Tag Archive | "philosophy"

FF Podcast (Audio): Russell Blackford (Conversations for a Cause)

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This week, for Conversations for a Cause, we talk with Russell Blackford, philosopher and co-author of 50 Great Myths About Atheism. We talk with him about misconceptions about atheism. Then, we discuss his views on theology and the ethics of human enhancement.

Conversations for a Cause is a series of interviews with celebrity freethinkers, part of an online donation drive to support ongoing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) relief and rehabilitation efforts.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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A Conversation with Russell Blackford, philosopher and author

This week, for Conversations for a Cause, we talk with Russell Blackford, philosopher and co-author of 50 Great Myths About Atheism. We talk with him about misconceptions about atheism. Then, we discuss his views on theology and the ethics of human enhancement.

You may also download the episode file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Philosophy, Podcast, Religion, Science, VideoComments (0)

Heresy is the Best Policy: The Value of Heresy (Part 1 of 2)

The great Clarence Darrow once said, “To think is to differ.” This truth implies that those who cannot disagree cannot think. Independent thinking is the only kind of thinking there is; to unquestioningly embrace opinions handed down ex cathedra is to abdicate one’s sacred right to think.

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Philosophy and the tragic virtues, or Philosophy as an ode to life


All of philosophy originates from two things – burning curiosity and uncompromising honesty. All the other rudiments of good philosophy like eagle-eyed insightfulness, logical rigor and exacting intellectual standards, passionate skepticism, a deep moral and existential concern for matters of life and death and, of course, a teary-eyed wonder, spring from these two wellsprings, these two cardinal virtues.

Curiosity, because philosophy is naught without deep reflection, and reflection is impossible without curiosity. But being reflective is not enough. Many people spend all their intellectual energies reflecting on deep questions, but they end up holding on to their comforting beliefs. But such comfort-beliefs are like comfort pillows, nice to hug and cuddle; however, they’re mostly air and won’t stand against a moment of honest scrutiny. So why are they held on to dearly, and not only by the all-too-many, but also by those who are intelligent and reflective?

Read the full story

Posted in Personal, Philosophy, Religion, SocietyComments (10)

God Won't Make a Way

If the deity exists, would you believe he’s a god of love or a god that’s indifferent to the people’s affairs in life? Well, the evidence is everywhere and you’ll just have to open your eyes or mind for you to answer such a question. Since we can’t really pre-determine his existence beyond reasonable doubt, let’s just say – for the sake of the article’s argument – he exists. Then, that starts the questions that would flood the father-figure like, why does he prefer to hide in a shell or watch in a so-called heaven without resolving the ultimate question that would have offended any god – does he exist?

Why would he let a book like the Holy Bible be the people’s reference to his whims, rules and laws, dreams or ambitions, preferences, etc. when the book (which consists of mini-books) would tell you something like “believe in God and you’ll go to heaven; don’t believe and you’ll be burned in eternal fire.” Robert Ingersoll said it best when he said “the hope of theology is salvation of few and damnation of almost everyone.” Why should he impose such a warning on people? What’s in the back of his mind or what clouded his brain (if he has brains or something like that) for wanting such? Is the Holy Bible really his work or is it just a mere compilation of books created by some ancient essayists and false prophets? If the Holy Bible is indeed his work (and that is if he exists) then bear with me when I say to that deity, “Shame on you!”

I feel this way because of the questions that would go on forever with things that would bug him like: Why did you create a couple of humans perfectly yet they’re susceptible to being persuaded by the Devil in the Garden of Eden? Is that what you would call perfect? Is that what you would call “created in your own image”? Why is it that both Adam and Eve were naked yet they’re indifferent to each other’s body before they committed the so-called Original Sin? Was this couple the earliest naturalists? Would they have had copulation before committing the sin? If they weren’t into having sex before committing that so-called sin, then does it mean they wouldn’t have reproduced and they’ll be a lone couple forever? I’m saying such because the Bible calls lust a sin and if there’s no lust, realistically there shouldn’t be sex. I’m not misunderstanding the Bible as what religious bigots would say – I’m just seeing what it really meant based on reason and logic.

What about today? Have you seen the people in Africa who don’t have enough drinking water, which is the most essential matter to humans next to oxygen? Have you noticed the children in third world countries of whom no parents can even take care? Have you heard the cries of anguish of those people afflicted with cancer, AIDS, deadly viruses, leukemia, hepatitis, tuberculosis and so forth? Do you prefer to just watch those women in Somalia being stoned to death after being severely gang-raped? Can you do something to the little girls who were being raped and tortured for days before being murdered? (If you know nothing of these yet, don’t be lazy, they’re all on reliable media outlets like Huffingtonpost.com.) Do you prefer to let them just suffer and punish the culprits on a certain judgment day? Are you that cold, selfish, insensitive and indifferent or is it simply that you, God, don’t exist at all, not once, not twice but none of your likes existed?

A God with a capital “G” would have been all-powerful and would have just remade the errors of his creation. A God that isn’t all-powerful, all-encompassing and all-knowing is useless and shouldn’t be thought about at all because he’s not even a god (with a small “g”).

Is the theory that he indeed created the universe as creationists would force on you – but died afterwards, having some a bit of sense? Why don’t we just count on evidence and on the sensible, reasonable and worthwhile things? Why are we caring that much about a supreme being when he doesn’t even give a shit, might have died or most likely doesn’t exist? Why don’t we just care about the beings that are more important in the here and now like our family, loved ones or even friends?

This is why I’m not seeing any logic and seriousness in the statement that the love of God is above all for the reason that it’s just plain nonsense. It’s just the perfect example of unrequited love. You know what might be sad but sanely true? As normal human beings, we actually love ourselves first then preferably love those who deserve our love as well.

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Is this Necessary?

When we talk about any form of cosmological argument whether it’s from Thomas Aquinas or something as sophisticated as Dr. Craig’s Kalam Argument, the issue about “necessary” will always enter the picture.
So let us just talk about what most theists meant when they use the word “necessary.”

