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Profile: Brian Weatherson (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, University of St. Andrews)
  1. Brian Weatherson, Norms of Assertion and Expressivism.
    This paper was written for a workshop on ethics and epistemology at Missouri. I use an example from unpublished work with Ishani Maitra to develop a new kind of argument for expressivism. (I don’t endorse the argument, but I think it is interesting.) Roughly, the argument is that knowledge is a norm governing assertions, but moral claims do not have to be known to be properly made, so to make a moral claim is not to make an assertion. Some suggestions (...)
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  2. Brian Weatherson, Tracking, Closure and Conjunctions.
    Comments on Sherri Rousch’s Tracking Truth for the 2006 Philosophy of Science Association conference.
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  3. Ishani Maitra & Brian Weatherson, In Defence of the ACA's Medicaid Expansion.
    The only part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereafter, ‘the ACA’) struck down in National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) et al. v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al. was a provision expanding Medicaid. We will argue that this was a mistake; the provision should not have been struck down. We’ll do this by identifying a test that C.J. Roberts used to justify his view that this provision was unconstitutional. We’ll defend that test against (...)
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  4. Brian Weatherson, EK.
    Timothy Williamson has argued that our evidence is what we know. This implies that anything we come to know by inference instantly becomes part of our evidence, and that all of our evidence is true. I argue that neither of these implications is correct. I conclude by noting a rival theory of evidence, one based on a suggestion Jerry Fodor makes in The Modularity of Mind , is not vulnerable to the criticisms I make of Williamson, nor to the criticisms (...)
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  5. Brian Weatherson, Beliefs Old and New.
    Traditional philosophy talks a lot about beliefs. Modern philosophy talks a lot about degrees of belief. Are these two concepts related? We suggest they are: X believes that p iff X 's degree of belief is one. We offer a contextualist account of belief to handle the most obvious counterexamples.
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  6. Brian Weatherson, Conditionals, Predicates and Probability.
    Ernest Adams has claimed that a probabilistic account of validity gives the best account of our intuitive judgements about the validity of arguments. In particular, he claims, it has the best hope of accounting for our judgements about many arguments involving conditionals. Most of the examples in the literature on this topic have been arguments framed in the language of propositional logic. I show that once we consider arguments involving predicates and involving identity, Adams’s strategy is less successful.
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  7. Brian Weatherson, Doomsday and the Extinction of Baseball.
    John Leslie's Doomsday argument uses the frequency interpretation of probability to argue that the end of the universe is closer than we might have thought. Oh well - all the worse for the frequency interpretation.
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  8. Brian Weatherson, Do Judgments Screen Evidence?
    Suppose a rational agent S has some evidence E that bears on p, and on that basis makes a judgment about p. For simplicity, we’ll normally assume that she judges that p, though we’re also interested in cases where the agent makes other judgments, such as that p is probable, or that p is well-supported by the evidence. We’ll also assume, again for simplicity, that the agent knows that E is the basis for her judgment. Finally, we’ll assume that the (...)
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  9. Brian Weatherson, Easy Knowledge and Other Epistemic Virtues.
    This paper has three aims. First, I’ll argue that there’s no good reason to accept any kind of ‘easy knowledge’ objection to externalist foundationalism. It might be a little surprising that we can come to know that our perception is accurate by using our perception, but any attempt to argue this is impossible seems to rest on either false premises or fallacious reasoning. Second, there is something defective about using our perception to test whether our perception is working. What this (...)
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  10. Brian Weatherson, From Classical to Constructive Probability.
    We generalize the Kolmogorov axioms for probability calculus to obtain conditions defining, for any given logic, a class of probability functions relative to that logic, coinciding with the standard probability functions in the special case of classical logic but allowing consideration of other classes of “essentially Kolmogorovian” probability functions relative to other logics. We take a broad view of the Bayesian approach as dictating inter alia that from the perspective of a given logic, rational degrees of belief are those representable (...)
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  11. Brian Weatherson, Growing Individuals and Temporary Intrinsics.
