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Try describing a friend's position on a given subject 'adequately'.

 

"The process of description is immediately interpretive." I think someone here said that recently, and that, "the process of description immediately diminishes that which is described." Sounds like something AM would say. It's true though, and troublesome.

 

As soon as we begin the process of describing this scientific fact or that philosophical explanation, we begin immediately to interpret through our own filters and perhaps diminish that which we attempt to describe.

 

For instance, we might try describing some element of love. It might be based on a filter set of 'attraction-affection-friendship-respect-commitment-covenant' concepts or on a filter set of 'natural selection-sex drive-bonding-offspring'. Does one exclude the other? Is either adequate?

 

Or music. Describing music is pretty much a bust. Music is experienced; it communicates to us in some fashion, and we're affected by it. Try describing that without your filters. Pick an extraordinary musical piece that you find powerful and expressive; now try to describe it adequately in words, with an emphasis on 'adequately' so that it is conveyed to another.

 

An observational analysis of the audience at a rock concert (watching with the sound off) yields an interesting perspective on the participants. They're nuts, apparently. No reasonable quantity of words will 'adequately' convey the mosh to a reader. Try it.

 

Similarly, the various artistic fields (sculpture, oils, fabrics, pastels, etc.) convey so much more than words, and they're diminished in an attempt to describe them. Character concepts are even more elusive as we approach nobility, courage, generosity, grace, kindness, and the like.

 

Discussions here are sometimes painful as we reach for something that words can't quite encompass.

How do you avoid being rendered narrow-minded by your filters?

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Forgotten Language

 

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,

Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,

Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,

And shared a conversation with the housefly

in my bed.

Once I heard and answered all the questions

of the crickets,

And joined the crying of each falling dying

flake of snow,

Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . .

How did it go?

How did it go?

 

Shel Silverstein

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Try describing a friend's position on a given subject 'adequately'.

 

"The process of description is immediately interpretive." I think someone here said that recently, and that, "the process of description immediately diminishes that which is described." Sounds like something AM would say. It's true though, and troublesome.

Did I hear my ears ringing? :grin:

 

Buddy, this was an extraordinary post worthy of my respect! I'm going to enjoy this discussion with you. Allow me to comments on some various parts of it....

 

As soon as we begin the process of describing this scientific fact or that philosophical explanation, we begin immediately to interpret through our own filters and perhaps diminish that which we attempt to describe.

There is something known as Hermeneutical phenomenology which speaks to this.

 

Phenomenology becomes hermeneutical when its method is taken to be interpretive (rather than purely descriptive as in transcendental phenomnenology). This orientation is evident in the work of Heidegger who argues that all description is always already interpretation. Every form of human awareness is interpretive. Especially in Heidegger's later work he increasingly introduces poetry and art as expressive works for interpreting the nature of truth, language, thinking, dwelling, and being.

 

What I see you driving towards is the existential experience itself, without descriptive words to layer itself into the "meaning" of the experience itself. This moves into Transcendental Phenomenology.

 

Husserl described phenomenology as the rigorous science of all conceivable transcendental phenomena. All knowledge should be based on absolutely certain insights. But the rigor of the method of phenomenology is interpreted philosophically rather than in terms of any elaborate, objective procedures of the physical and natural sciences. The natural sciences start from a complex set of presuppositions, frameworks and perspectives of knowledge, but these are not questioned by the sciences themselves.

 

I believe that experience precedes description and does not define it entirely as some believe. But that the description becomes part of the experience itself once we supply one. All such descriptions of God in scripture themselves do this. To be a "believer" essentially takes the descriptions of humans and makes them part of that experience that is called "God". "God" becomes diminished therefore through the canon of scripture, and the literal interpretations of mythology. :) You are making my point for me.

 

For instance, we might try describing some element of love. It might be based on a filter set of 'attraction-affection-friendship-respect-commitment-covenant' concepts or on a filter set of 'natural selection-sex drive-bonding-offspring'. Does one exclude the other? Is either adequate?