A Brute Fact?
I’ve notice that whenever God believers talk about the cosmological argument they always start the conversation that God as a necessary Being is a brute fact. That prompts Prof. Richard Dawkins to say, “They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress” (The God Delusion, p 101). That means before everything else, I have to accept the fact that God exist.

Getting a little bit technical, that means God is a necessary truth – if you conceive of it as false, you’ll end up contradicting yourself, because its truth is built right into the concept that composed it. To know that it is true, you don’t have to know anything but the meaning of those concepts; you don’t have to know any other facts about the world. So it is either God exist or the whole universe is unexplainable. This has something to do with the Principle of Sufficient Reason. According to this principle, nothing can exist without a sufficient reason for its existence.

This is an advance form of Anselm’s ontological argument. According to Norman Malcolm what we have to accept in talking about God is the following: (1) Either God’s existence is logically impossible or (2) it is logically necessary for God to exist. But we can’t select the first option since God is the greatest conceivable being we can think of. For God not to exist is a defect which contradicts the concept of God’s very nature. (Not a very good selection to choose eh?) So when we apply the Principle of Sufficient Reason, then VIOLA! God exist!

And what is the “sufficient reason?”

Bertrand Russell explained that the contingency argument rest on a misconception of what an explanation is and does and singularity on what it is that makes phenomena “intelligible.”

Suppose we have been asked to explain why Benigno Aquino III won the 2010 election. Do we have to look for his genealogy or to go back to Prehistoric Philippines to answer this? We can always answer things like his popularity on his rivals or the fact that because of his famous mom and dad, he became too popular to most Filipino voters. We can think of different reasons (causes and effects) but what matter is that we understand the reason. As stated by Russell, in order to explain a phenomenon or to make it intelligible, we don’t need to posit a necessary being.

God believers says that the Principle of Sufficient Reason can’t be wrong since it has been a part of the scientific worldview for a long time in the sense that scientists are committed not only in figuring out the way the world is but also the reason why it is that way. That’s true…but science is controlled by rules of discourse. In science necessarily entails objectivity whose propositions are constructed from data.

Going back on the issue, the facts of the matter in the issue of “necessary” is that there really aren’t any established reason to say that the existence of anything (including God) as necessary. Can you tell me one?

Necessary truths are not established on the basis of sense-experience. They are either intuitively analytic or deduced from intuitively acceptable premises. Logical and mathematical truths are generally regarded as the paradigms of necessary truths. It is a difference between “matters of logic” from “matters of facts”.

Want to know the difference?

OK…It is matters of logic to say that a triangle is an angle with 3-sides…Now to say that it doesn’t you are contradicting yourself. But it is a question of fact which logic alone cannot settle whether there’s a giant triangle standing in the middle of EDSA near Cubao’s Farmer’s Plaza on October 27, 2010 at exactly 7:30 AM.

Necessary truth can only be applied to statements because logic applies only on statements. So to accept that God is the most perfect, conceivable being I can imagine is a necessary truth and to say that it doesn’t exist will lead me to a contradiction. But to say that this “most perfect, conceivable being I can imagine” is here, talking to me right now and He’s wearing a pink boxer short…well…we’ll have a problem with that.


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Kumakalam Nanaman

In my recent article regarding the Kalam Argument on the existence of God, I have a…well…a reaction from a certain Christian reader. Ok…let me address his comments and at least the said comments can serve as an update on how Filipino Christian apologists approached the Kalam argument (as I have said in the last article, we all need an upgrade).

Christian: on Premise 1, William Lane Craig has already answered the atheist’s question. (Link: Question 106: Is God Actually Infinite?)

Is that the answer of premise 1? Let see…

(1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.

I don’t even see any question to this premise.

I think what the premise is saying is that everything that came to existence has a cause.
Now going back to the issue, it seems the Christian taught that I was talking about the infinite existence of God. The issue here is if actual infinity cannot exist and God is infinite then how did He have lived through an infinite number of hours. I’m not talking about God but on the infinite “hours” that God have lived His life in another dimension.

Well, the best response here that a Christian can used is that God is outside time.

So again, that brings us to the problem of a God that is outside time.

Another response is that God’s time is different from the time in our universe. God’s time is different than our way of viewing things. It is much larger. Really?

So how can we be certain of this “God time?” Well, Dr. Craig calls this a “God’s metaphysical time.” (For more about Craig’s metaphysical time see this link.

According to Dr. Craig, metaphysical time is tensed, dynamic, and non-relative. There is an ever changing fact of the matter about which events are future, which present, and which past. Future events become present, present events become past, and past events sink further and further into the past. Now does this metaphysical time have a beginning? Yes according to Dr. Craig and the very first event in metaphysical time must be a timeless person.

If I’m going to accept this God could have created this metaphysical time long before creating the space-time of our universe, it follows that there could have been something temporally prior to the earliest point in space-time, and Dr. Craig’s argument for creation ex nihilo would then be false.

Anyway, according to Dr. Craig, “denying that God is actually infinite in the quantitative sense in no way implies that God is finite. This inference does not follow, since the quantitative sense of infinity may be simply inapplicable to God.” In short, only finite things are under that rule (pwera ang diyos).

So here’s the problem. Actual infinite cannot exist, yet an absolute infinite time can exist (that’s the time when God created the metaphysical time of course)..weh?

Those who started the Kalam argument feels that time is finite…for example, al-Kindi felt that time was finite because an actual infinite is impossible and time is a quantitative thing that must be finite in measure (1979, 25). Saadia also felt that the concept of infinite time is reduced to absurdity because of the problem of regressing an actual infinite (Craig, 1979, 39).

So that’s it…time is finite, yet God existed for an “infinite time”…oh well…

The Christian may not have been updated after all when he said: “God is outside our universe. He is also not subjected to time.” For WLC, God is “timeless, spaceless”(http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5180), which is different from the Christian’s response.
Moreover, I wonder where the Christian got the idea when he said,“God created this ‘place’ on his own being.” Actually he was led into it by the previous answer of the atheist, because he himself gave the wrong answer to the atheist.

