## The non-existance of free will, and religious ramifications

For intuitive and critical discussions, from spirituality to theological doctrines. Fair warning: because the subject matter is personal, moderation is strict.

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## DO YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE FREE WILL?

Of course I do.
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59%
Nope I don't.
4
24%
I don't think all-caps was the way to go on that one man...
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18%

I don't know why I didn't see it sooner, Brad, but this impass between us has been a definition problem from the start.

The problem is with our deffinitions of the self, like 'you' or 'I', and becuase our arguements were each given with the assumption that the other's matched, our deffinitions of 'free will' were also subsequently different.

(I'm going to talk in the third-person to make this a bit clearer, hopefully it won't backfire and make everything a mess...)

When Brad talks about 'you' or 'I', he means the physical self. The 'you' or 'I' that exists solely within this construct, or reality. Therefore the definition of 'free will', using this basis for logic, would simply be the ability of the physical self to make a decision. Therefore, if hard determinism exists, it changes nothing, becuase the physical self is still able to make decisions in the same manner as before.

When Asok_Green talks about 'you' or 'I', he means the 'core self'. If souls exist, then this is the 'you' or 'I' that Asok_Green is talking about. Therefore the deffinition of 'free will', using this basis for logic, would be the ability of the 'core self' to make a decision in spite of, and possibly contradictory to, the physical self. Therefore if hard determinism exists, it changes everything, becuase if the physical self cannot be moved by anything other than the physical world, the 'core self' could not possibly be making the decisions.

In effect, Brad, you and I believe the same things, that if the 'core self' exists, that it doesn't run the show. I believe that as this is the basis for the accepted concept of free will, the accepted concept of free will is incorrect. You have gone a step further, and have re-incorporated the use of the words but with a slightly revised meaning.

You and me are on the same side after all!

Asok_green

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Say we can predict the outcome of what someone is thinking. Wouldn't that give us more of a choice? Say we know what is supposed to happen and because of that choose the other. Would that be freewill? With the known outcome in mind does that add to our free thought or does having a known outcome restrict our freewill?

This reminds me of the movie A.I though. The boy was being programmed to think like a human which is supposed to be freely. The normal robots explained love in symptoms but couldn't understand what it was. Once emotions are solved is there really no difference between us and robots? I don't remember how that applies to the post. I had it a second ago... O well I'm going to leave it in hopes that someone can understand what I was thinking before and explain it back to me... I'm a sad little boy
cba1067950
Philosopher

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Asok Green,

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I knew we were close, I just assumed that I could get away with saying the "I" and leaving it undefined except it terms of everyday usage (Thus, my emphasis on saying that this question is asking the wrong question.). That, apparently, is NOT how most people see it. Thanks for the help here.

Still not completely sure that your distinction between core and physical self will help without going through the time and effort that we've both put into this thread. People can be pretty stubborn, can't they?

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Asok_Green read my thread in Philosophy called Open or Closed Future?
i don't know WHERE i am..

j0n4th4n

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Good discussion - I even read all the posts!

It seems to me, after reading Asok/Brad debate, that you have concluded freewill is just an illusion. From a practical standpoint, our brains think and operate as if we have freewill; but from the perspective of God/our soul, all future actions are common knowlege.

So, why does this facade exist? Does God just have a really whacked sense of humor, or what?
anima

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No, not really. Free will and knowing what happens next are two different things.

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I haven't read everything everyone said so if someone said something that answers a question of mine I hope you don't mind repeating it

Okay so if all of our lives are predetermined, it practically all just one little play. A man kills someone, he was destined to do that, so wouldn't that make it all right? he couldn't help it, it was that physics stuff that caused it.

Doesnâ€™t predetermination and no free will excuse murder and other actions like it? doesnâ€™t it free all of us from responsibility? no choice, where just little robots created by a God, a big bang or what have you.

Why would a God create beings with out choice? to entertain himself/herself/it's self? are we just it's little play things?

Isn't life meaningless? excusable now? we're merely blobs of predetermined actions and chemicals, little insignificant specks in a vast and endless universe. Why even live?
everythingâ€™s planned out you aren't yourself if you have no choice, you are just a robot a toy like ever body else.
"There is a melancoly pain, or joy, to life that is to pure for us to understand we are to immature to grasp the true meaning of existence."
-Nathalie

FrozenViolet

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"Isn't life meaningless? excusable now? we're merely blobs of predetermined actions and chemicals, little insignificant specks in a vast and endless universe. Why even live?
everythingâ€™s planned out you aren't yourself if you have no choice, you are just a robot a toy like ever body else.

