argue that criteria C are flawed. :-)).
(Note that by "fact" I don't mean "truth"/"true proposition", but "actual, obtaining state of affairs"!)
Understood, but the only way we have of communicating what is an "actual, obtaining state of affairs" is via true propositions. The only way we have of determining whether a proposition uttered by another is true is by examining its truth conditions, and we can only do that if those truth conditions are public.
It's one thing to say that a judgement or statement is subjective because its truth-value depends on or is relative to the individual attitudes, beliefs, interests, preferences, tastes, or values of persons; and it's another thing to say that it is subjective because it lacks a truth-value due to the absence of facts making it true or false, such that it merely reflects or expresses personal attitudes, beliefs, opinions, interests, preferences, tastes, or values.
Wait . . . didn't you just say, above, that affective responses are psychological facts? Are not a person's beliefs, attitudes, interests, etc., facts of the same ilk?

What these judgments lack are not facts or truth values, but public truth conditions.
When Searle says that "[s]ome entities—mountains, molecules and tectonic plates for example—have an existence independent of any experience," this is generic existential independence, because mountains, molecules and tectonic plates can exist in worlds devoid of any experiences or experiencers. Generally, ontically objective entities or facts in Searle's sense are nonexperiences and generically independent of experiences.
That is a speculative metaphysical assumption. We actually have no idea whether mountains, molecules, etc., as we understand those terms, have any existence in the absence of an experiencer. The most we can safely assume is that something exists independent of any experiencer.
Sensations or sensory appearances are the medium through which we and scientists perceive/observe reality, but the perceptual/observational medium is not the subject matter of natural/physical science. Russell writes that "sensations are the sole data for physics" (Human Knowledge, 1948), but physics certainly isn't (reducible to) a psychology of sensations. Nor is it the case that there is no physical knowledge of unobservables.
It is not reducible to the psychology of sensations, but it is fully reducible to those sensations. They are the data. As for knowledge of unobservables, I agree we can have knowledge of some unobservables, namely, theoretical constructs. We can claim knowledge of them if the theories which posit them have explanatory power, and as long as no empirical data contradicts the theory.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by h_k_s » April 30th, 2019, 12:27 am

Arjen wrote:
April 6th, 2019, 2:59 am
@@Todd
I know that the way you are describing objective and subjective truth is the way people commonly use the terms. And yes, from that perspective, 'objective' means: true for everyone. I want to explain to you that originally, the terms mean something else and, in philosophy, often still are used that way.

Subjective ==> a judgment belonging to a subject (observer).
Objective ==> a judgment concerning a thing itself (observed.

So, an objective truth might be: that tiger was looking for food.
A subjective truth might be: that tiger attacked me!

More clearly:
That is a tree (subjective).
That is a living organism with certain molecules and certain properties, like digesting carbon and producing oxygen.

So, while everyone agrees that a tree is a tree by simple observation, it is not an objective truth in the philosophical vocabulary. It is still an observation only and not a description of the object in itself. It is what it is TO US. And that makes it subjective.

I hope that my flawed examples made clear what I mean.

Good luck with your blog post!
Thanks for pointing that out @Arjen .

Did these terms evolve in Greek or in Latin or in English?

Greece and Roman Italy and England are the centers of much philosophy. Tiny bit in France too.

I have found out that whenever I am trying to understand Aristotle that if I look at the original Greek version it often makes more sense than the Anglicized modern translations of it.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by Mark1955 » May 7th, 2019, 2:02 pm

My question about your objective truth is how could you ever be certain you understood what it was with your subjective sensory equipment.
If you think you know the answer you probably don't understand the question.

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by aveenire » May 8th, 2019, 12:15 am

Mark1955 wrote:
May 7th, 2019, 2:02 pm
My question about your objective truth is how could you ever be certain you understood what it was with your subjective sensory equipment.
best question of the post. 1+

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Re: Objective vs Subjective Truth

Post by Sculptor1 » May 16th, 2019, 4:17 pm

Todd wrote:
March 31st, 2019, 8:12 pm
I'm writing a blog post exploring whether the idea of objective truth (defined below) is a valid and useful concept.
It would be most useful to recognize that all truth is bound to the subject. In as much as all truthful statements have to be recognized and identified by a human subject.
All claims that such truths have any kind of objective quality requires certain things to be agreed upon by those that apprehend the statements. |Thus any claims made must also be examined in reference to agreed parameters. Such parameters cannot avoid cultural and historical definition and are therefore relative to the those factors.

Here's an example:
10 people suck on a lemon. Some say that the lemon is sour, some that it is sweeter than normal, others say it is typically sour of lemons generally.
A scientist comes along hoping to determine the objective truth of the degree of sourness of the lemon. After a few moments, and with the help of a machine, the scientist declares the lemon to have a sourness factor of 7.56.
The 10 people rely on their experience of lemons, but that makes their results subjective. The question is whether or not the machine is any better. It uses data which has been gathered on lemons, so the claim is that the result is better and more objective than the humans. But surely the data itself is machine subjective and relies on the arbitrary experimental selection of the lemons it has been 'fed'.

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