About this topic

Truth is the aim of inquiry, but some theories seem to better approximate that goal than others. One may think, for instance, that Copernicus’ model of the solar system is closer to the truth than Ptolemy’s. Since Copernicus assumed that planetary orbits were circles, his theory is, strictly speaking, false. Thus, we have here a case of a false theory which better approximates the truth than another false theory. Moreover, Copernicus’ theory also seems better than the plain claim that planets move in orbits: so, false propositions may sometimes be more verisimilar even than true but uninformative ones. This suggests that verisimilitude (or truthlikeness, as it is also known) is a mixture of truth and informative content: a theory is verisimilar when it tells many things about the world, and many of these things are true. Explicating this intuition in a rigorous way amounts to solving the so-called logical problem of truthlikeness. In normal circumstances, we simply don’t know what the truth about a given matter is. Thus, we cannot directly assess the relative verisimilitude of competing theories. However, we can estimate their verisimilitude on the basis of available evidence: explaining exactly how this can be done means answering to the so-called epistemic problem of truthlikeness. Interestingly, estimated verisimilitude doesn’t follow the rules of probability. In particular, it may be that a theory with low probability is estimated as highly truthlike; and, a logically stronger theory may be estimated as more verisimilar than a logically weaker one. This makes (estimated) verisimilitude a mathematically less well-behaved notion than probability; still, it provides the philosopher of science with a flexible and useful tool to analyze such issues as theory change, scientific progress, convergence to the truth, and the realism/antirealism debate.  

Key works The notion of verisimilitude was first introduced, and clearly distinguished from probability, by Popper 1962 (see also Popper 1972 and Popper 1983), who also provided the first formal definition of truthlikeness. Ten years later, Tichý 1974 and Miller 1974 independently proved that Popper’s definition was untenable. This triggered the still ongoing post-Popperian research program on explicating verisimilitude, which currently include a number of different, and partially conflicting, proposals. These can be classified within three different perspectives (Zwart 2001Oddie 2014): the content approach (Miller 1977, Miller 2006; Kuipers 1987), the likeness or similarity approach (Oddie 1986, Niiniluoto 1987), and the consequence approach (Schurz & Weingartner 1987, Schurz & Weingartner 2010). All such approaches address at least the logical problem of truthlikeness; for discussions of the epistemic problem see especially Niiniluoto 1987 and Kuipers 2000.
Introductions Niiniluoto 1998 provides an excellent survey and discussion of the main accounts of verisimilitude; a more recent survey is given by Oddie 2014. Book-length treatments include Oddie 1986Niiniluoto 1987, the collection edited by Kuipers 1987Kieseppä 1996Kuipers 2000 (parts III-IV), and Zwart 2001Cevolani & Tambolo 2013  is a gentle introduction to the methodological applications of the notion of truthlikeness.
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  1. Agassi, Verisimilitude, P.Joseph Agassi - manuscript
    The idea of verisimilitude is implicit in the writings of Albert Einstein ever since 1905, when he declared the distribution of field energy according to Maxwell's theory an approximation to that according to quantum-radiation theory, and Newtonian kinetic energy an approximation to his relativistic mass-energy. All his life Einstein presented new ideas as yielding older established ones as special cases and first approximations. The news has reached the philosophical community via the writings of Sir Karl Popper half-a-century after Einstein's trailblazing (...)
  2. Verisimilitude.Joseph Agassi - 2011 - Discusiones Filosóficas 12 (19):61 - 86.
  3. To Save Verisimilitude.Joseph Agassi - 1981 - Mind 90 (360):576-579.
    JOSEPH AGASSI 1. Sir Karl Popper has offered two different theories of scientific progress, his theory of conjectures and refutations and corroboration, as well as his theory of verisimilitude increase. The former was attacked by some old-fashioned inductivists, yet is triumphant; the latter has been refuted by Tichy and by Miller to Popper’s own satisfaction. Oddly, however, the theory of verisimilitude was developed because of some deficiency in the theory of corroboration, and though in its present precise formulation it was (...)