No comment [/quote]
"Only a life lived for others is a life worth while ."

"Its all relative" -JJohnson

Youngman18

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(1) I agree with Spinoza, who said, "Freedom is the recognition of necessity." He meant that once we recognize that we are not free not to drink, we become free to drink what we please: water, Coke, coffee, beer, and so on.

We are not free to change or ignore determinism, but we are free to relate to determinism as creatively as we can and wish.

For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. That is determinism. Because a rocket ship is the creative application of that principle, Armstrong walked on the moon. That is freedom.

(2) I reject pure determinism. Philosophically, it is dubious. If determinism is true, determinists cannot prove it because they have been determined to believe as they do, not because they have examined determinism and found it to be true.

Their conclusion is not the result of judgment; it is hidden in their premise.

(3) That said, freedom cannot exist apart from determinism. When I choose Coke over Pepsi (free will), I depend on determism to make the vending machine work as planned. Without determinism, I could not actualize my choice.

In short, freedom is tactical; necessity (or determinism) is strategic. It is a mistake to mix the two.
Guest

Imagistar

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Boy I've been gone for awhile, lots to catch up on!

So, why does this facade exist? Does God just have a really whacked sense of humor, or what?

I spend the bulk of my philosphpical thinking bent on this very question, and as of yet have not come up with any justifiable answer. I personally believe (and like I said this is completely unjustifiable, so don't bust my chops. I'm not trying to prove this) that this whole facade is a kind of message. A message either from God to humanity, or from God to life in general. I believe that time only exists in this construct, and therefore to die, is to also be disconnected from time. I believe that once we die, we are all instantly joined with every other conciousness that ever was, experiencing in a flash every moment that any lifeform ever felt. With infinite comprehension, the work of creation can be seen as a whole, and the message finnally recieved.

But that's just me. I suggest you find your own meaning for it all, it's more fun that way.
Last edited by Asok_green on Thu Aug 08, 2002 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Asok_green

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No, not really. Free will and knowing what happens next are two different things.

I appreciate your following up and everything, but you're really confusing alot of people becuase of the deffinition thing. Most people, and I'm not saying all people, but when most people talk about free will, they mean the part about the soul making decisions apart from the physical self. If you want to start your own debate about the whole mess go ahead, but please man, don't make me go through the hoops again...

Asok_green

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Doesn’t predetermination and no free will excuse murder and other actions like it? doesn’t it free all of us from responsibility? no choice, where just little robots created by a God, a big bang or what have you.

Why would a God create beings with out choice? to entertain himself/herself/it's self? are we just it's little play things?

Isn't life meaningless? excusable now? we're merely blobs of predetermined actions and chemicals, little insignificant specks in a vast and endless universe. Why even live?
everything’s planned out you aren't yourself if you have no choice, you are just a robot a toy like ever body else.

It makes me so very very happy to be reading posts like this. Finally! We have gotten to the second part of the topic message: "...AND religious ramifications" I want to thank amina and FrozenViolet for making this possible...

As far as the excusing murder and all that goes, my answer would be...kind of. What HD may be capable of doing is excusing your soul for the actions of your body. It would, however, most likely not excuse your body from the actions of your body. Therefore if your body kills someone, society would have no "moral right" to kill or imprision your soul on the grounds that "the 'soul you' was evil". Your 'soul' didn't do it, your body did. However, society seems more intent on killing and imprisioing bodies. This, will most likely be argued about...

As far as life being meaningless...who knows? It very well could be. Day to day stuff anyway. But I guess I believe that, on the whole, existace has got to mean something. Truth is I can't prove a damn thing on it one way or another, I think I may to have to wait 'till I die to find out.

Asok_green

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(1) I agree with Spinoza, who said, "Freedom is the recognition of necessity." He meant that once we recognize that we are not free not to drink, we become free to drink what we please: water, Coke, coffee, beer, and so on.

It's like Brad all over again folks...(I'm sorry Imagistar, I'm not really trying to insult you, I just poke fun at people sometimes. I actually liked the way you explained the logic used to come to your conclusions.)

But I'm going to have to dissagree here. Your first point (above) is then reinforced by these comments here:
We are not free to change or ignore determinism, but we are free to relate to determinism as creatively as we can and wish.

For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. That is determinism. Because a rocket ship is the creative application of that principle, Armstrong walked on the moon. That is freedom.

What this seems to say to me, and please correct me if I have gotten your point wrong, is that 'determinism does work for the small things like vending machines, but it's still up to man to initiate the events that allow determinism to unfold.'