 

Or music. Describing music is pretty much a bust. Music is experienced; it communicates to us in some fashion, and we're affected by it. Try describing that without your filters. Pick an extraordinary musical piece that you find powerful and expressive; now try to describe it adequately in words, with an emphasis on 'adequately' so that it is conveyed to another.

I want to share this with you since I think you'll get it in light of what you're saying here:

Our situation calls to mind a backstage interview with Anna Pavlova, the dancer. Following an illustrious and moving performance, she was asked the meaning of the dance. She replied, “If I could say it, do you think I should have danced it?” To give dance a literal meaning would be to reduce dancing to something else. It would lose its capacity to involve the whole person. And one would miss all the subtle nuances and delicate shadings and rich polyvalences of the dance itself.

 

The remark has its parallel in religion. The early ethnologist R. R. Marett is noted for his dictum that “religion is not so much thought out as danced out.” But even when thought out, religion is focused in the verbal equivalent of the dance: myth, symbol and metaphor. To insist on assigning to it a literal, one-dimensional meaning is to shrink and stifle and distort the significance. In the words of E. H. W. Meyer- stein, “Myth is my tongue, which means not that I cheat, but stagger in a light too great to bear.” Religious expression trembles with a sense of inexpressible mystery, a mystery which nevertheless addresses us in the totality of our being.

 

I will add that to try to use this transcendental experience as evidence of God, you have unavoidably diminished by describing it. Myth is like dance, to be heard on a different level. God is myth. That doesn't make it not real, just not what is definable, such as in theology. Myth is expressions of something in us. That something in us, can be expressed as many things, none of which can or should be defined as God; all of which could be expressed as "God". Words without definition, full of meaning.

 

Discussions here are sometimes painful as we reach for something that words can't quite encompass.

How do you avoid being rendered narrow-minded by your filters?

:) These discussion here I would say center around and are based off of the literal interpretation of scripture and religious experience. The cries of it not being "true" are in response to arguments that it is "true". The arguement is against the ideas rooted in a "modern" mindset of Christianity. Quoting back again to this professor I came across some time ago because he expresses this well:

The literal imagination is univocal. Words mean one thing, and one thing only. They don’t bristle with meanings and possibilities; they are bald, clean-shaven. Literal clarity and simplicity, to be sure, offer a kind of security in a world (or Bible) where otherwise issues seem incorrigibly complex, ambiguous and muddy. But it is a false security, a temporary bastion, maintained by dogmatism and misguided loyalty. Literalism pays a high price for the hope of having firm and unbreakable handles attached to reality. The result is to move in the opposite direction from religious symbolism, emptying symbols of their amplitude of meaning and power, reducing the cosmic dance to a calibrated discussion.

 

One of the ironies of biblical literalism is that it shares so largely in the reductionist and literalist spirit of the age. It is not nearly as conservative as it supposes. It is modernistic, and it sells its symbolic birthright for a mess of tangible pottage. Biblical materials and affirmations -- in this case the symbolism of Creator and creation – are treated as though of the same order and the same literary genre as scientific and historical writing. “I believe in God the Father Almighty” becomes a chronological issue, and “Maker of heaven and earth” a technological problem.

 

Your thoughts?

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Forgotten Language

 

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,

Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,

Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,

And shared a conversation with the housefly

in my bed.

Once I heard and answered all the questions

of the crickets,

And joined the crying of each falling dying

flake of snow,

Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . .

How did it go?

How did it go?

 

Shel Silverstein

Interesting illustration, Legion. Poetry as an art from often communicates more than the words which are used. This one perhaps doubly so.

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...