    I argue that ordinary objects are fusions of past and present, but not future, temporal parts. This theory provides the neatest solution to some puzzles concerning intrinsic properties, and is supported by some surprising linguistic data. (This paper is probably inconsistent with some other papers I've written, but the line it runs is at least amusing and original.).
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  12. Brian Weatherson, Humean Supervenience.
    As with many aspects of David Lewis’s work, it is hard to provide a better summary of his views than he provided himself. So the following introduction to what the Humean Supervenience view is will follow the opening pages of Lewis (1994a) extremely closely. But for those readers who haven’t read that paper, here’s the nickel version.
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  13. Brian Weatherson, Intuitions and Conceptual Analysis: Week Five.
    An important tradition in metaphysics takes its job to be finding a limited number of ingredients with which we can tell the complete story of the world (or some subject matter). Physicalism, for example, claims that the list of ingredients sufficient to tell the complete story about the very small, or about the non-sentient, is sufficient to tell the complete story about all of the world. Some people take the moral of this kind of metaphysics to be eliminativist; that we (...)
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  14. Brian Weatherson, Keynes and Wittgenstein.
    Three recent books have argued that Keynes’s philosophy, like Wittgenstein’s, underwent a radical foundational shift. It is argued that Keynes, like Wittgenstein, moved from an atomic Cartesian individualism to a more conventionalist, intersubjective philosophy. It is sometimes argued this was caused by Wittgenstein’s concurrent conversion. Further, it is argued that recognising this shift is important for understanding Keynes’s later economics. In this paper I argue that the evidence adduced for these theses is insubstantial, and other available evidence contradicts their claims.
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  15. Brian Weatherson, Probability in Philosophy.
    I’m not sure how much knowledge everyone already has, so I’d like to start with a little questionnaire. On a card, say for each of the following topics whether you’re familiar with the topic, have heard of it but aren’t familiar with it, or have never heard of it.
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  16. Brian Weatherson, Reflections on Lewis, Naturalness and Meaning.
    It is sometimes claimed (e.g., by Sider (2001a,b); Holton (2003); Stalnaker (2004); Williams (2007); Weatherson (2003, 2010)) that a theory of predicate meaning that assigns a central role to naturalness is either (a) Lewisian, (b) true, or (c) both. The theory in question is rarely developed in particularly great detail, but the rough intuitive idea is that the meaning of a predicate is the most natural property that is more-or-less consistent with the usage of the predicate. The point of this (...)
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  17. Brian Weatherson, Sameness and Substance Renewed.
    Sameness and Substance Renewed (hereafter, 2001) is, in effect, a second edition of Wiggins’s 1980 book Sameness and Substance (hereafter, 1980), which in turn expanded and corrected some ideas in his 1967 Identity and Spatio-Temporal Continuity (hereafter, 1967). All three books have similar aims. The first is to argue, primarily against Geach, that identity is absolute not relative. The second is to argue that, despite this, whenever an identity claim a = b is true, there is a sortal f such (...)
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  18. Brian Weatherson, The Problem of the Many.
    As anyone who has flown out of a cloud knows, the boundaries of a cloud are a lot less sharp up close than they can appear on the ground. Even when it seems clearly true that there is one, sharply bounded, cloud up there, really there are thousands of water droplets that are neither determinately part of the cloud, nor determinately outside it. Consider any object that consists of the core of the cloud, plus an arbitrary selection of these droplets. (...)
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  19. Brian Weatherson, The Temporal Generality Problem.
    The generality problem is a well-known problem for process reliabilist theories of justification. Here’s how the problem usually gets started. In the first instance, token processes of belief formation are not themselves reliable or unreliable. Rather, it is types of processes of belief formation that are reliable or unreliable. But any token process is an instance of many different types. And these types may differ in reliability.
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  20. Brian Weatherson, Vagueness Without Toleration: Reply to Greenough.
    Patrick Greenough has argued that a predicate is vague iff it is epistemically tolerant. I show that there are some counterexamples to this analysis, and that it rests on some fairly contentious theories about the behaviour of vague terms in propositional attitude reports.
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  21. Brian Weatherson, Week Eleven: Objections to Jackson.