  4. Verisimilitude: Comment on David Miller.Joseph Agassi - 1975 - Synthese 30 (1-2):199 - 204.
  5. Realism Rescued. How Scientific Progress is Possible.J. Aronson, R. Harr’E. & E. C. Way - 1994 - Open Court.
  6. Truth, Verisimilitude, and Natural Kinds.Jerrold L. Aronson - 1997 - Philosophical Papers 26 (1):71-104.
  7. Verisimilitude and Type Hierarchies.Jerrold L. Aronson - 1990 - Philosophical Topics 18 (2):5-28.
  8. Truthlikeness, Translation, and Approximate Causal Explanation.Eric Barnes - 1995 - Philosophy of Science 62 (2):215-226.
    D. Miller's demonstrations of the language dependence of truthlikeness raise a profound problem for the claim that scientific progress is objective. In two recent papers (Barnes 1990, 1991) I argue that the objectivity of progress may be grounded on the claim that the aim of science is not merely truth but knowledge; progress thus construed is objective in an epistemic sense. In this paper I construct a new solution to Miller's problem grounded on the notion of "approximate causal explanation" which (...)
  9. Beyond Verisimilitude: A Linguistically Invariant Basis for Scientific Progress.Eric Barnes - 1991 - Synthese 88 (3):309 - 339.
    This paper proposes a solution to David Miller's Minnesotan-Arizonan demonstration of the language dependence of truthlikeness (Miller 1974), along with Miller's first-order demonstration of the same (Miller 1978). It is assumed, with Peter Urbach, that the implication of these demonstrations is that the very notion of truthlikeness is intrinsically language dependent and thus non-objective. As such, truthlikeness cannot supply a basis for an objective account of scientific progress. I argue that, while Miller is correct in arguing that the number of (...)
  10. The Language Dependence of Accuracy.Eric Barnes - 1990 - Synthese 84 (1):59 - 95.
    David Miller has demonstrated to the satisfaction of a variety of philosophers that the accuracy of false quantitative theories is language dependent (cf. Miller 1975). This demonstration renders the accuracy-based mode of comparison for such theories obsolete. The purpose of this essay is to supply an alternate basis for theory comparison which in this paper is deemed the knowledge-based mode of quantitative theory comparison. It is argued that the status of a quantitative theory as knowledge depends primarily on the soundness (...)
  11. Beyond Truthlikeness: Toward a Linguistically Invariant Theory of Scientific Progress.Eric Christian Barnes - 1990 - Dissertation, Indiana University
    In the 1970's a problem arose for the viability of Popper's truthlikeness project. The problem, in short, was that all plausible measures of the truthlikeness of scientific theories were language dependent. This dissertation is primarily concerned to provide a substitute notion that can do the work 'verisimilitude' was intended to do without suffering from linguistic relativity. It is argued that the notion of 'knowledge', or 'knowledgelikeness', can suffice in this regard. ;Chapter One seeks to convince the reader that the notion (...)
  12. Approximate Truth and Descriptive Nesting.Jeffrey Alan Barrett - 2008 - Erkenntnis 68 (2):213-224.
    There is good reason to suppose that our best physical theories, quantum mechanics and special relativity, are false if taken together and literally. If they are in fact false, then how should they count as providing knowledge of the physical world? One might imagine that, while strictly false, our best physical theories are nevertheless in some sense probably approximately true. This paper presents a notion of local probable approximate truth in terms of descriptive nesting relations between current and subsequent theories. (...)
  13. Verisimilitude and the Dynamics of Scientific Research Programmes.Jesús P. Zamora Bonilla - 2002 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 33 (2):349-368.
    Some peculiarities of the evaluation of theories within scientific research programmes (SRPs) and of the assessing of rival SRPs are described assuming that scientists try to maximise an ‘epistemic utility function’ under economic and institutional constraints. Special attention is given to Lakatos' concepts of ‘empirical progress’ and ‘theoretical progress’. A notion of ‘empirical verisimilitude’ is defended as an appropriate utility function. The neologism ‘methodonomics’ is applied to this kind of studies.