The literal imagination is univocal. Words mean one thing, and one thing only. They don’t bristle with meanings and possibilities; they are bald, clean-shaven. Literal clarity and simplicity, to be sure, offer a kind of security in a world (or Bible) where otherwise issues seem incorrigibly complex, ambiguous and muddy. But it is a false security, a temporary bastion, maintained by dogmatism and misguided loyalty. Literalism pays a high price for the hope of having firm and unbreakable handles attached to reality. The result is to move in the opposite direction from religious symbolism, emptying symbols of their amplitude of meaning and power, reducing the cosmic dance to a calibrated discussion.

 

One of the ironies of biblical literalism is that it shares so largely in the reductionist and literalist spirit of the age. It is not nearly as conservative as it supposes. It is modernistic, and it sells its symbolic birthright for a mess of tangible pottage. Biblical materials and affirmations -- in this case the symbolism of Creator and creation – are treated as though of the same order and the same literary genre as scientific and historical writing. “I believe in God the Father Almighty” becomes a chronological issue, and “Maker of heaven and earth” a technological problem.

 

Your thoughts?

Well framed thoughts and true.

 

Many here have lamented the literalists who have missed both the heart and life of the Christian faith. Many here have suffered abuse at the hands of well-meaning folks who thought to impose such thinking on real-life issues. This truth cuts both ways, of course. As Dr. Hyers suggests, it is the reductionist and literalist spirit of the age that robs us all, abuses us all, diminishes us all.

 

How shall we who've been plagued by such foolishness by those on the one hand avoid such foolishness in ourselves?

 

Buddy

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Truth consists of what is factually correct, and that is all. For example, the only truth about a musical composition is that it is comprised of certain notes rendered in a certain way. Whether or not it is good has nothing to do with truth, these are opinions. While John may consider the piece brilliant and uplifting, and Mary may find it dreary and tedious, the only real truth here is that one liked it and one didn't.

 

Attempts to find greater truth than this are just needless fuss and anguish which serve no point. Either enjoy it or don't listen, then go and live your life.

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"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." - John Keats "Ode to a Grecian Urn"

 

 

Someone's going to slam me for this one, can't help it. Keats is right, there are different kinds of truth.

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Truth consists of what is factually correct, and that is all. For example, the only truth about a musical composition is that it is comprised of certain notes rendered in a certain way. Whether or not it is good has nothing to do with truth, these are opinions. While John may consider the piece brilliant and uplifting, and Mary may find it dreary and tedious, the only real truth here is that one liked it and one didn't.

 

Attempts to find greater truth than this are just needless fuss and anguish which serve no point. Either enjoy it or don't listen, then go and live your life.

You make a point, Max. From one perspective, music is neither noble nor worthy, just vibrations, notes, noise neither good nor bad. For those to whom facts come so easily, music offers little. Simple enough, I suppose.

 

For another though, one for whom music is a language greater than words, it offers expression for things that can be heard but not spoken.

 

Buddy

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I suppose the old "eye of the beholder" applies.

 

It is our perception that gives things value. The typical Western ear finds Eastern music quite unlovely, even grating. We stodgy oldsters usually find rap music to be not music at all. Jackson Pollack speaks to few, while DaVinci speaks to many.

 

So it seems to me our preconceived notions, arrived at via our culture, upbringing and early exposure, determines the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Truth consists of what is factually correct, and that is all.

Then you can't say you know anything as true. Do you know what is factually correct? Do you have access to absolutes?

 

The best you can say is you believe something to be true. That belief in what is true is contingent on access to knowledge. You don't have all knowledge. What was considered true before is no longer considered true. That same hold true for today. Science offers greater insights, but not absolute knowledge. It itself doesn't claim to offer this.

 

But humans need something they can operate off of as a touchstone of what they consider reality. It's that perceived realty we call truth. There is truth, correctness, stability, in the world of the intangible also, without the need to go above and beyond nature. The world we create through our expressions of the intangible, as is being talked about above. There is truth in love. There is truth in hope. There is truth in beauty. Perhaps the only real truth, since the rest is so changeable.