On timeless and spaceless:
“For as the cause of space and time, this entity must transcend space and time and therefore exist atemporally and non-spatially, at least sans the universe. This transcendent cause must therefore be changeless and immaterial, since timelessness entails changelessness, and changelessness implies immateriality. Such a cause must be beginningless and uncaused, at least in the sense of lacking any antecedent causal conditions. Ockham’s Razor will shave away further causes, since we should not multiply causes beyond necessity. This entity must be unimaginably powerful, since it created the universe out of nothing.” —WLC (http://www.euroleadershipresources.org)/resource.php?ID=51)

What are the problems to such claims? According to John R. Lucas, “To say that God is outside time, as many theologians do, is to deny, in effect, that God is a person.” (Concepts of Person and Christian Ethics by Stanley Rudman p. 154) He continues, “if I will try to resolve the problem of God’s omniscience by making him timeless, I may create a worse problem by denying to Him the essence of what it means to be a person.”
Ah OK…so a timeless and space less God is not a person. I can’t make a relationship with a non-person, can you?

The western Christian God is a personal god. He is a deity who judge people. This god in not a mere impersonal being – he thinks, imagine, act, he has emotion – he can be jealous, happy, sad and angry (a lot)

Being outside time.
The guy to be blamed here is the pagan philosopher Plotinus (204-207 CE). Plotinus took the idea from Plato who took it from guys like Parmenides. So, if you guys want a God who is quite beyond intellectual discourses, you can always rely on Plotinus to do the job right (Yep, Plotinus is also the guy who invented the Trinity Doctrine).

Now, since God is considered immutable (cannot and does not change) it was deem to be compatible on being timeless (again…thanks to the Neo-Platonists). Immutability and being eternal are Greek ideas of a perfect god.

If you believe that God is a person, well…you might encounter some problems.

A timeless being cannot think since mental events and successions of thought use up time. He doesn’t have any intelligence since thinking and planning requires time. Also, a timeless being is a block of stone since time is necessary for movement. In relation with space, a being who is timeless and space-less will be trapped in his own attributes.

On Premise 2:
With the introductory statement:
Pinoy Atheist just dumped Physics’ own definition of the universe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe). I wonder how he could even start discussing about the universe with an atheist-physicist, if he could not even agree with the physicist in the definition of the universe.

With Pinoy Atheist’s question:
“Now if the universe is not included (or the same as) everything, then how can its beginning (the universe) the same with the beginning of everything?” he should ask a physicist, because that is physics’ claim.
Defining the Universe.

The Christian seems to define the word universe base on a physicist’s definition…now, how can we define the word “universe?”

According to his own source, the Wikipedia, it defines the universe as commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all physical matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, although this usage may differ with the context. The term universe may be used in slightly different contextual senses, denoting such concepts as the cosmos, the world, or nature.

The word universe was derived from the Old French word Univers, which in turn derives from the Latin word universum.The Latin word was used by Cicero and later Latin authors in many of the same senses as the modern English word is used. The Latin word derives from the poetic contraction Unvorsum — first used by Lucretius in Book IV (line 262) of his De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) — which connects un, uni (the combining form of unus’, or “one”) with vorsum, versum (a noun made from the perfect passive participle of vertere, meaning “something rotated, rolled, changed”). Lucretius used the word in the sense “everything rolled into one, everything combined into one”.

So what’s the difference between everything and the universe?

Well just look at your dictionary folks. Everything means, “All things or all of a group of things.”

Now again…is the universe included with everything or is it separate? If ‘universe’ is defined as the same as ‘everything’ (or vice versa) then a set should not be considered a number of itself. Now if the universe is not a member of itself, its beginning is not the same with the other beginning. Simple rule huh? And of course I don’t need to bother a physicist about it.

Pinoy Atheist claimed he dumped Premises 1 & 2. I did not even see any falsification that “The universe began to exist” in his presentation/imaginary discussion. I can’t even trace what he believes about the universe: if it eternal or temporal or what? So how does this dump the idea that “the universe began to exist,” if Pinoy Atheist affirms spontaneous cause of the universe? Did he not just agree with Premise 2?

Now let’s see, did I agree with Premise 2? In syllogism, the axiom or premises are not independent with one another. That means each premise is in relationship with each other. Now let see… In premise one: Everything that exists has a cause must follow premise 2 that the universe began to exist so we can have the conclusion that the universe has a cause.

Let’s review the following syllogism:
(1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe has a beginning of its existence.

So how did I eliminate those two?

In Premise (1) we found a problem in the word “everything”. 1.) It doesn’t include God. Remember that the Kalam argument is proving the existence of God, right? So why he is already excluded in the argument?
In Premise (2) I am questioning if the universe and “everything” (in premise 1) is the same entity?
So if Premise (1) and Premise (2) has a problem, how can we arrive at the conclusion?

If he says that I agreed to premise two that…”the universe began to exist in spontaneous cause” that violates premise one and that will have an effect with the conclusion. Oh, and why talk about what I believed? The article is not about me.

There are at least 10 possible interpretations of quantum mechanics, including determined and indeterminate. It cannot be conclusively said that quantum mechanics are spontaneous and accidents, not yet! Moreover, physicists are having a hard time proving that quantum mechanics can cause a universe. Probabilistic Causation is not WLC’s own. It is part of Philosophy

Who’s saying the term probabilistic causation is Dr. Craig’s own invention? You can find some references about this on Dr. Craig and Dr. Smith discussion on that matter (Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology By William Lane Craig, Quentin Smith).

Dr. Craig claims that quantum events are caused in a non predetermined manner which he calls probabilistic causality. That means the cause could be accidental, spontaneous – not predetermined.

