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Old 15th September 2012, 09:50 AM   #1
levi
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I don't exist. According to some philosophers they don't exist and I don't exist... .

I am having trouble understanding the article can someone help explain it?

Also why can't humans just be many different cells and 1 person at the same time? Does this create a paradox?

Thanks

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/problem-of-many/
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Old 15th September 2012, 10:02 AM   #2
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The faux problem in that formulation is the need to define a human. It's a sexually reproducing organism. It's a collection of cells. It's a pile of matter. It has a consciousness that can contemplate the stars in the sky. It likes ice cream.

The stable definition is not as important as applying the best definition to the context of the discussion.
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Old 15th September 2012, 12:28 PM   #3
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I agree it is hard to define a human. But anyone who could ask this question I think would be considered a human or have the rights of a human. Not that people who don't ask the question are not human or that even if someone does not understand because there intelligence is not adequate is not human.

So the previous post by hgc summarizes the article?
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Old 15th September 2012, 01:21 PM   #4
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Sanford's various takes on the 'problem' seem well expressed.

How about:

A cloud (or human) is not an intrinsic property of the universe, but rather an emergent property? It's not like some entity takes a giant paintbrush and puts a white cloud in a big blue space. The 'problem' would have us argue about what constitutes the edges, and why that is so important. But it is not. A cloud is more than water droplets - it emerges due to a combination of atmospheric conditions from which what we call a 'cloud' emerges. A cloud is more that

If we want to be philosophical about it, how about thinking of humans as an emergent property of the universe. Would our own boundries and differences be all that important?

From Stanford site:
Quote:
The idea is that by changing the world outside the cloud, we do not change whether or not it is a cloud. There is, however, little reason to believe this is true. And given that it leads to a rather implausible conclusion, that there are millions of clouds where we think there is one, some reason to believe it is false. We can argue directly for the same conclusion. Assume many more water droplets coalesce around our original cloud. There is still one cloud in the sky, but it determinately includes more water droplets than the original cloud. The fusion of those water droplets exist, and we may assume that they did not change their intrinsic properties, but they are now a part of a cloud, rather than a cloud. Even if something looks like a cloud, smells like a cloud and rains like a cloud, it need not be a cloud, it may only be a part of a cloud.
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Old 15th September 2012, 02:25 PM   #5
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I think you are saying I do exist, correct? This is because of emergent properties. Sure you can add the universe as a whole but also the smaller parts of the universe exist because they are needed to make the whole. For example a human. So a single human exist and the universe exists at one time.

If any of this is wrong correct it I sometimes have trouble understanding some stuff. If it is correct than tell me.

Thanks
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Old 15th September 2012, 04:07 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by levi View Post
If any of this is wrong correct it I sometimes have trouble understanding some stuff. If it is correct than tell me.
If you don't exist, then you are God.
If you are God, then you are omniscient with no "trouble understanding some stuff."
Therefore you are not God.
If you are not God, then you exist.
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Old 15th September 2012, 04:16 PM   #7
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This is a problem of definition. If I define the same thing in two ways, then it's not difficult to come up with situations where the two definitions are in conflict with one another. Given a rigorous definition of a cloud, the problem disappears. Something like, "the region of space containing water droplets of sizes X - Y at a density of A-B" , where X, Y, A, and B are all numbers that make the definition sensible, would seem to suffice. The 'problem' seemed so obvious to resolve that I didn't bother reading further.

Is there some compelling reason to believe that you don't exist because your boundaries might be fuzzy at the cellular level?
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Old 15th September 2012, 07:41 PM   #8
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I thought Descarte had put that to rest with his Cogito Ergo Sum.
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Old 15th September 2012, 07:53 PM   #9
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Is epix posts explaining Kopji post? If not than can someone simply explain kopji post?

Sorry I am not the smartest person and esily misunderstand things.

Last edited by levi; 15th September 2012 at 07:55 PM.
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Old 15th September 2012, 10:28 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by levi View Post
Is epix posts explaining Kopji post?
I don't find epix' latest post very helpful as an explanation of anything whatever, I regret to say. Perhaps I am simply incapable of appreciating its profundity.
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Old 16th September 2012, 12:20 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by levi View Post
Is epix posts explaining Kopji post? If not than can someone simply explain kopji post?

