Philip Coates

Why is Objectivism Not Spreading, While Ayn Rand is Wildly Popular?

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--Brant

this is going to be harder than I thought

Yup. Yet I remain, strangely, un-surprised.

r

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A true philosophy is a useful philosophy, and not just to a genius or a geek but also to an average person. The existence and popularity of "self help" books demonstrates that people will expend effort trying to change how they think if they think it will be productive.

There exists a strong trait in the human mind for 'optimizing' oneself and one's life and indeed this can propel us forward considerably.

So one could argue that a rational and practical philosophy (i. e. one that not only exists in a mental Ivory Tower) has to work with this human drive for optimization if it is to be sucessful. But this kind of philosophy can only work if remains basically open to new developments: scientific, social, etc.

Imo "closed-system advocates" of whatever provenience who shut their philosophy off from new developments and insights are irrational.

Edited by Xray

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A true philosophy is a useful philosophy, and not just to a genius or a geek but also to an average person. The existence and popularity of "self help" books demonstrates that people will expend effort trying to change how they think if they think it will be productive.

There exists a strong trait in the human mind for 'optimizing' oneself and one's life and indeed this can propel us forward considerably.

So one could argue that a rational and practical philosophy (i. e. one that not only exists in a mental Ivory Tower) has to work with this human drive for optimization if it is to be sucessful. But this kind of philosophy can only work if remains basically open to new developments: scientific, social, etc.

Imo "closed-system advocates" of whatever provenience who shut their philosophy off from new developments and insights are irrational.

Xray and I finally agree on something!

Shayne

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Xray and I finally agree on something!

Wonders never cease. :)

Religion is also an example showing that people will expend great efforts in shaping their own thinking and psychology in order to get somewhere they think is good.

Religion is more problematic because people usually get acquainted with it

1) when they are children, lacking the intellectual and epistemological capacity to rationally assess what they are being told

and

2) in a dogmatic form.

But I agree with JR that it is a pipe dream that Objectivism or libertarianism will sweep the culture. They won't, because there is too much dogma and falsehood in them. But will a philosophy of reason? Will we ever see a second enlightenment based in an authentic respect for human reason? This can and should happen, and maybe even will happen.

I'm convinced it will happen. Things are already in motion. For example, the large audience Dawkins & Co receive as they are tearing the mask off religious dogmatism is definitely a sign for more and more rationality entering the thinking of countless individuals.

If you're in it to change the world, you're heading for disillusion and despair.

Since, as everything in the cosmos, the world is in permanent transformation, it has always changed, is currently changing and will be changing anyway.

As for wanting the world to change toward the political/ethical direction one believes to be the best, one has to rationally assess other 'competing models'.

If they are based on irrationality, their chances of surviving in the future are minimal.

We have witnessed the crumbling of dogmatic systems like Marxism; we currently witness that more and more people are leaving behind them religious dogmas, etc.

So it may be quite rational to assume that the dying-out of irrational dogmatism will progress.

But even if you think a more rational philosophy does not have a chance of spreading widely, why not approach the task as a 'piecemeal work'? Every small step counts. Don't underestimate the effects even small steps can have.

So while you may not live to reap what you sow, knowing that you are acting to the best of your ability to advance more rational thinking might overcome the feeling of disillusion and despair.

Edited by Xray

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Understanding Objectivism even as well as I do (and there are others who understand it far better than I) is a project that would take an intelligent person at least a few years.

I disagree. I think my understanding of Objectivism reached a kind of critical mass within a year of my first exposure at age 18. This was coming out of a Catholic school environment, so there had to be some self performed reprogramming. I’ve gone on to live and learn, but mostly life’s lessons, and would say that to the extent I’ve deepened my understanding of Objectivism itself, it’s been through the study of opposing philosophical positions. I don’t see what’s so difficult about it, and I don’t just mean the “standing on one foot” summary.

I too don't think that Objectivism is difficult to understand; its basic axioms like the primacy of existence are fairly easy to grasp.

If there arise difficulties, they often stem from the inconsistent use of terms (for example, to state that no values can exist without an alternative of choice is incompatible with the idea of value-seeking plants), or from odd word-creations like e. g "Psycho-Epistemology" (can anyone convincingly explain what that means?).

Rand's black-and-white thinking can also pose problems, e. g. when she lets her hero D'Anconia speak of "money as the root of all good". Yes, it is "only" a novel, but it is a novel of ideas: Ayn Rand meant it.

It has often been pointed out how carefully Rand placed her words.

But in several of her her non-fiction writings, one can get the impression that she was not that acribic. Many of the things she wrote have an essayistic character (not that essays can't be acribic, but imo Rand's 'essayistic' writing was not).

Especially in the passages where polemic carried her away, I had the impression that she wrote them in state of considerable emotional agitation that was not conducive to rational argumentation.