 

These are all mythologies we create supporting our perceptions of "truth". We use them every day. Even the most hardened materialist uses them without awareness of them. It doesn't matter if they are mystical or materialistic in nature. In this sense, science indeed can become a new mythology in how it's called upon as the beacon of light to mankind. To say we know truth, that is as "factually correct", absolutely, is a religious statement very little different than citing the Bible as God's Word. A symptom of this reductionist mindset mentioned above.

 

For example, the only truth about a musical composition is that it is comprised of certain notes rendered in a certain way.

The only truth? All I need do is show one more truth, to make that statement false.

 

Here’s one: The composition is an expression of the artist’s vision of beauty. Here’s another: It a reflection of the culture the artist lives in. Here’s some others: It mimics the sounds of nature; it obeys certain psychological patterns; it causes people to weep; it causes people to sing; it inspires artists to write music themselves; it inspires poetry; it inspires art; it moves people to believe in beauty, in hope, in love, in truth, and so on, and so on, and so on, and so on.

 

All of these things may be truth about that piece of music. Truth is a multifaceted jewel, full of many living realities. Not a static, flat surface called “fact”.

 

Attempts to find greater truth than this are just needless fuss and anguish which serve no point. Either enjoy it or don't listen, then go and live your life.

Oh, I wouldn’t call them attempts to find greater truth. I believe they are all truths that present themselves to the beholder. To see more than just one of these many perceptions of truth is a matter of looking through another set of eyes as well as our own. Embracing other truths about that thing, adds to the appreciation of its nature and defines its essence.

 

Perhaps the anguish is in not seeing it as more than a flat truth, that which is called factually accurate?

 

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." - John Keats "Ode to a Grecian Urn"

 

 

Someone's going to slam me for this one, can't help it. Keats is right, there are different kinds of truth.

Agreed. This is truth. :grin:

 

Now to focus on my response Buddy… ;)

 

 

 

P.S. I'm a musician as well...

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Do you have access to absolutes?

Yes, I have access to a few absolutes. And I believe it just burns you up Antlerman.

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Do you have access to absolutes?

Yes, I have access to a few absolutes. And I believe it just burns you up Antlerman.

I'm tempted to bite, but I hate to see the discussion run off on absolutes. "I think therefore I am" is not an absolute, BTW. It's a premise, an arbitrary assumption that is accepted as reality as a starting point. It's takes the place of and acts as an absolute, but it in itself is not an objective reality. The "I" thinking is a conceptual construct.

 

Going to bed now... into another reality of dreams. :)

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Yeah, the quandary of language. Our brains even tend to think of things in terms of language. Makes one wonder if the concept in your head can accurately depict something, much less the words you use.

 

It is good to keep the limitation of language in mind when in these discussions. With it in mind I think our talks can help us better understand and define what it is we are trying to talk about.

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... It is good to keep the limitation of language in mind when in these discussions. With it in mind I think our talks can help us better understand and define what it is we are trying to talk about.

Which brings us again to the opening questions, thanks Doc.

"Is truth found in word, or is it larger than our attempts to describe?"

 

AM gives us ...

I believe that experience precedes description and does not define it entirely as some believe. But that the description becomes part of the experience itself once we supply one.

 

If I understand you: Experience -> experience + description (which we supply) = interpreted experience

Seems reasonable.

 

and ...

All such descriptions of God in scripture themselves do this.

 

Of course. An encounter with an angel described by the one who leaves us the account should be understood in terms of the fellow who had to describe something outside the realm of normalcy.

 

and ...

To be a "believer" essentially takes the descriptions of humans and makes them part of that experience that is called "God". "God" becomes diminished therefore through the canon of scripture, and the literal interpretations of mythology. You are making my point for me.

 

You perhaps stretch a bit here, AM.