I’ve already wrote a response to this base on David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779)
According to David Hume, “In such a chain too, or succession of objects, each part is caused by that which preceded it, and causes which succeed it. Where then is the difficulty? But the whole, you say, wants a cause. I answer that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct counties into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed merely by an arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of things. Did I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable should you afterwards ask me what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts.”
That means when we speak of causes there must be an explanation for an event. Spontaneous events don’t have any explanation. No explanation, no cause.

Let’s be a little scientific here… According to Quintin Smith, “The wave function of the universe in Hartle and Hawking’s paper gives a probabilistic and noncausal explanation of why our universe exists. More precisely, it provides an unconditional probability for the existence of a universe of our sort (i.e., an expanding [and later contracting] universe with an early inflationary era and with matter that is evenly distributed on large scales). Given only their functional law of nature, there is a high probability that a universe of this sort begins to exist uncaused.” (Philo: A Journal of Philosophy, Volume 1, Issue 1, 1998, pp. 75-94.)

Until next time.

Posted in Religion, ScienceComments (19)

Kumakalam na Kalam ( A Look at the Kalam Argument on the Existence of God)

Majority of Christian Filipinos who are into debates here in Manila are oblivious with William lane Craig’s Kalam argument on the existence of God. These guys need an upgrade!

Therefore, I guess Filipino non-believers as well are also in the dark if they encounter the argument.

So a little bit of FYI.

The idea came from the works of the 6th century Alexandrian philosophical commentator and Christian theologian Joannes Philoponos. His ideas were later developed by medieval Islamic theologians, the Mutakallim and called it ‘Kalam’ which means ‘speech’.

The Kalam argument was brought to Christian attention in a debate between Franciscan theologian John of Fidanza (St. Bonaventure) and Thomas Aquinas over the existence of God.

The basic premises of the Kalam argument are quite simple:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Let us examine each premises.

Premise 1

Christian apologists insist that the first premise is obvious that it does not need an explanation. William Lane Craig calls this a metaphysical intuition.

Yet…Is God not included in premise 1?

Christian response: Only finite, contingent things need a cause. God is infinite and he is necessary.

Atheist: But according to Christian apologists such as Mr. Craig, actual infinity cannot exist. If God is infinite then He has lived through an infinite number of hours. This would contradict Mr. Craig’s claim that actual infinity does not exist.

Christian: God is outside our universe. He is also not subjected to time.

Atheist: So God is situated in a different place. Do you have any idea of a place that is without space and time? We can’t even call this ‘place’ a place since a place requires a “space”. Now if God created the universe from a timeless “place” that makes his action timeless (without beginning). Therefore, the act of creating the universe is an act of God that has no beginning, right? That’s an example again of an actual infinite…which sadly…according to Christian apologists like Mr. Craig, doesn’t exist.

Speaking of space…God occupy space on this er…place, right? If so, then how and when was this ‘place’ created? Surely, this ‘place’ also has a cause. If you said, God created this ‘place’ from another timeless-space less place then we’re now going into an Ad infinitum.

Christian: God created this ‘place’ on his own being.

Atheist: Hmmmmm…that sounded pantheistic. Anyway if this ‘place’ was created on God’s own being and God is eternal, then this place is eternal…again contradicting the Kalam argument.

Also, if God is immutable (doesn’t change) then this ‘place’ is also immutable…again a contradiction with the Kalam which says everything was created (finite and contingent).

Premise 2

We define ‘universe’ as the aggregate of all existing things – including time and space. Now, if “everything” is the same as the universe it contradicts one of the rules of the set theory that says, “No set should be considered a member of itself.” Yep…Georg Cantor (1845-1918). Now if the universe is not included (or the same as) everything, then how can its beginning (the universe) the same with the beginning of everything?


Atheist: Then Christian apologists like Mr. Craig and Mr. Giesler will be out of the job. Why will these guys spend money publishing books and why will I buy those books if God can’t be explained by human reasoning?

Going back to the subject, scientifically speaking, most Christians seem to be having trouble thinking of something that is “uncaused.” Believers speculate that these ‘uncaused’ events at the quantum level such as the spontaneous decay of a single atom of a heavy isotope are just a case of “just not knowing the cause.” Mr. Craig calls them as “probabilistic causality.” However, accidental causes are spontaneous, and spontaneous causes are not predetermined. According to David Hume (1711-1776) when we speak of ‘cause’, what we mean is an explanation for the event. So how can we explain spontaneous cause? Thus Mr. Craig’s “probabilistic causes are just another word for ‘uncaused cause”.

Now, since premise 1 and premise 2 can be refuted then there is no need to explain the conclusion.

Pinoy Atheist

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How David Hume’s Critique of the Design Argument Survives for Three Centuries (Part 2)

(Continued from Part I)

Chaotic Universe

More recent findings in astronomy, for instance, substantiate Hume’s assumptions of a chaotic universe rather than an orderly one. Astronomers contend that the universe used to be crowded and disorderly; stars were more massive as they die rapidly and detonate after millions of years. These explosions result to newer and heavier elements, spawning new stars, less massive, but multiplying amidst chaos. Stephen Hawking, in his book “A Brief History of Time”, explains that the universe is congested and limited in extent, with no beginning or end (1988). However, many of us assume that the orbits of stars and planetary bodies take defined movements which have been ‘properly spaced’ so as moving matters in space may glide in ‘safety.’

Conversely, for many billions of years, planetary objects have been traveling in changing paths and orbits, consequently colliding and crashing onto each other. The ‘order’ we perceive now as we gaze at the stars is just a result of planetary bodies which toppled obstructive matters off their paths. Surprisingly, these orbits were random, as astronomers assert that the elliptical course is the most dangerous of all paths. Most collisions in the universe result from aberrations in shape, path or movement.