In his book In Praise of Decadence, Jeff Riggenbach says on p. 55:

[JR]: She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise."

[source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii].

But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.

JR,

What exactly do you mean by "formal" philosophical writing?

Edited by Xray

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I too don't think that Objectivism is difficult to understand.

Yet it's quite obvious that you've never understood it.

JR

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I too don't think that Objectivism is difficult to understand.

Yet it's quite obvious that you've never understood it.

JR

What's so difficult to understand about Objectivism, JR? It was you who claimed you had difficulties with it, so I'm all ears.

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I too don't think that Objectivism is difficult to understand.

Yet it's quite obvious that you've never understood it.

JR

What do you find so difficult to understand about Objectivism, JR? I'm all ears.

Edited by Xray

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I too don't think that Objectivism is difficult to understand.

Yet it's quite obvious that you've never understood it.

JR

What's so difficult to understand about Objectivism, JR? It was you who claimed you had difficulties with it, so I'm all ears.

So you can't read either. Why am I not surprised? For the record, I never said I had difficulties with Objectivism.

JR

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For the record, I never said I had difficulties with Objectivism.

I realized that as well and had already corrected that part at 02:42 when you wrote this at 03:09.

Sorry about letting the # 107 post from 02:41 still stand there (I thought I had deleted it but now see I forgot to do this).

You had written:

View PostJeff Riggenbach, on 31 August 2011 - 03:30 PM, said:

Understanding Objectivism even as well as I do (and there are others who understand it far better than I) is a project that would take an intelligent person at least a few years.

From which one can infer that in your opinion, Objectivism requires considerable mental effort for an intelligent person to understand well.

ND replied. "I don't see what's so difficult about it."

Now if you think "understanding Objectivism even as well as I do ... would take an intelligent person at least a few years", (JR), then there must be some difficulties contained in the philosophy. What are they?

Edited by Xray

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For the record, I never said I had difficulties with Objectivism.

I realized that as well and had already corrected that part at 02:42 when you wrote this at 03:09.

Sorry about letting the # 107 post from 02:41 still stand there (I thought I had deleted it but now see I forgot to do this).

You had written:

View PostJeff Riggenbach, on 31 August 2011 - 03:30 PM, said:

Understanding Objectivism even as well as I do (and there are others who understand it far better than I) is a project that would take an intelligent person at least a few years.

From which one can infer that in your opinion, Objectivism requires considerable mental effort for an intelligent person to understand well.

ND replied. "I don't see what's so difficult about it."

Now if you think "understanding Objectivism even as well as I do ... would take an intelligent person at least a few years", (JR), then there must be some difficulties contained in the philosophy. What are they?

I used to have a policy of ignoring you entirely. It was clear to me from very early on that your stupidity and ignorance made it a waste of my time to communicate with you. I don't remember why I relaxed that policy, but please consider it reinstated. You may address me all you like, of course (I have no control over that), but I won't reply.

JR

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I used to have a policy of ignoring you entirely. It was clear to me from very early on that your stupidity and ignorance made it a waste of my time to communicate with you. I don't remember why I relaxed that policy, but please consider it reinstated. You may address me all you like, of course (I have no control over that), but I won't reply.

Quite a few people here have got upset when you called them stupid, ignorant etc., but I suppose it has not escaped you that your rants drip off on me. Since rants of that type are not conducive to rational argumentation, I have the policy to simply ignore them.

As also has been mentioned in an earlier discussion, a forum is a public place where you always 'answer' to all those others too who read your elaborations on a subject.

I suppose quite a few posters and lurkers would be interested in e. g. reading your elaborations on what you wrote in your book In Praise of Decadence, p. 55:

[JR]: She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise."

[source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii].

But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.

It would interest me if others here share JR's take on Rand's writing.

Edited by Xray

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I used to have a policy of ignoring you entirely. It was clear to me from very early on that your stupidity and ignorance made it a waste of my time to communicate with you. I don't remember why I relaxed that policy, but please consider it reinstated. You may address me all you like, of course (I have no control over that), but I won't reply.

Quite a few people here have got upset when you called them stupid, ignorant etc., but I suppose it has not escaped you that your rants drip off on me. Since rants of that type are not conducive to rational argumentation, I have the policy to simply ignore them.

As also has been mentioned in an earlier discussion, a forum is a public place where you always 'answer' to all those others too who read your elaborations on a subject.

I suppose quite a few posters and lurkers would be inteested in e. g. reading your elaborations on what you wrote in your book In Praise of Decadence, p. 55:

[JR]: She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise."

[source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii].

But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.

It would interest me if others here share JR's take on Rand's writing.

I do, if JR included as well, at some point or another, Galt's speech.

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[JR]: She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise."

[source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii].

But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.