This basicly dismisses HD as commonplace physics, and excludes the human mind from all equation. I don't know if you have read the posts from the start of this thing, but your stance on the issue suggests to me that you have not. The difference between Hard Determinism, and phyics is, that it requires us as humans to include all of ourselves in the world of physically determined things. That which we consider to be our bodies AND that which we consider to be our minds. That means, for you, at least considering the possibility that decisions themselves could be nothing more then extremely complicated chemical reactions occuring inside our heads.

I gotta see what you think about that before I continue on that line of thought...

Then there's this:
2) I reject pure determinism. Philosophically, it is dubious. If determinism is true, determinists cannot prove it because they have been determined to believe as they do, not because they have examined determinism and found it to be true.

I guess I find fault with this dismissal becuase it seems to imply that, 'HD makes examination impossible, and is therefore false.'

Yes, it's correct that if HD is true, then "celestial examination" is impossible. That is to say, the 'souls' wouldn't be doing any of the examining and proving, it would just be bodies doing chemical reactions.
But is the higher concept of "celestial examination" really required for something to be proven? To assume that it is required, is to assume that HD is wrong, for the two cannot co-exist.

I maintain that examination need not be celestial in order for something to be proven. On this issue, we may reach an impass...

Asok_green

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AG
It seems clear to me now that you want to discuss something quite different from free will. If you think for one moment that I will stop arguing against silliness, you are mistaken. Ramble, pretend, you don't know what you're talking about. I was willing to accept what you said (in terms of definitions), but what you are saying is unacceptable. You don't realize yet that my definition is the only one worth talking about. Everything else, real free will, free will is an illusion, is the result of being a control freak.

That's not my fault, it's the fault of those who don't understand terms and what they mean.

Talk about a soul, I'll stay out of that one. I live in this world.

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Good. Fine. Your philosophical enlightenment is far beyond that of many people. But there are those that believe in the Judeo-Christian concept of free will including a soul, and this is what I'm trying to have a discussion about. So although your assertation for a another deffinition of free will may very well be ahead of its time, please don't change the subject until people have a chance to hear my arguement out. I encourage you to start your own thread on the topic, I will certainly hear you out there, but frankly I'm trying to keep this thread as easily understandable as possible.

Asok_green

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You are: (A) saying that the determinism we see at work in physics also applies to psychology; and (B) agreeing that determinism is not provable.

(I will leave aside the argument that determinism does not work at the level of atomic magnitudes. The assertion that "someday," quantum mechanics will be explicable in terms of determinism is the expression of a wish, exactly that and nothing more. "Someday," Julia Roberts will ask me for a date.)

The question now becomes: How likely is it that the determism we see in some forms of physics (but not in others) must be factored into explanations of human behavior?

If determism is universal, then the current moment, in any and every respect, is entirely the mechanical product of the moment that preceded it. Creativity, novelty and choice are ruled out. Moreover, the moment before that was wholly and without exception the product of the previous moment, and so on, and so on, and so on, until we arrive at the Big Bang as the sole and sufficient cause of every note in a symphony by Beethoven, of every word in a poem by Keats, of every mistake in the syntax of George Bush.

This is the argument that Henri Bergson made against determinism. Editorializing on Begson's opinion, Will Durant said, "What a draft upon credulity... There was matter enough for rebellion here, and if Bergson rose so rapidly to fame it was because he had the courage to doubt when all the doubters piously believed."

In short, you are asking me to swallow a porcupine because you have dyed its quills and called it "science."

To me, the question is not: Does determinism govern psychology? The real question is: Does psychology govern determinism?

Is it possible that scientists, having abandoned their faith, are seeking to replace it with the certainty of determinism? In a search for predictability, are determinists applying their creed where it is manifestly inappropriate to do so?

Is determinism a substitute for "predestination"?

Imagistar (who will remember to login -- "someday")
Guest

You are: (A) saying that the determinism* we see at work in physics also applies to psychology.

* You say determinism repetedly when I think you mean to say causality. Causality is a chain of causes and effects, so it would make sense if that's what you meant.

And yes, I propose that the causality we see in physics extends to all aspects of this reality, including human thought processes and therefore psychology.

(B) agreeing that [hard] determinism is not provable.

Yes, "atomic noise" makes it impossible to prove HD.

(I will leave aside the argument that [causality] does not work at the level of atomic magnitudes. The assertion that "someday," quantum mechanics will be explicable in terms of [causality] is the expression of a wish, exactly that and nothing more.)