    One of the benefits of the 2D framework we looked at last week was that it explained how we could understand a sentence without knowing which proposition it expressed. And we could do this even if we give an account of understanding which is closely tied to the possible worlds semantics we use to analyse propositions. Really this can be done very easily, without appeal to any high-flying Kripkean cases. In “Analytic Metaphysics” Jackson discusses a very simple case of it. (...)
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  22. Brian Weatherson, Words Without Meaning.
    In philosophy it’s hard to find a view that hasn’t had an ism associated with it, but there are some. Some theories are too obscure or too fantastic to be named. And occasionally a theory is too deeply entrenched to even be conceptualised as a theory. For example, many of us hold without thinking about it the theory that “the central function of language is to enable a speaker to reveal his or her thoughts to a hearer,” (3) that in (...)
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  23. Brian Weatherson, A Reductio for Reliabilism.
    In “A Reliabilist Solution to the Problem of Promiscuous Bootstrapping”, Hilary Kornblith (2009) proposes a reliabilist solution to the bootstrapping problem. I’m going to argue that Kornblith’s proposal, far from solving the bootstrapping problem, in fact makes the problem much harder for the reliabilist to solve. Indeed, I’m going to argue that Kornblith’s considerations give us a way to develop a quick reductio of a certain kind of reliabilism. Let’s start with a crude statement of the problem. The bootstrapper, call (...)
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  24. Brian Weatherson, Book Review. [REVIEW]
    This collection arose out of a conference on intuitions at the University of Notre Dame in April 1996. The papers in it mainly address two related questions: (a) How much evidential weight should be assigned to intuitions? and (b) Are concepts governed by necessary and sufficient conditions, or are they governed by ‘family resemblance’ conditions, as Wittgenstein suggested? The book includes four papers by psychologists relating and analyzing some empirical findings concerning intuitions and eleven papers by philosophers endorsing various answers (...)
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  25. Brian Weatherson, Disagreeing About Disagreement.
    I argue with my friends a lot. That is, I offer them reasons to believe all sorts of philosophical conclusions. Sadly, despite the quality of my arguments, and despite their apparent intelligence, they don’t always agree. They keep insisting on principles in the face of my wittier and wittier counterexamples, and they keep offering their own dull alleged counterexamples to my clever principles. What is a philosopher to do in these circumstances? (And I don’t mean get better friends.) One popular (...)
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  26. Brian Weatherson, Dogmatism and Intuitionistic Probability.
    Many epistemologists hold that an agent can come to justifiably believe that p is true by seeing that it appears that p is true, without having any antecedent reason to believe that visual impressions are generally reliable. Certain reliabilists think this, at least if the agent’s vision is generally reliable. And it is a central tenet of dogmatism (as described by Pryor (2000) and Pryor (2004)) that this is possible. Against these positions it has been argued (e.g. by Cohen (2005) (...)
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  27. Brian Weatherson, Dutch Books and Infinity.
    Peter Walley argues that a vague credal state need not be representable by a set of probability functions that could represent precise credal states, because he believes that the members of the representor set need not be countably additive. I argue that the states he defends are in a way incoherent.
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  28. Brian Weatherson, Decision Making with Imprecise Probabilities.
    Orthodox Bayesian decision theory requires an agent’s beliefs representable by a real-valued function, ideally a probability function. Many theorists have argued this is too restrictive; it can be perfectly reasonable to have indeterminate degrees of belief. So doxastic states are ideally representable by a set of probability functions. One consequence of this is that the expected value of a gamble will be imprecise. This paper looks at the attempts to extend Bayesian decision theory to deal with such cases, and concludes (...)
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  29. Brian Weatherson, Evidence Neutrality.
    • Perceptual Evidence is Psychological My perceptual evidence consists in facts about the psychological states I am in when undergoing a perceptual experience. (If you don’t think that evidence is propositional, the evidence might be the states themeslves; I’m going to presuppose evidence is propositional, and factive, for this talk.) So, for instance, my perceptual evidence might include that I’m visually representing that there is a table in front of me.
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  30. Brian Weatherson, First Draft of ”Moderate Rationalism and Bayesian Scepticism”.