  14. Verisimilitude, Structuralism and Scientific Progress.Jesùs P. Zamora Bonilla - 1996 - Erkenntnis 44 (1):25 - 47.
    An epistemic notion of verisimilitude (as the 'degree in which a theory seems closer to the full truth to a scientific community') is defined in several ways. Application to the structuralist description of theories is carried out by introducing a notion of 'empirical regularity' in structuralist terms. It is argued that these definitions of verisimilitude can be used to give formal reconstructions of scientific methodologies such as falsificationism, conventionalism and normal science.
  15. Truthlikeness Without Truth: A Methodological Approach.Jesús P. Zamora Bonilla - 1992 - Synthese 93 (3):343-372.
    In this paper, an attempt is made to solve various problems posed to current theories of verisimilitude: the problem of linguistic variance; the problem of which are the best scientific methods for getting the most verisimilar theories; and the question of the ontological commitment in scientific theories. As a result of my solution to these problems, and with the help of other considerations of epistemological character, I conclude that the notion of 'Tarskian truth' is dispensable in a rational interpretation of (...)
  16. Approximate Truth and Natural Necessity.Richard N. Boyd - 1976 - Journal of Philosophy 73 (18):633-635.
  17. Verisimilitude.Chris Brink - 2001 - In W. H. Newton-Smith (ed.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Science. Blackwell. pp. 561--563.
  18. Verisimilitude: Views and Reviews.Chris Brink - 1989 - History and Philosophy of Logic 10 (2):181-201.
    This paper is both a survey and a review of the current state of the debate concerning verisimilitude. As a survey it is intended for the interested outsider who wants both easy access to and some comparison between the respective approaches. As a review it covers the first three books on the topic: those of Oddie. Niiniluoto and Kuipers.
  19. Verisimilitude by Power Relations: A Response to Oddie.Chris Brink & Johannes Heidema - 1991 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42 (1):101-104.
  20. The Problem of Verisimilitude and Counting Partially Identical Properties.T. Britton - 2004 - Synthese 141 (1):77 - 95.
    In this paper I propose a solution to the qualitative version of David Miller's verisimilitude reversal argument. Miller (1974) shows that verisimilitude rankings are relative to language choice and hence, are not objective. My solution stems from a reply to an earlier solution proposed by Eric Barnes (1991). Barnes argues that the verisimilitude reversal problem can be solved by revealing an epistemic dimension. I show that Miller's problem cannot be solved by side-stepping foundational metaphysical claims as his epistemic solution suggests. (...)
  21. Computing Verisimilitude.Katarina Britz & Chris Brink - 1995 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 36 (1):30-43.
    This paper continues the power ordering approach to verisimilitude. We define a parameterized verisimilar ordering of theories in the finite propositional case, both semantically and syntactically. The syntactic definition leads to an algorithm for computing verisimilitude. Since the power ordering approach to verisimilitude can be translated into a standard notion of belief revision, the algorithm thereby also allows the computation of membership of a belief-revised theory.
  22. If Universes Were as Plenty as Blackberries: Peirce on Induction and Verisimilitude.Robert Burch - 2010 - Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 46 (3):423-452.
    In 1910, only four years before his death, Peirce began an adumbration of a life's worth of major results concerning nondeductive logic—results that he had reached after more than forty-five years of extremely careful and detailed investigations2—as follows: "I must premiss that we, all of us, use this word ["probability"] with a degree of laxity which corrupts and rots our reasoning to a degree that very few of us are at all awake to."3 Peirce continued the adumbration by outlining his (...)
  23. For Better, for Worse: Comparative Orderings on States and Theories.I. C. Burger & J. Heidema - 2005 - In R. Festa, A. Aliseda & J. Peijnenburg (eds.), Confirmation, Empirical Progress, and Truth Approximation. Essays in Debate with Theo ¸Iteauthorkuipers2000. Rodopi. pp. 459--488.
  24. For Better, for Worse: Comparative Orderings on States and Theories.Isabella C. Burger & Johannes Heidema - 2005 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 83 (1):459-488.
    In logic, including the designer logics of artificial intelligence, and in the philosophy of science, one is often concerned with qualitative, comparative orderings on the states of a system, or on theories expressing information about the system. States may be compared with respect to normality, or some preference criterium, or similarity to some given (set of) state(s). Theories may be compared with respect to logical power, or to truthlikeness, or to how well they capture certain information. We explain a number (...)