The Dangers of an Ellipse

If design were intelligent as god applied it to his ‘creation’ of the universe, a circular orbit is safer for a celestial body to move across space. “If all the orbits were nearly circular,” scientist Rolling T. Chamberlain affirms “only a few of the separate bodies moving in them would come into collision with one another” but because the orbits take an elliptical shape, conflicting much in contour and dimensions, particles in space have high prospect of colliding against each other (2001). Stars do not just return to their original positions in space due to the infinite movements of heavenly bodies as the stars and other matters disperse into interstellar space. This results to the thinning out of the universe in which stable orbits do not subsist. Likewise, Hume reiterated that the universe has no a semblance at all on complex human made machines as artifacts are designed for a purpose. On the contrary, the universe has an unclear function (Poidevin 1996). While on the surface the universe may seem to suggest order, it is difficult to surmise its apparent function. The famous biologist J.B.S. Haldane once replied to a reporter who queried what his research on genetics suggested about the deity. Haldane replied that “He must have an inordinate fondness for beetles,” referring to the numerous species of these insects existing for no perceptible function other than for the purpose of reproduction.

Defying Anthropomorphism

Hume also showed us that it is apparently easy to compare things found in our world and yet, we have nothing to compare our universe to as it is the only one we know that infinitely exists. Thus, it defies logic to compare a whole to a part of a whole and vice versa. We may perceive a god present in the universe at all times, but this comparison does not provide scientific value. It is remote that theology and other social sciences can actually benefit from it. Hume emphasized that the analogy between the minds of humans and the mind of an omniscient being is ‘anthropomorphic.’ Nature in general is mindless rather than ‘intelligent.’ It is credulous to interpret the mind of god using the human mind as an equivalent.

As the product of an anthropomorphic philosophy always results to a close look at the finite god, Hume demonstrates through his propositions that if the argument from design is seriously considered, most of us will come to the conclusion that the god who controls the universe entirely differs from the concept of the god/gods of organized religions. As there has been a dearth of valid arguments on how all- knowing and perfect the designer is, we have to assume his abilities and traits manifested in the universe he designed and created. Bertrand Russell, one of greatest thinkers of the previous century, summarized these attributes and capabilities in a more telling fashion, ‘If I had millions of years of time and infinite power and had come up with the universe as we know it, I should be ashamed of myself.”


Chamberlain, Rolling T. (2001) “The Origin and Early Stages of the Earth,” in The Nature of the World and of Man, p. 37.

Gaskin,J.A.C. (1779). Dialogues concerning Natural Religion in: Dialogues and Natural History of Religion, ed. (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). Page references are to this edition.

Hawking, Stephen (1988). A Brief History of Time. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-38016-8.

Hume, D. (1739-40) A Treatise of Human Nature: being An Attempt to introduce the experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects in two volumes

Norton, D. F. (1993). Introduction to Hume’s thought. In Norton, D. F. (ed.), (1993). The Cambridge Companion to Hume, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-32

Poidevin, Robin Le. (1996). Arguing for Atheism, (New York: Routledge,), p. 85.

Sober, Elliot. (2003). “The Design Argument” p. 27-54 in (Manson 2003).

Swinburne, Richard. (1991). The Existence of God (NY: Clarendon)

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How David Hume’s Critique of the Design Argument Survives for Three Centuries (Part 1)

That the universe is designed by an ‘intelligent creator’ as it exhibits balance and order has prevailed for centuries as the ‘most robust argument’ in defense of theism in the philosophical realm of old. Even in the present century, theists recurrently invoke the classic Design Argument as proof of god’s existence. This argument was torn down, however, when David Hume put forward his criticism of the Argument of Design – a treatise that sparked further acerbic debates for many centuries on the subject of god’s existence (Gaskin 1993). Although many attempted to dispute his arguments, the sagacity and decisiveness of Hume’s critique, until today, are difficult to challenge.

Cleanthes vs. Philo and God’s ‘Work of Art’

The “Critique of the Design Argument” is presented in Hume’s book Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion in which he puts forth a discourse between fictional characters, Cleanthes and Philo. The discourse begins when Cleanthes brings Philo’s attention to the world around them, asserting that the world is but one great machine, with its tiniest parts attuned to each other and with accuracy worthy of admiration and contemplation (Gaskin 1993). Cleanthes further adds that the creator’s ‘larger faculties’, parallels the minds of men as they manifest wisdom and intelligence and thus, it is only logical that an intelligent ‘maker’ shaped them (Swinburne 1991). This argument, Cleanthes believes, ‘proves the existence of a Deity’.

Using the house and the universe as analogy, Philo asserts that the universe does not show any relationship to a house as this is a flawed logic. The universe is a manifestation of nature while the house is man-made as he emphasizes the complexities we fail to clarify in the works of nature. Philo contends that men’s capability to understand ‘infinite’ relations is inadequate and it is “impossible for us to tell, from our limited views, whether this system contains any great faults” or merits any justifiable adulation when “compared to other possible, and even real systems” (Hume 1739).

Through Philo’s character, Hume contends that order and purpose are perceived only when they are the consequences of design. However, we see some kind of order all the time manifested in seemingly unconscious occurrences like vegetation and generation. Thus, design constitutes only a tiny fragment of our perception with regards to ‘purpose’ and order. Assuming that the design argument is feasible, Hume argues that it is not enough to surmise or prove the existence of a deity from the conclusions gleaned from our knowledge of the universe’s configuration which bears a distant resemblance to human design – cursory and sometimes unintelligent – a world which Hume states is “the only and the first rude essay of some infant deity, who afterwards abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance” (Hume 1739).

Hume believes that god’s intellectual or mental order and faculties need to be understood in order for the design argument to be decisive and reach a logical finality. Otherwise, we could not create a parallel explanation of order, or actually define it, leaving the notion too arcane and inscrutable. Hume also argued that if an orderly and balanced natural world necessitates a special maker or designer, then God’s mind as it is well ordered, likewise requires a creator. Thus, this maker would similarly need another maker, and so on. The comparison with nature and the various things found in it, Hume adds, is ineffectual as things present in the universe are set apart from human material items as they exhibit considerable disparity (Hume 1739).