    This paper is part of a larger campaign against moderation in foundational epistemology. I think the only plausible responses to a kind of Humean sceptic are, radical responses. The Humean sceptic I have in mind tells us about a sceptical scenario, ss, where our evidence is just as it actually is, but some purported piece of knowledge of ours is false. The sceptic names the proposition You aren’t in ss as s, and calls on us to respond to the following (...)
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  31. Brian Weatherson, Game Playing Under Ignorance.
    In earlier work I argued that using ‘vague probabilities’ did not ground any argument for significantly adjusting Bayesian decision theory. In this note I show that my earlier arguments don’t carry across smoothly to game theory. Allowing agents to have vague probabilities over possible outcomes dramatically increases the range of possible Nash equilibria in certain games, and hence arguably (but only arguably) increases the range of possible rational action.
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  32. Brian Weatherson, Knowing and Understanding: Reply to Pettit.
    Dean Pettit recently argued in Mind that understanding a word did not require knowing what it meant. Adam and I show that his core arguments, which mostly turn on showing that some particular cases are cases of understanding without knowledge, do not work.
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  33. Brian Weatherson, Rules, Norms and Basic Knowledge.
    Lewis Carroll’s 1895 paper “Achilles and the Tortoise” showed that we need a distinction between rules of inference and premises. We cannot, on pain of regress, treat all rules simply as further premises in an argument. But Carroll’s paper doesn’t say very much about what rules there must be. Indeed, it is consistent with what Carroll says there to think that the only rule is -elimination. You might think that modern Bayesians, who seem to think that the only rule of (...)
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  34. Brian Weatherson, Solving an Infinite Decision Problem.
    Barrett and Artzenius posed a problem concerning infinite sequences of decisions. It appeared that the strategy of making the rational choice at each stage of the game was, in some circumstances, guaranteed to lead to lower returns than the strategy of making the irrational choice at each stage. This paper shows that there is only the appearance of paradox. The choices that Barrett and Artzenius were calling ‘rational’ cannot be economically justified, and so it is not surprising that someone who (...)
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  35. Brian Weatherson, Stages, Worms, Slices and Lumps.
    Assume, for fun, that temporal parts theory is true, and that some kind of modal realism (perhaps based on ersatz worlds) is true. Within this grand metaphysical picture, what are the ordinary objects? Do they have many temporal parts, or just one? Do they have many modal parts, or just one? I survey the issues involved in answering this question, including the problem of temporary intrinsics, the problem of the many, Kripke's objections to counterpart theory and quantifier domain restrictions.
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  36. Brian Weatherson, Three Objections to Smith on Vagueness.
    F-relevant respects are never precisely defined, but the intuitive idea is clear enough. Smart- relevant respects are mental abilities, Philosopher-relevant respects presumably include where one is employed, what kinds of things one writes, etc, and, most importantly for this paper, the only Tall-relevant respect is height.
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  37. Brian Weatherson, Vague Composition and the Problem of the Many.
    Assume also that it is vague, in some sense, which hairs are hairs of that cat. Then one might think that it is indeterminate in some sense which thing is the cat on the mat.
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  38. Brian Weatherson, Week Nine: Pragmatics, Metaphysics and Possibility.
    There’s two points left over from last week’s seminar still to discuss. The first is whether, as Lewis claims, we are justified in positing an asymmetry in the role of pragmatics. The second is whether this approach is at all justified. We’ll look at that before going on to the material scheduled for this week.
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  39. Brian Weatherson, Week Ten: Two-Dimensional Modality.
    Our primary interest this week will be in two objections Jackson mentions which seem to threaten his program. Each of them is avoided by appeal to the two-dimensional framework we sketched last week. Before we go over that framework again, we will start by looking at the objections. For reasons that may become apparent shortly, we will look at them in reverse order. So first we’ll look at this objection from Chapter 3, an objection which turns on the discovery of (...)
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  40. Brian Weatherson & Andy Egan, Epistemic Modals and Epistemic Modality.