Yeah, thank you for leaving out that arguement...
(I will leave aside the rebuttal that causality does work at atomic magnitudes, and that it is the proof of causality of a sub-atomic magnitude that eludes us. Prior to chemestry and alchemy we did have no knowledge of causality at an atomic level, but now we do have chemestry. I guess I don't find it so imposible that we couldn't take it a step further, but you're right, as of yet it is just a wish. I do point out however, that just becuse it has not been proven, does not mean that it has been disproven. It is incorrect to say that causality doesn't work at sub-atomic levels. It would be more correct to say that there is no proof that it works at sub-atomic levels.)

The question now becomes: How likely is it that the [causality] we see in some forms of physics (but not in others) must be factored into explanations of human behavior?

The question being asked could be a different question altogether depending upon the "true" answer to your previous comment. As the truth may not yet be known about sub-atomic causality, it would be presumptuous to ask this "likelyhood" question at all.

If [causality] is universal, then the current moment, in any and every respect, is entirely the mechanical product of the moment that preceded it. Creativity, novelty and choice are ruled out. Moreover, the moment before that was wholly and without exception the product of the previous moment, and so on, and so on, and so on, until we arrive at the Big Bang as the sole and sufficient cause of every note in a symphony by Beethoven, of every word in a poem by Keats, of every mistake in the syntax of George Bush.

Yup, that's the definition of HD, baby

This is the argument that Henri Bergson made against determinism.** Editorializing on Begson's opinion, Will Durant said, "What a draft upon credulity... There was matter enough for rebellion here, and if Bergson rose so rapidly to fame it was because he had the courage to doubt when all the doubters piously believed."

** What happened here? Did you forget to put in Begson's arguement? It just moves right on to the Durant quote...The Durant quote doesn't really say much either, it just gives Begson credit for taking a stand against scientific determinism when most people believed it.

In short, you are asking me to swallow a porcupine because you have dyed its quills and called it "science."

A very colorful metaphor, but ultimatly hollow. Perhaps fixing your Begson quote will give it more meaning.

To me, the question is not: Does determinism govern psychology? The real question is: Does psychology govern determinism?

While an interesting concept, the utter lack of substance in your previous comments makes this an inappropriate point to venture off onto a new topic. You have not yet backed up your other proposals, perhaps you should pause before proposing more?

Asok_green

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QUOTE:

Did you forget to put in Begson's (sic) arguement (sic)?

Nope. "This is the argument that Henri Bergson made..." refers to the previous paragraph.

Many thanks for an illuminating response.
Imagistar

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I wondered if this was the case. The reason I asked, however, was that the previous paragraph just outlines the concept of a determined universe. While it implies that Bergson found this idea to be implausable it really isn't much of an arguement against determinism at all...

Asok_green

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You're right.

Bergson's Nobel Prize was an open scandal.
Imagistar

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It is not Bergon's genius nor his accomplishments that I find fault with. The problem that I am faced with is that you have attempted to condense his position into a single paragraph, and in doing so may have distroyed the logic behind his arguement.

When I read the paragraph in queston:
If determism is universal, then the current moment, in any and every respect, is entirely the mechanical product of the moment that preceded it. Creativity, novelty and choice are ruled out. Moreover, the moment before that was wholly and without exception the product of the previous moment, and so on, and so on, and so on, until we arrive at the Big Bang as the sole and sufficient cause of every note in a symphony by Beethoven, of every word in a poem by Keats, of every mistake in the syntax of George Bush.

I am already aware of the vast scale that hard determinism would imply, Imagistar.

I agree it is at first a large pill to swallow, but to throw the idea away becuase it seems implausable at first glance is to assume its falsehood rather than to attempt to prove it.

Asok_green

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Hey AG,

Are you done yet? When can I start talking again?

2

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I think we are breaking a butterfly on the rack here.

Believers cannot prove that God exists, and atheists cannot prove that He doesn't. Belief and atheism are equally matters of faith.

In a previous post, I wrote: "I reject pure determinism. Philosophically, it is dubious. If determinism is true, determinists cannot prove it because they have been determined to believe as they do, not because they have examined determinism and found it to be true."

After a paragraph of chest beating, you conceded the point: "On this issue, we may reach an impass (sic)..."

HD is unprovable either side of the ace. You believe the Big Bang wrote "Hamlet"; I don't. It is a question of weighing the possibilities and selecting the most probable. Ultimately, it is a matter of taste.

You cannot understand Bergson's argument, it is incomprehensible to you, for a very simple reason: It contradicts your opinion.

In "General Philosophy," Elton Trueblood writes:

"We must, it is true, always proceed on the basis of probability, but to have probability is to have something. What we seek in any realm of human thought is not absolute certainty, for that is denied us as men, but rather the more modest path of those who find dependable ways of discerning different degrees of probability."
Imagistar

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Okay, I'm joining this discussion late, so forgive me if I miss the point with what I'm about to say.