Sorry I am not the smartest person and esily misunderstand things.
Try it this way. The word we are using to talk about a thing is just a symbol for that thing. The word is a kind of snapshot and can't capture the totality of whatever it stands for. We find words handy because they are short forms, symbols that trigger concepts we already have in our heads.

You can see the problem when a single word won't do. If I talk about a cat, you have some idea of what I mean. If I then add more words and describe the cat as 500-lbs and orange with black stripes, you'll realize the kind of cat I meant as a tiger. But I could go on, and on, and on by adding more and more words to make the definition more specific. However, what I can never do is capture, with words alone, an actual tiger.

The problem in the original article is one of matching words with concepts and pretending we've captured an actual thing. The best definition would be having a cloud in front of us and pointing at it: "There, that's what I mean." Only by doing so could we hope to get the whole meaning and avoid mistakes.

The argument about boundary conditions is true, but it has no force. The way it is handled in science is with fuzzy logic, a statistical measurement, rather than a single, bright border. Even there though, where we draw the line is arbitrary and set according to the meaning we wish to convey. An example might be trying to define the boundary of the solar system. We could say it ends at Pluto, or drop Pluto as only a wannabe planet and say it ends at the orbit of Neptune, or not. We could say it ends at a distance where the gravity from the sun is less than a certain amount. None of this matters as long as the words we use are understood, there is no "real" end of the solar system, just as there is no "real" solar system -- just descriptions of what we've seen.

The root problem, underlying your angst, is the notion of some "really-real" that escapes our ability to fit things in our own heads. Once you come to terms with having a biological machine we call a brain, it's much easier to accept there ought to be limits on what a brain can do, just as there are limits on how fast you could run or blink your eyes. So the words we use are shortcuts and meaningful, they aren't magical recipes to capture everlasting truth.

Last edited by marplots; 16th September 2012 at 12:29 AM.
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Old 16th September 2012, 04:55 AM   #12
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I must admit to some bogglement that philosophers are still arguing about such tripe. If you'd said it was translated from Church Latin from 980 AD rather than 1980, it would have been easier to accept.

The simple answer is: These people are idiots, and can be safely ignored.

The more complex answer is: Clouds and people exist in the real world, and obey real-world rules. They have fuzzy edges in space and time alike, and the words are labels we attach somewhat haphazardly to systems that fulfil enough of the relevant set of requirements.
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Old 16th September 2012, 04:56 AM   #13
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Or, simpler still: Clouds don't have edges. If it has an edge, it's not a cloud.
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Old 16th September 2012, 06:36 AM   #14
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Another point worth noting is that as of 1980, most philosophers were probably not yet familiar with the mathematics and geometry of fractals. If the best approximation of the shape of a cloud you can muster is an ellipse, you're more likely to end up singing, "It's clouds' illusions I recall, I really don't know clouds at all."

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Old 16th September 2012, 06:43 AM   #15
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Old 16th September 2012, 10:17 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by levi View Post
I am having trouble understanding the article can someone help explain it?

Also why can't humans just be many different cells and 1 person at the same time? Does this create a paradox?
Thanks http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/problem-of-many/

I got lost in some of the language but it seems a very interesting discussion.
It appears to touch on Wittgenstein's language-game, that of physical perceptual ability and experience, existentialism, and even metaphysics.
(Despite appearances, the universe may seem to be 'out there,' an external thing, but it is actually within us, because we never experience anything but within the confines of our own minds).

Unger's thesis (and I am no philosopher., so I am probably incorrect), strikes me as no different than describing the nature of atoms and subatomic particles in relation to one's perspective to them. We know matter appears as solid, that is how we perceive it, but we also know that it is composed primarily of empty space.

Although obviously not the same issue the metaphysical aspect touches on the fact that a static reality doe snot exist, -again, contrary to all appearances. Mystics the world over describe individuality and the material world as an illusion for this reason and because that is the truth you uncover if you can dedicate yourself to that much practice and turn your mind inward into it's own nature. If you simply close your eyes and ask yourself what you truly are, (and stay with it a while, -not attaching or identifying with anything) ) we eventually find that we are nothing we can perceive, (undifferentiated awareness). We are not our thoughts, or egos, or bodies, or mind, none of it. Those things are always one step beyond ultimate reality that we can engage and abide in. Saying we are those things is like saying that the sun and it's rays are the same thing. That the mind and it's thoughts are one. They are not. One is the ground and the other the display there of. This mystical aspect may have nothing to do with Unger's thesis (I only got through parts of it) -but a lot of the language sounded familiar (especially from, within Buddhist teachings) for the reasons I state above, so I thought I would share these thoughts. Thank you for you post I look forward to studying that essay more thoroughly later on. (I need an espresso right about now
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Old 16th September 2012, 10:30 AM   #17
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Language is a tool that doesn't capture everything perfectly, got that part.