The Degradation of the Creator

Cleanthes further argues that ‘the works of nature bear a great analogy to the work of art (Sober 2003) insisting that the resemblance which exists between this world and human products is quite significant. Hence, god is somehow ostensible in human intelligence. Hume argues that this leads to a degradation of the creator. He suggests that we know nothing about the nature or the attributes of god as everything about the deity is unknown and there exists only a distant analogy among the diverse operations of nature. These comparisons do not suggest that the basis of the emergence of the universe is the mind or human intelligence. The aforementioned analogies, according to Hume are so feeble and distant that god’s nature cannot be explained nor understood (Poidevin 1996).

An Argument against All Odds

For a many decades, Hume’s treatise has been challenged using modified arguments from the intelligent design proposition. Scholars in the field of religion and philosophy have concocted innovative extensions borne out of the design proposition. These counter-arguments however, fell apart as Hume’s critique stands robust amidst attacks from different schools of philosophical thought.

Hume’s arguments persist until today as his objections to the prevailing idea that an orderly universe exists are strengthened and supported by science. Although knowledge of the universe during Hume’s time is not as advanced as of late, Hume exhibited deeper understanding of the universe we live in.

To be continued…

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I had a dream —

That darkness was all there is to see

That cold is all there was to feel

That there was nothing beyond this cocoon of despair

That, this seeming emptiness

Rendered the very fabrics of existence meaningless

And threw actions into overwhelming futility

It was absurd,

I had a dream.

And I woke up

Then there was light — a timeless luminance

And these sunrays filled me with warmth from within

And I — I am a butterfly!

Fluttering, wings engaged against the still air

Birthed into this enigma of Being,

Embracing the Open that transcends time.

I have endured the deepest winter,

And as the light pierced through this absurdity

I at last discovered —

That there was in me,

An invincible summer.

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What’s So Wrong with Objectivism?

Editor’s note: This was published in 2010, when FF did not have an editorial board. Since then, the plagiarizing author has not been published by Filipino Freethinkers and the author has amended citations to passages.

Our Editorial Board, which has been in operation for since 2011 has been very careful that such incidents never happen again. We have kept this post up in the interest of transparency.

Ayn Rand

DISCLAIMER: All the views and opinions expressed in this blog post are all mine and do NOT represent the views and opinions of this community.


I seem to encounter a recurring discussion about Ayn Rand and Objectivism but I only had a vague idea what it’s all about. And so, I made some research to find out about it. After reading works of Ayn Rand and Objectivism (Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, Virtue of Selfishness), I think I now understand why Rand’s philosophy has such a cult following. To begin with, I found out that Objectivism is just pure philosophy, it’s not science. There is no evidence to support its claims and therefore it is not scientifically justifiable. Let me emphasize that again — it is NOT SCIENCE. It claims to be committed to reason, but without science and evidence to back up its claims, it’s just another belief system — just like any other cult or religion. Pure reason is not enough and it is dangerous. When you have a belief system that claims to know the ABSOLUTE standards of right and wrong, you now have a belief system that is INTOLERANT. And hence, the end of reason and rationality. Absolutism and intolerance are the defining characteristics of a cult, religion, or any other group detrimental to individual freedom (Shermer, M.Why People Believe Believe in Weird Things. 1997 ).

Who is Aynd Rand and What’s Objectivism?

The story of Objectivism starts with Ayn Rand (1905-1982), who is known for her two best-selling novels Fountainhead(1943) and her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged(1957). As far as anyone is concerned, Objectivism refers to the work of Ayn Rand,exclusively. And followers of her philosophy call themselves – Objectivists. With the death of Rand in 1982, Objectivism became cast in stone. All knowledge of this philosophy came from Ayn Rand, end of story.

Basically, her philosophy advocates that man should abide by certain thoughts and actions to live a proper life. The basic principles of objectivism are objective reality (facts are facts), reason (man’s only means of obtaining knowledge), self-interest (happiness as the highest moral pursuit), and pure capitalism. In a nutshell, you owe it to yourself to be happy.

Where Ayn Rand Came From and How She Lived

The thoughts of Ayn Rand cannot be separated from who she is and how she developed as a person. According to Wikipedia:

Rand was born in 1905 into a middle-class family of non-observant Jews in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Her father was a chemist and became a successful pharmacist who eventually owned his own pharmacy and the building in which it was located.

Rand was only twelve when the Russian revolution arrived in 1917. When she grew up, she was opposed to the Tsar. Her family life was troubled by the rise of the Bolshevik party, and her father’s pharmacy ended up being confiscated by the Soviets. Her family fled to the Crimea (initially under the control of the White Army during the Russian Civil War), and there, her family started a new life.

Ayn Rand determined that she was an atheist while she was in high school, and she graduated from high school in the Crimea. She held there for a short period a job teaching Red Army soldiers to read, and she enjoyed the work very much. During her work, she observed that the illiterate soldiers were eager to learn and respectful of her.

At sixteen, Rand returned with her family to Saint Petersburg. She enrolled at Petrograd State University, where she studied in the department of social pedagogy, majoring in history. At the university she was introduced to the writings of Aristotle and Plato, and she studied heavily the philosophical works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Her formal study of philosophy amounted to only a few courses. Along with other non-Communist students, Rand was purged from the university shortly before graduating. However, after complaints from a group of visiting foreign scientists, some of the purged students were allowed to complete their work and graduate, which Rand did in October 1924. She subsequently studied for a year at the State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad.

In the fall of 1925, she was granted a visa to visit American relatives. She left Russia on January 17, 1926, and arrived in the United States on February 19, entering by ship through New York City. After a brief stay with her relatives in Chicago, she resolved never to return to the Soviet Union.

What’s So Wrong with Objectivism?