There's a natural requirement for concurrence we all share in some measure. If I had an account that suggested there was a city on the Horn of Africa peninsula, I wouldn't book my travel without more information. The same with a believer; that which one can in good conscience (and sanity) endorse as true must have concurrence to some acceptable degree in the information and experience of the believer's life.

 

I had suspicions regarding the veracity miracles until I'd personally witnessed enough to support a measure of acceptance that such things may happen. Similarly, stories of angels were just stories until I saw one in person, then later, another in a vision. Each case was adequate objective corroboration for extending belief to angels in general.

 

The literalists to whom you refer leave little breathing room for inquiry, curiosity, questioning. The scripture comments directly on the nobility of those who with care, prove whether the things they've been told are true. By implication, there's perhaps a lack of such nobility and maybe even a shallowness among those who would skip the hard work and go straight to religious rule.

 

Following our reasoning, then, in the absence of a personal encounter with God, one is left with words alone which in themselves will prove inadequate for conveying the whole.

 

En route to Africa again. I'll be irregularly connected for a few days while in transit.

Buddy

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"Is truth found in word, or is it larger than our attempts to describe?"

Buddy this question seems ready made for that old Chinese proverb.

 

"A word is a finger that points to the moon. The finger is not itself the moon."

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"Is truth found in word, or is it larger than our attempts to describe?"

Buddy this question seems ready made for that old Chinese proverb.

 

"A word is a finger that points to the moon. The finger is not itself the moon."

Nor would the "word of God", be God. :) Any sort of descriptive reference has become fused with the experience, and defines it. Seeing an "angel" is a form of description. It has been identified and described. The best can be said is "something" happened, not what. Pure experience is formless. More later when I have time....

 

So... when the waiter asked Descartes if he would like some dessert with his meal, Descartes replied "I think not," and vanished.

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"Is truth found in word, or is it larger than our attempts to describe?"

Buddy this question seems ready made for that old Chinese proverb.

 

"A word is a finger that points to the moon. The finger is not itself the moon."

 

and often times there is too much finger and not enough moon.

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"Is truth found in word, or is it larger than our attempts to describe?"

Buddy this question seems ready made for that old Chinese proverb.

"A word is a finger that points to the moon. The finger is not itself the moon."

and often times there is too much finger and not enough moon.

Here's some more moon for you Rev! :assshake:

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Many here have lamented the literalists who have missed both the heart and life of the Christian faith. Many here have suffered abuse at the hands of well-meaning folks who thought to impose such thinking on real-life issues. This truth cuts both ways, of course. As Dr. Hyers suggests, it is the reductionist and literalist spirit of the age that robs us all, abuses us all, diminishes us all.

 

How shall we who've been plagued by such foolishness by those on the one hand avoid such foolishness in ourselves?

And this is the heart of the matter. Reductionism goes both ways. I rebuff at saying the Bible is a lie, as much as I do that it’s the truth. Neither is correct. What is incorrect is the argument that it either can or should be evaluated as scientifically or historically credible: except to show that the argument that it is is misplaced.

 

This approach to the Bible (or the religion by extension) that it is verifiable critically, is the mindset and criteria spawned by a post-enlightenment religious world, laying the groundwork for discussion of its sacred texts in this context. It set the tone for arguing it being factual or not factual. The debate is really centered on the notion of the Bible being validated rationally, scientifically, and less about what the Bible is outside that argument, or even what religious belief is for that matter.

 

The Bible is mythology. Its symbols are mythic in nature. Faith, belief, utilizes myth to support itself. It doesn’t matter if its belief is the myth of God, or the myth of the American Dream. It’s the same thing. It’s the myths created by a society to reinforce its vision of itself; to represent it in a symbol, to validate it in their own eyes and to others by citing its “truth” in its stories. We see it around us every day.