  25. Fallibilism, Verisimilitude, and the Preface Paradox.Gustavo Cevolani - 2017 - Erkenntnis 82 (1):169-183.
    The Preface Paradox apparently shows that it is sometimes rational to believe logically incompatible propositions. In this paper, I propose a way out of the paradox based on the ideas of fallibilism and verisimilitude. More precisely, I defend the view that a rational inquirer can fallibly believe or accept a proposition which is false, or likely false, but verisimilar; and I argue that this view makes the Preface Paradox disappear. Some possible objections to my proposal, and an alternative view of (...)
  26. Carnapian Truthlikeness.Gustavo Cevolani - 2016 - Logic Journal of the IGPL 24 (4):542-556.
    Theories of truthlikeness (or verisimilitude) are currently being classified according to two independent distinctions: that between ‘content’ and ‘likeness’ accounts, and that between ‘conjunctive’ and ‘disjunctive’ ones. In this article, I present and discuss a new definition of truthlikeness, which employs Carnap’s notion of the content elements entailed by a theory or proposition, and is then labelled ‘Carnapian’. After studying in detail the properties and shortcomings of this definition, I argue that it occupies a unique position in the landscape of (...)
  27. Truth Approximation, Belief Merging, and Peer Disagreement.Gustavo Cevolani - 2014 - Synthese 191 (11):2383-2401.
    In this paper, we investigate the problem of truth approximation via belief merging, i.e., we ask whether, and under what conditions, a group of inquirers merging together their beliefs makes progress toward the truth about the underlying domain. We answer this question by proving some formal results on how belief merging operators perform with respect to the task of truth approximation, construed as increasing verisimilitude or truthlikeness. Our results shed new light on the issue of how rational (dis)agreement affects the (...)
  28. Truth Approximation Via Abductive Belief Change.Gustavo Cevolani - 2013 - Logic Journal of the IGPL 21 (6):999-1016.
    We investigate the logical and conceptual connections between abductive reasoning construed as a process of belief change, on the one hand, and truth approximation, construed as increasing (estimated) verisimilitude, on the other. We introduce the notion of ‘(verisimilitude-guided) abductive belief change’ and discuss under what conditions abductively changing our theories or beliefs does lead them closer to the truth, and hence tracks truth approximation conceived as the main aim of inquiry. The consequences of our analysis for some recent discussions concerning (...)
  29. Verisimilitude and Strongly Semantic Information.Gustavo Cevolani - 2011 - Etica E Politica 13 (2):159-179.
    In The Philosophy of Information, Luciano Floridi presents a theory of “strongly semantic information”, based on the idea that “information encapsulates truth” . Starting with Popper, philosophers of science have developed different explications of the notion of verisimilitude or truthlikeness, construed as a combination of truth and information. Thus, the theory of strongly semantic information and the theory of verisimilitude are intimately tied. Yet, with few exceptions, this link has virtually pass unnoticed. In this paper, we briefly survey both theories (...)
  30. Strongly Semantic Information and Verisimilitude.Gustavo Cevolani - 2011 - Etica and Politica / Ethics and Politics (2):159-179.
    In The Philosophy of Information, Luciano Floridi presents a theory of “strongly semantic information”, based on the idea that “information encapsulates truth” (the so-called “veridicality thesis”). Starting with Popper, philosophers of science have developed different explications of the notion of verisimilitude or truthlikeness, construed as a combination of truth and information. Thus, the theory of strongly semantic information and the theory of verisimilitude are intimately tied. Yet, with few exceptions, this link has virtually pass unnoticed. In this paper, we briefly (...)
  31. Approaching the Truth Via Belief Change in Propositional Languages.Gustavo Cevolani & Francesco Calandra - 2010 - In M. Suàrez, M. Dorato & M. Rèdei (eds.), EPSA Epistemology and Methodology of Science: Launch of the European Philosophy of Science Association. Springer. pp. 47--62.
    Starting from the sixties of the past century theory change has become a main concern of philosophy of science. Two of the best known formal accounts of theory change are the post-Popperian theories of verisimilitude (PPV for short) and the AGM theory of belief change (AGM for short). In this paper, we will investigate the conceptual relations between PPV and AGM and, in particular, we will ask whether the AGM rules for theory change are effective means for approaching the truth, (...)