But how does this apply to humans not existing?

Was this already answered by hgc?

Last edited by levi; 16th September 2012 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 16th September 2012, 07:54 PM   #18
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I reread the post and noticed that a poster said that humans have fuzzy boundaries like a cloud. But how can humans have fuzzy boundaries? I thought it is pretty clear how to define what human boundaries are. It may be hard to come up with a definition of humans. Is that what the article means by fuzzy boundaries?
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Old 16th September 2012, 08:37 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Brainiac2 View Post
I thought Descarte had put that to rest with his Cogito Ergo Sum.
Just words - like all of philosophy is just words. No effect on reality unless some person pretends those words have meaning and chooses to do something based on them.
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Old 16th September 2012, 10:05 PM   #20
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Be careful with the term "emergent property". It can be used as a substitute for ignorance of how a mundane phenomenon arises from real-world physics, or it can be used to describe something like consciousness, but in a way that's really a dualist position.
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Old 16th September 2012, 11:44 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by atavisms View Post
We know matter appears as solid, that is how we perceive it, but we also know that it is composed primarily of empty space.
The space you mention is not space that is available to any other object in the universe. It is a three dimensional road system for the particles that make up matter. To think of it as available space, i.e. "empty", denigrates its status and important role, in the perception of solidity.
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Old 17th September 2012, 02:20 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by hgc View Post
The stable definition is not as important as applying the best definition to the context of the discussion.
Now ask yourself why it is necessary to apply the best definition - or any definition at all?

'Things' like humans, cats, clouds, etc. don't actually exist. We merely imagine their existence in order to have a model which is simple enough to be contained within our limited brains. Having created these artificial categories, we then give them certain 'attributes' which are supposed to represent their properties. But these are just more fictional 'things' that exist only in our minds. The model is not reality!

In reality, every 'thing' is connected to every other 'thing', and nothing exists in isolation. Quantum physics tells us that even the tiniest subatomic particles are 'smeared' out over a larger space, and they have properties which appear nonsensical to humans who think in terms of discrete objects. We try to imagine an electron as being a point charge with mass, but its field spreads out into space infinitely, and it is influenced by other 'particles' which are billions of light years away. Even weirder and unimaginable to us are 'entangled' particles which act as one, even when the individual 'objects' are separated by ridiculously long distances.

In the macro world we see things as having sharp boundaries, but we pick those boundaries to suit our own particular perceptions and abilities. You look at a rose in bloom and you 'see' a beautiful red flower. A bee sees a glowing ultraviolet ring pointing to nectar. A caterpillar sees a tasty meal. A neutrino sees only the merest hint of etheric existence, as it passes through the Earth unimpeded.
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Old 17th September 2012, 04:47 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by levi View Post
I reread the post and noticed that a poster said that humans have fuzzy boundaries like a cloud. But how can humans have fuzzy boundaries? I thought it is pretty clear how to define what human boundaries are.
By cell count, you are 90% bacteria.
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Old 17th September 2012, 04:49 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
'Things' like humans, cats, clouds, etc. don't actually exist.
My cat says you're wrong.
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Old 17th September 2012, 06:08 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
Now ask yourself why it is necessary to apply the best definition - or any definition at all?

'Things' like humans, cats, clouds, etc. don't actually exist. We merely imagine their existence in order to have a model which is simple enough to be contained within our limited brains. Having created these artificial categories, we then give them certain 'attributes' which are supposed to represent their properties. But these are just more fictional 'things' that exist only in our minds. The model is not reality!

In reality, every 'thing' is connected to every other 'thing', and nothing exists in isolation. Quantum physics tells us that even the tiniest subatomic particles are 'smeared' out over a larger space, and they have properties which appear nonsensical to humans who think in terms of discrete objects. We try to imagine an electron as being a point charge with mass, but its field spreads out into space infinitely, and it is influenced by other 'particles' which are billions of light years away. Even weirder and unimaginable to us are 'entangled' particles which act as one, even when the individual 'objects' are separated by ridiculously long distances.