 

That was what began the Christian myth as well, not as some single story beginning with some “fact”, but as the created myths of many various communities, which later were collected together into larger myths spanning communities (narrative Gospels), and still collected further into a greater myth called the canon of scripture: the myth of a Christian Epic; transforming a newly evolved set of beliefs into some single, timeless truth, establishing itself in its eyes before the world as some eternal truth. Christianity was imaged as in the mind and plans of God from the beginning of time!

 

How different is this from saying our society is founded on eternal truths; the pursuit of freedom, equality, and prosperity? It’s not. We symbolize it with the Pilgrims and the Mayflower establishing the ideals we cherish today; the Christian symbolize them using Jesus, imagining hims as the Eternal Logos becoming a man to reconcile us to God. Behind it all, are principles and truths that are being represented. All of this is no different in intent and purpose than any other origin myth, establishing their society in some ancient past, in some eternal truth. Myth. Truths put into symbolic form. Symbolic descriptions of the experience of living.

 

None this makes any of it a lie, it makes it myth. God is just one flavor of myth, but myth is His Mother.

 

Crud… I’m out of time and will try to tie this into my point later in the next couple days...

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...

 

How different is this from saying our society is founded on eternal truths; the pursuit of freedom, equality, and prosperity? It’s not. We symbolize it with the Pilgrims and the Mayflower establishing the ideals we cherish today; the Christian symbolize them using Jesus, imagining hims as the Eternal Logos becoming a man to reconcile us to God. Behind it all, are principles and truths that are being represented. All of this is no different in intent and purpose than any other origin myth, establishing their society in some ancient past, in some eternal truth. Myth. Truths put into symbolic form. Symbolic descriptions of the experience of living.

 

None this makes any of it a lie, it makes it myth. God is just one flavor of myth, but myth is His Mother.

 

Crud… I’m out of time and will try to tie this into my point later in the next couple days...

You'll may be surprised to hear that I agree with much of what you've said. When we're dealing with descriptions, whatever their lineage, we're faced with understanding such information in terms of 'who gave us the description?' and 'to what do they point?' From the symbolic forms, can we extract sufficient truths from which those forms rose?

 

Some of the difficulties in the 'God is' or 'God isn't' controversies arise, it seems to me, from the subsequent 'therefore' that imposes so much on the hearers of either premise.

 

It may be that the reality of God's existence is non-threateningly neutral until we are required to produce some response according to rules someone else prescribes for us. May we not reasonably consider and choose our own response?

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I suppose the old "eye of the beholder" applies.

 

It is our perception that gives things value. The typical Western ear finds Eastern music quite unlovely, even grating. We stodgy oldsters usually find rap music to be not music at all. Jackson Pollack speaks to few, while DaVinci speaks to many.

 

So it seems to me our preconceived notions, arrived at via our culture, upbringing and early exposure, determines the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Indeed, we attribute value to this and not that for various reasons; our perception, as you've said.

 

It leaves us with questions, though, that we all from time to time attempt to answer. Is there truth beneath the veneer with which we cover such things as nobility, courage, or generosity? One might profess a heart of generosity toward his fellow man, live a life of stinginess, and die without ever having known a heart-moment of truly generous thought or action. Is generosity of value, apart from this one's life choices? Does generosity require that we attribute value to it before it has intrinsic worth? Or is there some foundational truth that remains true, whether anyone agrees or not?

 

We might agree that a loving heart is in every way beautiful, but why that is so remains a question. Is it because we think so, that it is true? Or is there more?

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All we have is our perception. Things are good or worthy based on that, not whether there is some abstract arbitrator or concept of justice out their that makes it true. We make it true, by valuing it and making it work. Are our thoughts, ideals, and beliefs the veneer you spoke of? Isn't that enough? Isn't that all it's ever been?

 

Foundational truths sound nice and all but we don't get them, even if you were to say they exist they are all still contingent on individual perception. Our values are not as strong as we would be comfortable with, but that's how it is. We have reasons for things like altruism, justice and such and they either stand or fail.

 

It's early, so I rambled, but I hope that makes some sense.

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