  32. A Verisimilitudinarian Analysis of the Linda Paradox.Gustavo Cevolani, Vincenzo Crupi & Roberto Festa - 2012 - VII Conference of the Spanish Society for Logic, Methodology and Philosphy of Science.
    The Linda paradox is a key topic in current debates on the rationality of human reasoning and its limitations. We present a novel analysis of this paradox, based on the notion of verisimilitude as studied in the philosophy of science. The comparison with an alternative analysis based on probabilistic confirmation suggests how to overcome some problems of our account by introducing an adequately defined notion of verisimilitudinarian confirmation.
  33. Verisimilitude and Belief Change for Conjunctive Theories.Gustavo Cevolani, Vincenzo Crupi & Roberto Festa - 2011 - Erkenntnis 75 (2):183-202.
    Theory change is a central concern in contemporary epistemology and philosophy of science. In this paper, we investigate the relationships between two ongoing research programs providing formal treatments of theory change: the (post-Popperian) approach to verisimilitude and the AGM theory of belief change. We show that appropriately construed accounts emerging from those two lines of epistemological research do yield convergences relative to a specified kind of theories, here labeled “conjunctive”. In this domain, a set of plausible conditions are identified which (...)
  34. The Whole Truth About Linda: Probability, Verisimilitude and a Paradox of Conjunction.Gustavo Cevolani, Vincenzo Crupi & Roberto Festa - 2010 - In Marcello D'Agostino, Federico Laudisa, Giulio Giorello, Telmo Pievani & Corrado Sinigaglia (eds.), New Essays in Logic and Philosophy of Science. College Publications. pp. 603--615.
    We provide a 'verisimilitudinarian' analysis of the well-known Linda paradox or conjunction fallacy, i.e., the fact that most people judge the probability of the conjunctive statement "Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement" (B & F) as more probable than the isolated statement "Linda is a bank teller" (B), contrary to an uncontroversial principle of probability theory. The basic idea is that experimental participants may judge B & F a better hypothesis about Linda as compared (...)
  35. Exploring and Extending the Landscape of Conjunctive Approaches to Verisimilitude.Gustavo Cevolani & Roberto Festa - 2018 - In Alessandro Giordani & Ciro de Florio (eds.), From Arithmetic to Metaphysics: A Path Through Philosophical Logic. De Gruyter. pp. 69-88.
    Starting with Popper, philosophers and logicians have proposed different accounts of verisimilitude or truthlikeness. One way of classifying such accounts is to distinguish between “conjunctive” and “disjunctive” ones. In this paper, we focus on our own “basic feature” approach to verisimilitude, which naturally belongs to the conjunctive family. We start by surveying the landscape of conjunctive accounts; then, we introduce two new measures of verisimilitude and discuss their properties; finally, we conclude by hinting at some surprising relations between our conjunctive (...)
  36. A Partial Consequence Account of Truthlikeness.Gustavo Cevolani & Roberto Festa - 2018 - Synthese:1-20.
    Popper’s original definition of truthlikeness relied on a central insight: that truthlikeness combines truth and information, in the sense that a proposition is closer to the truth the more true consequences and the less false consequences it entails. As intuitively compelling as this definition may be, it is untenable, as proved long ago; still, one can arguably rely on Popper’s intuition to provide an adequate account of truthlikeness. To this aim, we mobilize some classical work on partial entailment in defining (...)
  37. "Merely a Logician's Toy?" Belief Revision Confronting Scientific Theory Change. [REVIEW]Gustavo Cevolani & Roberto Festa - 2012 - Metascience 21 (2):463-466.
    Review of Olsson, Erik J. and Enqvist, Sebastian , Belief Revision meets Philosophy of Science.
  38. Verisimilitude and Belief Change for Nomic Conjunctive Theories.Gustavo Cevolani, Roberto Festa & Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2013 - Synthese 190 (16):3307-3324.
    In this paper, we address the problem of truth approximation through theory change, asking whether revising our theories by newly acquired data leads us closer to the truth about a given domain. More particularly, we focus on “nomic conjunctive theories”, i.e., theories expressed as conjunctions of logically independent statements concerning the physical or, more generally, nomic possibilities and impossibilities of the domain under inquiry. We define both a comparative and a quantitative notion of the verisimilitude of such theories, and identify (...)