In the macro world we see things as having sharp boundaries, but we pick those boundaries to suit our own particular perceptions and abilities. You look at a rose in bloom and you 'see' a beautiful red flower. A bee sees a glowing ultraviolet ring pointing to nectar. A caterpillar sees a tasty meal. A neutrino sees only the merest hint of etheric existence, as it passes through the Earth unimpeded.

Well, I suppose it's necessary to create these definitions so that we can communicate with each other about our models of reality, and create understanding. You know, the whole language thing.
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Old 17th September 2012, 06:12 AM   #26
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Old 17th September 2012, 06:39 AM   #27
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Old 17th September 2012, 06:44 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Monketey Ghost View Post
Paging Interesting Ian
Wow. Blast from the past. I miss that guy.
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Old 17th September 2012, 07:19 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Brainiac2 View Post
I thought Descarte had put that to rest with his Cogito Ergo Sum.
I think therefore I am, however in order to think you have to exist so it becomes I am therefore I am. It looks less profound in that form.
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Old 17th September 2012, 07:22 AM   #30
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Yep, hgc, I hardly ever agreed with him but I did like to read his stuff.
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Old 17th September 2012, 07:27 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
Another point worth noting is that as of 1980, most philosophers were probably not yet familiar with the mathematics and geometry of fractals. If the best approximation of the shape of a cloud you can muster is an ellipse, you're more likely to end up singing, "It's clouds' illusions I recall, I really don't know clouds at all."

Respectfully,
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I'd tell them hey, hey you, you get offa my cloud.
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Old 17th September 2012, 07:35 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
Now ask yourself why it is necessary to apply the best definition - or any definition at all?

'Things' like humans, cats, clouds, etc. don't actually exist. We merely imagine their existence in order to have a model which is simple enough to be contained within our limited brains. Having created these artificial categories, we then give them certain 'attributes' which are supposed to represent their properties. But these are just more fictional 'things' that exist only in our minds. The model is not reality!

In reality, every 'thing' is connected to every other 'thing', and nothing exists in isolation. Quantum physics tells us that even the tiniest subatomic particles are 'smeared' out over a larger space, and they have properties which appear nonsensical to humans who think in terms of discrete objects. We try to imagine an electron as being a point charge with mass, but its field spreads out into space infinitely, and it is influenced by other 'particles' which are billions of light years away. Even weirder and unimaginable to us are 'entangled' particles which act as one, even when the individual 'objects' are separated by ridiculously long distances.

In the macro world we see things as having sharp boundaries, but we pick those boundaries to suit our own particular perceptions and abilities. You look at a rose in bloom and you 'see' a beautiful red flower. A bee sees a glowing ultraviolet ring pointing to nectar. A caterpillar sees a tasty meal. A neutrino sees only the merest hint of etheric existence, as it passes through the Earth unimpeded.
99.9999% of the people who use the term 'quantum physics' will immediately prove they do not understand it by equating it with their flavor of woo.
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Old 17th September 2012, 07:38 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
My cat says you're wrong.
I just let my non existent cat out of the quantum door into the etheric universe.
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Old 17th September 2012, 07:40 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Monketey Ghost View Post
Paging Interesting Ian
I believe he's non-existent in JREF terms.
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Old 17th September 2012, 09:18 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by tsig View Post
I just let my non existent cat out of the quantum door into the etheric universe.
My cat is quantum. It exists on both sides of the door simultaneously.
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Old 17th September 2012, 09:20 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
My cat is quantum. It exists on both sides of the door simultaneously.
That is, until you look at it.
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Old 17th September 2012, 11:48 AM   #37
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Why do so many people here think philosophy is crap?

Why does peter unger think I do not exist?
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Old 17th September 2012, 12:36 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by levi View Post
Why do so many people here think philosophy is crap?
Because, when it comes to questions of epistemology, there are more fruitful ways of addressing the topic -- scientific inquiry, for instance.


Quote:
Why does peter unger think I do not exist?
He's probably just pulling your chain. And his own too.
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Old 17th September 2012, 12:41 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by levi View Post
Why do so many people here think philosophy is crap?

Why does peter unger think I do not exist?
Your second question answers your first one.
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Old 17th September 2012, 12:49 PM   #40
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Is all philosophy crap?
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