It would interest me if others here share JR's take on Rand's writing.

Well as I've said elsewhere I don't regard her as a philosopher for basically that reason -- she did not actually do philosophy in the careful manner of a professional philosopher. It is very ironic what she said about David Hume, given that could and should have learned a lot from him about what it means to be a philosopher. She was more a propagandist for her particular beliefs than a philosopher who actually had vetted them. Which is not to say that she didn't have great philosophical insights at times.

Shayne

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[To J. Riggenbach]: I suppose quite a few posters and lurkers would be inteested in e. g. reading your elaborations on what you wrote in your book In Praise of Decadence, p. 55:

[JR]: She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise."

[source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii].

But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.

It would interest me if others here share JR's take on Rand's writing.

I do, if JR included as well, at some point or another, Galt's speech.

In the same passage, JR also mentions Galt's speech:

J. Riggenbach, In Praise of Decadence, p. 55:

"Galt's speech serves a purely fictional or or artistic purpose in the working out of the novel's plot, for Galt must make sure that those he has abandoned in a collapsing civilization are made to understand why their civilization is collapsing; otherwise he has to risk that the point he wanted to make, the lesson he led his strike in order to teach, will be lost upon his students.

Galt's speech is more than a mere plot device, however. Rand meant it to serve a a preliminary summary of what she said was "a new philosophical system which she had devised and christened "Objectivism".

She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise."

[source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii].

But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.

"Preliminary summary" comes quite close, but even for a preliminary summary, the speech is quite unstructured and unsystematic. It is also very repetitve, and again one can get the impression that the author got carried away in her commitment for the cause she was advocating (via Galt's words).

Edited by Xray

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The "philosophical treatise" would have been most desirable and more edifying - but going by her reception in academia, would have ended up gathering dust on a shelf. If that were all she produced.

Ayn Rand demonstrated her philosophy in action - fiction, essays, interviews, contemporary situations and off-the-cuff remarks.

'Proper' intellectuals may pooh-pooh her popularity, but this master of 'show and tell' brought philosophy, and made it real, to those who need it most and will use it.

To those purist academics - as my Dad used to say - "Put that in your pipe, and smoke it!"

Tony

Edited by whYNOT

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[To J. Riggenbach]: I suppose quite a few posters and lurkers would be inteested in e. g. reading your elaborations on what you wrote in your book In Praise of Decadence, p. 55:

[JR]: She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise."

[source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii].

But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.

It would interest me if others here share JR's take on Rand's writing.

I do, if JR included as well, at some point or another, Galt's speech.

In the same passage, JR also mentions Galt's speech:

J. Riggenbach, In Praise of Decadence, p. 55:

"Galt's speech serves a purely fictional or or artistic purpose in the working out of the novel's plot, for Galt must make sure that those he has abandoned in a collapsing civilization are made to understand why their civilization is collapsing; otherwise he has to risk that the point he wanted to make, the lesson he led his strike in order to teach, will be lost upon his students.

Galt's speech is more than a mere plot device, however. Rand meant it to serve a a preliminary summary of what she said was "a new philosophical system which she had devised and christened "Objectivism".

She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise."

[source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii].

But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.

"Preliminary summary" comes quite close, but even for a preliminary summary, the speech is quite unstructured and unsystematic. It is also very repetitve, and again one can get the impression that the author got carried away in her commitment for the cause she was advocating (via Galt's words).

If Galt's speech is so obviously defective, then perhaps you should set out to improve it.

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The "philosophical treatise" would have been most desirable and more edifying - but going by her reception in academia, would have ended up gathering dust on a shelf. If that were all she produced.

Ayn Rand demonstrated her philosophy in action - fiction, essays, interviews, contemporary situations and off-the-cuff remarks.

'Proper' intellectuals may pooh-pooh her popularity, but this master of 'show and tell' brought philosophy, and made it real, to those who need it most and will use it.

To those purist academics - as my Dad used to say - "Put that in your pipe, and smoke it!"

Tony

I think it possible that a philosophical treatise by Rand would have done wonders for second generation Objectivists, especially those considering the academy in the 80's and 90's. Instead, we were left to wait for Peikoff's opus, which...oh, never mind.

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[JR]: She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise."

[source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii].

But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.

It would interest me if others here share JR's take on Rand's writing.

Well as I've said elsewhere I don't regard her as a philosopher for basically that reason -- she did not actually do philosophy in the careful manner of a professional philosopher. It is very ironic what she said about David Hume, given that could and should have learned a lot from him about what it means to be a philosopher. She was more a propagandist for her particular beliefs than a philosopher who actually had vetted them. Which is not to say that she didn't have great philosophical insights at times.

"Propagandist for her particular beliefs" describes it quite well.