Now, what’s wrong with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism? Well, essentially everything. Firstly, Objectivism’s claims are simply asserted as self-evident philosophical truths. Without any evidence, assertions are meaningless. Christopher Hitchens said it more elegantly – “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

The premise of Objectivism’s claims seems to be reasonable but after following their reasoning, assumptions start to begin. And these assumptions are embraced as unquestionable truths which then lead to erroneous conclusions. To make things short, the philosophy derived human nature from a small set of axioms.

To demonstrate, let us look at its most basic tenet, its so-called “axiom of existence”, which states that “existence exists”. If you think about it, you’ll realize that it is flat out wrong. Try that statement to different words – “abstinence abstains, difference differs, excellence excels, obedience obeys, persistence persists, life lives, etc…“. Do any of these statements make sense? Of course not. That is to say, you exist, I exist, the universe exists— but existence doesn’t exist. This is because as even Rand herself admits in her writings, only concretes exist. And existence is clearly not a concrete, because you cannot ascribe any specific characteristics to it. Existence, out of context means nothing, and hence, to say out of any specific context that “existence” exists is to effectively say that nothing exists. Every other philosopher has realized that the assumption is not only meaningless but outright false (What’s terribly wrong with Objectivism?). It’s ironic that Rand is also famous for saying the words — “Check your premises…

Another fundamental tenet of Objectivism is the axiom of identity: “A is A”. As it is, that statement is incapable of explaining anything. This axiom of identity seems to be the first indication of Objectivists’ overuse of deductive reasoning. The law of identity was used to assume that there are some truths that are absolute. Objectivism’s truth claims seem to be entirely built around this idea. It starts with a few axioms, and from these axioms, everything else is derived – gender roles, the right kind of music, capitalism as right form of economic system, selfishness as a virtue, and so on. From the premise “A is A”, everything else follows. There’s a Ayn Rand quote to that effect:

I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.

Another apparent big mistake of Objectivism is that every idea can be derived from deductive reasoning, wherein all its conclusions leave no room for errors, which is simply false. The vast majority of other knowledge requires inductive reasoning which involves reasoning from a set of specific facts to arrive at general conclusions.

What is it about Rand’s philosophy as presented in her novels that engendered it to have a cult following? Well, some of her ideas are very powerful and appealing – individualism, excellence in one’s own work, personal responsibility, etc. Both of her novels have protagonists that were always rational, productive, and individualistic; all the other characters where irrational, second-raters, and always dependent on the productiveness of the main characters. All the decisions that the characters had to decide were either always absolutely right or absolutely wrong. Followers of Objectivism never seem to realize that real people aren’t characters, that there are other factors that affect human nature which simply cannot be deduced from a small set of axioms. (My Country ‘Tis of ME–The United States of Ayn Rand)

Objectivist Morality and the Virtue of Selfishness

In terms of morality, what would seem to be one big flaw in Rand’s philosophy is the belief that morals can have an absolute standard of criteria, which is simply not scientifically supportable. Morals don’t exist in nature and so, it cannot be discovered (The Science of Good and Evil. Shermer, M. 2004 ).

Morality is subject to culture and human experience and it is constantly evolving. A few centuries ago, slavery was widely accepted but it is now generally abhorred. Different social groups and different time periods have claims on what is regarded as morally right or wrong. And this phenomenon alone tells us that morality is not absolute. When a social group claims to know the absolute right and wrong, you now have a group that is very similar to religion or ideology that is intolerant of differing ideas. This absolutism and intolerance, I think, could be the biggest flaw of Objectivism. The historical decline of Objectivism confirms this observation.

Kitty Genovese's murder in 1964 prompted investigation into the phenomenon that has become known as the bystander effect

Genovese's murder(1964) prompted study into the 'bystander effect' phenomenon

The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness, which tells a man to be concerned with one’s owns interests. It considers altruism as evil because it permits no concept of a self-respecting, self-supporting man – a man who supports his life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor others (Virtue of Selfishness, 1965). The 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York, where 38 of her neighbors did not intervene while she was being raped and murdered for about half an hour, perfectly demonstrates how an Objectivist would act improperly. If one would follow John Galt’s oath (Atlas Shrugged, 1957), he would certainly not sacrifice his life for Ms. Genovese. This act of nonintervention for selfish reasons is clearly appalling and self-defeating for any self-respecting individual. (The Vice of Selfishness)

Why Most Objectivists are Hostile

You would notice that whenever you encounter an Objectivist, they would always seem to start with questions followed by countless moralizing and condemnation. Such behavior is personally supported and advocated by Aynd Rand herself, Leonard Peikoff, and many of their followers. Most often, Objectivists that you will encounter online could just be Ayn Rand copycats. (The term – ‘Randroid’, a blending of ‘Rand’ and ‘android’ – has been used to evoke the image of “the John Galt-imitating robots produced by the cult). They start with questions and then they will insist on attacking your honesty, integrity, and character. This is the approach how Ayn Rand argued with her critics. When you are familiar with her essays and interviews, you will notice that those of the Objectivists just follow her technique, the same way religious fanatics follow their leader.

Why is this so? This is because the Objectivist ethics (The Objectivist Ethics. Rand, A. 1961) have extensive claims about concepts in human psychology that can never be proved or defended (The Peikovian Doctrine of the Arbitrary Assertion, 2008). These claims are simply assumed to be true. Again, no evidence to back up these claims, just assumed to be true. And these claims fall into three main categories: Inherently Dishonest Ideas, Evil, and Evasion.

These psychological concepts of ‘evil,’ ‘evasion,’ and ‘inherently dishonest ideas’ do not belong to philosophy. Objectivists appear to use these concepts to morally condemn other people without restriction. As a result, the Objectivist movement has remained a tiny group for the past forty years, and has hardly been ever taken seriously in the academic world. And since most Objectivists appear to be honestly convinced that an intellectual opponent is holding an inherently dishonest idea, they end up insulting them.

They have a technique called ‘guessing‘, which Objectivists appear to use to determine if an opponent is holding an inherently dishonest idea. They seem to use this technique to declare someone to be evil and dishonest. And this is most probably why most Objectivists often start their statements with questions. Doesn’t that sound too familiar? How many times have you encountered “What is…?”-type of questions from Objectivists? Well, now you know why. Always keep in mind, they appear to be mostly Ayn Rand copycats.