    There is a lot that we don’t know. That means that there are a lot of possibilities that are, epistemically speaking, open. For instance, we don’t know whether it rained in Seattle yesterday. So, for us at least, there is an epistemic possibility where it rained in Seattle yesterday, and one where it did not. It’s tempting to give a very simple analysis of epistemic possibility: • A possibility is an epistemic possibility if we do not know that it does (...)
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  41. Brian Weatherson (2014). Centrality and Marginalisation. Philosophical Studies 171 (3):517-533.
    Welcome to the history of late analytic philosophyIt’s a good time to be doing history of late analytic philosophy. There is flurry of new and exciting work on how philosophy got from the death pangs of positivism and ordinary language philosophy to where it is today. Some may see this as a much needed gap in the literature. Indeed, there are a couple of reasons for scepticism about there being such a field as history of late analytic philosophy, both of (...)
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  42. Brian Weatherson (2014). Games, Beliefs and Credences. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1):n/a-n/a.
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  43. Brian Weatherson (2013). And Otherwise. In David Phiroze Christensen & Jennifer Lackey (eds.), The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays. Oxford University Press. 54.
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  44. Brian Weatherson (2013). Disagreements, Philosophical and Otherwise. In Jennifer Lackey & David Christensen (eds.), The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays. Oxford University Press. 54.
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  45. Brian Weatherson (2013). Margins and Errors. Inquiry 56 (1):63-76.
    Recently, Timothy Williamson has argued that considerations about margins of errors can generate a new class of cases where agents have justified true beliefs without knowledge. I think this is a great argument, and it has a number of interesting philosophical conclusions. In this note I’m going to go over the assumptions of Williamson’s argument. I’m going to argue that the assumptions which generate the justification without knowledge are true. I’m then going to go over some of the recent arguments (...)
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  46. Brian Weatherson (2013). Ross on Sleeping Beauty. Philosophical Studies 163 (2):503-512.
    In two excellent recent papers, Jacob Ross has argued that the standard arguments for the ‘thirder’ answer to the Sleeping Beauty puzzle lead to violations of countable additivity. The problem is that most arguments for that answer generalise in awkward ways when he looks at the whole class of what he calls Sleeping Beauty problems. In this note I develop a new argument for the thirder answer that doesn't generalise in this way.
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  47. Brian Weatherson (2013). Running Risks Morally. Philosophical Studies 167 (1):1-23.
    I defend normative externalism from the objection that it cannot account for the wrongfulness of moral recklessness. The defence is fairly simple—there is no wrong of moral recklessness. There is an intuitive argument by analogy that there should be a wrong of moral recklessness, and the bulk of the paper consists of a response to this analogy. A central part of my response is that if people were motivated to avoid moral recklessness, they would have to have an unpleasant sort (...)
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  48. Brian Weatherson (2013). The Role of Naturalness in Lewis's Theory of Meaning. Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 1 (10).
    Many writers have held that in his later work, David Lewis adopted a theory of predicate meaning such that the meaning of a predicate is the most natural property that is (mostly) consistent with the way the predicate is used. That orthodox interpretation is shared by both supporters and critics of Lewis's theory of meaning, but it has recently been strongly criticised by Wolfgang Schwarz. In this paper, I accept many of Schwarze's criticisms of the orthodox interpretation, and add some (...)
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  49. David Jehle & Brian Weatherson (2012). Dogmatism, Probability, and Logical Uncertainty. In Greg Restall & Gillian Kay Russell (eds.), New Waves in Philosophical Logic. Palgrave Macmillan. 95--111.
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  50. Ishani Maitra, Brian Weatherson & Jonathan Ichikawa (2012). In Defense of a Kripkean Dogma. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (1):56-68.
    In “Against Arguments from Reference” (Mallon et al., 2009), Ron Mallon, Edouard Machery, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich (hereafter, MMNS) argue that recent experiments concerning reference undermine various philosophical arguments that presuppose the correctness of the causal-historical theory of reference. We will argue three things in reply. First, the experiments in question—concerning Kripke’s Gödel/Schmidt example—don’t really speak to the dispute between descriptivism and the causal-historical theory; though the two theories are empirically testable, we need to look at quite different data (...)
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