  39. Probability, Approximate Truth, and Truthlikeness: More Ways Out of the Preface Paradox.Gustavo Cevolani & Gerhard Schurz - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (2):209-225.
    The so-called Preface Paradox seems to show that one can rationally believe two logically incompatible propositions. We address this puzzle, relying on the notions of truthlikeness and approximate truth as studied within the post-Popperian research programme on verisimilitude. In particular, we show that adequately combining probability, approximate truth, and truthlikeness leads to an explanation of how rational belief is possible in the face of the Preface Paradox. We argue that our account is superior to other solutions of the paradox, including (...)
  40. Truth May Not Explain Predictive Success, but Truthlikeness Does.Gustavo Cevolani & Luca Tambolo - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (4):590-593.
    In a recent paper entitled “Truth does not explain predictive success” , Carsten Held argues that the so-called “No-Miracles Argument” for scientific realism is easily refuted when the consequences of the underdetermination of theories by the evidence are taken into account. We contend that the No-Miracles Argument, when it is deployed within the context of sophisticated versions of realism, based on the notion of truthlikeness , survives Held’s criticism unscathed.
  41. Progress as Approximation to the Truth: A Defence of the Verisimilitudinarian Approach.Gustavo Cevolani & Luca Tambolo - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (4):921-935.
    In this paper we provide a compact presentation of the verisimilitudinarian approach to scientific progress (VS, for short) and defend it against the sustained attack recently mounted by Alexander Bird (2007). Advocated by such authors as Ilkka Niiniluoto and Theo Kuipers, VS is the view that progress can be explained in terms of the increasing verisimilitude (or, equivalently, truthlikeness, or approximation to the truth) of scientific theories. According to Bird, VS overlooks the central issue of the appropriate grounding of scientific (...)
  42. Verisimilitude and Legisimilitude.L. J. Cohen - 1987 - In T. A. F. Kuipers (ed.), What is Closer-to-the-Truth? Rodopi. pp. 129--144.
  43. Empirical Modeling and Information Semantics.Gordana Dodig Crnkovic - 2008 - Mind & Society.
  44. New Essays in Logic and Philosophy of Science.Marcello D'Agostino, Federico Laudisa, Giulio Giorello, Telmo Pievani & Corrado Sinigaglia (eds.) - 2010 - College Publications.
  45. Truthlikeness and the Lottery Paradox Via the Preface Paradox.Simon D'Alfonso - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):391-397.
    In a 2017 AJP paper, Cevolani and Schurz propose a novel solution to the Preface Paradox that appeals to the notion of expected truthlikeness. This discussion note extends and analyses their approach by applying it to the related Lottery Paradox.
  46. Belief Merging with the Aim of Truthlikeness.Simon D'Alfonso - 2016 - Synthese 193 (7).
    The merging/fusion of belief/data collections in propositional logic form is a topic that has received due attention within the domains of database and AI research. A distinction can be made between two types of scenarios to which the process of merging can be applied. In the first type, the collections represent preferences, such as the voting choices of a group of people, that need to be aggregated so as to give a consistent result that in some way best represents the (...)
  47. On Quantifying Semantic Information.Simon D'Alfonso - 2011 - Information 2 (1):61-101.
    The purpose of this paper is to look at some existing methods of semantic information quantification and suggest some alternatives. It begins with an outline of Bar-Hillel and Carnap’s theory of semantic information before going on to look at Floridi’s theory of strongly semantic information. The latter then serves to initiate an in-depth investigation into the idea of utilising the notion of truthlikeness to quantify semantic information. Firstly, a couple of approaches to measure truthlikeness are drawn from the literature and (...)
  48. Supplementing Belief Revision for The Aim of Truthlikeness.Simon D'Alfonso - 2011 - The Reasoner 5 (9):143-144.
  49. Artistic Verisimilitude.J. P. Day - 1962 - Dialogue 1 (2):163-187.
  50. Artistic Verisimilitude.J. P. Day - 1962 - Dialogue 1 (3):278-304.
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