AG, your stance - if I am not mistaken - is that human beings (regardless of how you wish to deconstruct them into essentially seperate entities like the physical self, the soul and so on) are subject to the exact same, universal laws that apply to everything else. Given this, every part of our being can be explained using the same principles that can, theoretically, explain everything else. Thus, if our being can be reduced to this set of immutable laws (which I think everyone concedes have not yet been described or "uncovered"), every action we commit can be explained by referring to some preceding "cause" that we have no control over, and, in most cases, no knowledge of. We choose the vanilla icecream, so to speak, because the endless series of causes and effects have led us, without any real say in the matter, to it. We are, then, entirely subservient to this set of laws and thus cannot transcend them, and in any way make a choice that is not entirely in deference to them.

Free will, then, becomes an illusion. The choice we make has little to do with will, but is entirely to do with the immutable laws of nature, that govern every other organism on this planet, and every piece of matter in the universe.

In this sense - being as objective as possible - I would be inclined to agree with you. So far as everything can be explained at the lowest level (which is becoming more and more a reality as we continue to learn about atmoic and sub-atomic properties), it can be expanded and, as these laws effect the whole of everything at its very foundation, it can thus be expanded and applied to the highest level where it culminates in determinism. I would be inclined to agree, that if you can understand the entire universe at this lowest level, that it can be used as a spring-board to explain everything else.

Thus we can attempt some definition of you hard determinism (correct me if this is wrong): that, as everything is governed by a given set of universal laws, everything can be explained in deference to them, and, indeed, only in deference to them. Every event or object is simply the culmination of a certain amount of causes and effects governed by these principles, and, as such, everything must have a prior cause. Thus, if these laws can be properly understood, rather than just using them to trace back the series of causes that lead up to an event, you could theoretically use them to predict what will happen (as these laws are universal and unchanging). Now I think we all agree that such knowledge is impossible, but it's more the theory that we're concerned with here.

The ramifications for free will are indeed dire, if what you say is indeed true. Your determinism states, as I'm fairly sure I've already pointed out, that a choice made by a human being was - given the cumulation of every prior cause and effect - inevitable. That this choice, if we were granted the gift of omniscience, could be traced back and explained purely in terms of these universal laws I've mentioned several times before. Given this, the conclusion goes, real free will is an illusion.

So is that basically what you're saying then? Is that the brunt of the argument? (as I said, feel free to tell me if it isn't .)

If so, I think I could only agree. Determinism is, unfortunately, for me, the most logically viable of the perspectives offered here. There are few arguments that can refute the notion of determinism and causality (causality being, if I am not mistaken, the main principle behind determinism).

However, with regards to this free will debate, I still believe that all is not lost.

The main point of all the preceding text, really, is to make this question (which may only be valid if the said text is accurate):

Does it matter if free will is merely an illusion?

Suggest, for a second, that your deterministic stance does prove, once and for all, that - objectively - free will is an illusion. That given the laws that govern everything, including ourselves, there is no way we can ever, really, make choices in the way we've always assumed we can.

But how can such objectification be warranted? So long as we view the universe through human eyes, an objective position - attempting to explain the human condition from beyond the human condition - seems futile. All experience - including the experience of the principles we are discussing here - is through human eyes, and attempting to transcend our humanity to analyse these things from a non-subjectivist stance seems an impossibility. Where am I going with this?

My question is simply, how does an objective refutation of real free will undermine the very subjective, yet similarly "real" illusion of free will? So long as we experience free will - regardless of what the causes of this free will may be from an objective stance - how can it be dismissed? Whether free will is just an illusion brought about by the very act of being human or not, seems a rather idle query. We are human. The human perspective may be fallible, but it's a perspective we cannot transcend. The same perspective the "wrongly" assumes we have free will, may be the same perspective that "wrongly" assumes there is a cause/effect relationship for every event, and that everything can be explained in deferece to similar principles. The same perspective that imagined free will, is the one that created your logic.

Now I'm not going to go down the opposite path here and suggest that nothing can be explained due to our inextricably fallible, subjectivist stance (a la absolute skepticism), but I will say that the illusion of free will - even if it is just an illusion objectively - is still part of what makes us human and cannot be neglected simply because, via our attempt at an "objective" critique (which is still entirely subjective at base) tells us that our experience may be entirely wrong.

If we dismiss our experience of free will (as illusory as it may be) where does that leave us? I may not be free to chose, but I am free to experience choice. Only you can say why the latter is far inferior to the former.
The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

JP

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