Edited by Xray

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[To J. Riggenbach]: I suppose quite a few posters and lurkers would be inteested in e. g. reading your elaborations on what you wrote in your book In Praise of Decadence, p. 55:
[JR]: She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise." [source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii]. But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.
It would interest me if others here share JR's take on Rand's writing.
I do, if JR included as well, at some point or another, Galt's speech.
In the same passage, JR also mentions Galt's speech:
J. Riggenbach, In Praise of Decadence, p. 55: "Galt's speech serves a purely fictional or or artistic purpose in the working out of the novel's plot, for Galt must make sure that those he has abandoned in a collapsing civilization are made to understand why their civilization is collapsing; otherwise he has to risk that the point he wanted to make, the lesson he led his strike in order to teach, will be lost upon his students. Galt's speech is more than a mere plot device, however. Rand meant it to serve a a preliminary summary of what she said was "a new philosophical system which she had devised and christened "Objectivism". She [Rand] planned, she said, to give her "full system ... a detailed, systematic presentation in a philosopical treatise." [source given in JR's book: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Random House, 1961), p. vii]. But she never did. Aside from a brief monograph on her theory of concepts and perhaps a dozen essays on various issues in ethics, aesthetics, and political theory, Rand never produced any formal philosophical writing of any sort at all.
"Preliminary summary" comes quite close, but even for a preliminary summary, the speech is quite unstructured and unsystematic. It is also very repetitve, and again one can get the impression that the author got carried away in her commitment for the cause she was advocating (via Galt's words).
If Galt's speech is so obviously defective, then perhaps you should set out to improve it.

Yeah.

Mills and Boone are breathlessly waiting Xray's rewrite titled "Atlas Hugged."

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Good one Tony.

I think she might call it "Atlas Hugged a tree and then ate the tree at a Vegan fest.".

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"Preliminary summary" comes quite close, but even for a preliminary summary, the speech is quite unstructured and unsystematic. It is also very repetitve, and again one can get the impression that the author got carried away in her commitment for the cause she was advocating (via Galt's words).

If Galt's speech is so obviously defective, then perhaps you should set out to improve it.

I have never felt the urge to "improve" an author's writings. I'm busy enough with correcting my numerous typos. :wink:

Mills and Boone are breathlessly waiting Xray's rewrite titled "Atlas Hugged."

"Atlas Hugged" - I have to admit that's a good one! :D

Edited by Xray

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I'd like to like to get back to a quote by JR and then compare it to another passage in his book.

No philosophical system "spreads." No philosophical system has ever "spread" or ever will. People are not philosophical. Reading and thinking about philosophy are activities engaged in by a vanishingly small segment of the population. This has always been true. I believe it always will be.

JR, In Praise of Decadence, p. 56:

By that time, [shortly after Rand's death 1982) an Objectivist movement of some sort could still said to exist, but it was a tiny and feeble thing, the merest shadow (if even that) of the original Objectivist movement that flourished during the 1960s.

JR speaks of a movement that flourished. So while, according to JR, philosophical systems don't spread, movements inspired by philosophical ideas can and have spread.

JR points out the crucial role N. Branden played in the launching and successful spreading of the movement:

JR, In Praise of Decadence, p. 56:

The original Objectivist movement was launched early in 1958, a few months after Atlas Shrugged hit the top spot on every major besteseller list in the country. It was launched not by Rand herself, but by a young psychologist named Nathaniel Branden, who was not only Rand's chief disciple and protégé (she spoke of him publicly as her "intellectual heir"), but also, since 1955, her lover.

Branden, a man of genuine and remarkable intellectual gifts in his own right, also exhibited extraordinary talent as writer, as public speaker, as an entrepreneur, and as a manager.

It would interest me whether Objectivism was also declared to be a "closed system" at the NBI Intstitutes during the times when it flourished in the 1960s.

Edited by Xray

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"Preliminary summary" comes quite close, but even for a preliminary summary, the speech is quite unstructured and unsystematic. It is also very repetitve, and again one can get the impression that the author got carried away in her commitment for the cause she was advocating (via Galt's words).

If Galt's speech is so obviously defective, then perhaps you should set out to improve it.

I have never felt the urge to "improve" an author's writings. I'm busy enough with correcting my numerous typos. :wink:

Mills and Boone are breathlessly waiting Xray's rewrite titled "Atlas Hugged."

"Atlas Hugged" - I have to admit that's a good one! :D

Never mind your typos. You clearly have a penetrating revision of Galt's Speech waiting to spring from your keyboard.

Get off the sidelines and go to it.

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Never mind your typos. You clearly have a penetrating revision of Galt's Speech waiting to spring from your keyboard.

PDS: but how can you claim objective knowledge of an alleged penetrating revision waiting to spring from that keyboard?

I get the feeling that we'll have to move this to the Epistemology section to do some test runs on that. :wink:

Edited by Xray

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