To most Objectivists, they regard morality based solely on the ethical principles that people conform to without identifying the people’s actual motivations. They seem to judge other people’s morals on the basis of whether they conform to Objectivist ethical principles or not. If your morality does not conform to their principles, it appears that you can be judged by them as dishonest and evil. And hence, it permits them to morally condemn you or other people.

Other philosophy forums seem to have the same problem with Objectivists. One person noted that –”
Objectivists preach their newfound brilliance for a few months in other philosophy forums. After some time, the reasonable ones learn from other people that dissect and expose their faulty logic. The unreasonable ones become delusional and get banned or become ignored by everyone.”


The foregoing discussion showed that Objectivism is a radical belief system without evidential foundation and filled with contradictions. The most evident of these contradictions is that Objectivism, although it would seem to motivate individualism and embolden critical thinking, actually turns into a dogmatic belief system that cannot be questioned nor scrutinized.

John Galt or Howard Roark, her two famous protagonists in Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, would have never joined the Objectivist movement. There was no individualism in Rand’s inner circle. Any follower must have the same musical taste, philosophical views, ethical principles, etc. For a philosophy that claimed to be the only and best way to achieve personal happiness, it seems to be a contradiction that Ayn Rand lived a lonely, isolated life in her later years. Her followers worshipped her like a cult figurehead, which she also accepted, despite her rejection of all things religious. Her Objectivism became more than a philosophy but a religion if not a simple cult (Walker, J. The Ayn Rand Cult. 1999). The philosophy of Objectivism appears to be very dogmatic in practice and prone to different interpretations as demonstrated by the successive schisms that plagued the Objectivist movement. Several of the splits were not caused by personal or political differences, but fundamental and philosophical. Moreover, Rand’s followers treated her like a cult figurehead or Supreme Ruler. To her, there were only absolutes, be it on what was good art, music, gender roles, or views of the world (Branden, N. Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand. 1989). She believed that it was more important to adhere to a principle than to live up to the expectations of society. (My Country ‘Tis of ME–The United States of Ayn Rand)

Objectivism can be compared to any other cult or religion; its equivalent holy book is Atlas Shrugged. And similar to any fundamentalist religious group, everything Objectivists proclaim is but an interpretation of their holy book. That’s all there is since it is just pure philosophy (and so it is safe to call it a belief system). It has no evidence to support its claims, and appropriately, it is not science. It used pure deductive reasoning to make a derivation of human nature without any evidential foundation and without science to test its claims. Rand herself acknowledged that she did not work out a philosophy of science (Rand, A., Binswanger, H., Peikoff, L. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 1990. pp. 303–304). Clearly, there are good reasons why Objectivism is not a real philosophy.

Ayn Rand, who left Russia, never returned to it, and stayed in the U.S., indeed endeavored to repudiate the overly extreme altruism of collectivist communism. Her theory of Objectivism correctly points out the flaws of inefficiency and ultimate self-destruction inherent in the Russian system. But, the pure self-interest embodied in her novel Atlas Shrugged is a dangerous overreaction that both involves intuitively wrong actions and creates an untenably dangerous social situation. Clearly, selfishness is no real virtue and Objectivism is no real theory. (The Vice of Selfishness)

What makes science light years away from all other disciplines is its commitment to the tentative nature of all its conclusions. Shermer explained science in his book, Why People Believe Believe in Weird Things, in a very simple and elegant way — In science, there are no final answers, only varying degrees of probability. Even scientific “facts” are just conclusions confirmed to such an extent that it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement, but that acceptance is never final. Science is not the declaration of a set of beliefs but a process of inquiry aimed at building a testable body of knowledge constantly open to rejection or confirmation. And that is at the center of its limitations and is also its greatest strength. Science is the best tool ever devised for understanding our world, and we should love and use it.


Additional Resources (If you’re still not convinced):

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Time and Life Part Three: Circle and Straight

A day goes by routinely

In the same one singular life

The hours reset perpetually

But the years are finite though rife

Like a wheel that keeps spinning

On a long road unwinding

Up goes down and round and round

But never on the same patch of ground.

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Don't Associate Me with “Those” Critical Thinkers.

In Problem Solving, I use rationality to work with empirical data to come up with workable solutions. I then test these hypotheses and use the results to make a better solution depending on the time constraints and objectives. I am all about practical solutions, and it really gets to me when someone starts using Philosophy to suppress and manipulate valid evidence to their arbitrary purposes.

If you watched the presidential debate on December 2, you will notice some key problem-solving abilities lacking in many of the candidates. Particularly, observing most of presidentiables deny the existence of evidence of concepts that have long been proven, like Overpopulation, and how most of them cannot even think rationally. It is very evident when most of them would operate on removing a symptom, instead of using political science to find its root cause and affect a practical solution.

One may laugh at the fact that many of these politicians are not critical thinkers, but what is a worse realization is wondering how fewer are problem solvers. Some philosophers may flaunt their critical thinking, but many self proclaimed “critical thinkers” simply foster inaction.

These “critical thinkers” often engage in debates as a way to make them think they are actually contributing when in reality they are doing the opposite. They are “teaching the Controversy” and mixing rotten with the good data. They also make the problem seem more insurmountable, fostering the impression that no worthwhile solution is small enough to be practical, but big enough to change the status quo. So they are stuck on their armchairs lecturing and trying to flaunt their intellectual superiority. Who wants to listen to that crap? What they are doing is how non-theists view prayer.

The two points, Contemplative Inaction and Irrationality, are manifestations of self interest through denial. One definite juncture I have observed is that their choice of “action” is a result of the cost they are not willing to pay. So instead of paying, they deny the train of thought and action that lead towards its rational conclusion.

Denial is something we all do, because we need a certain tolerance to truth that will upset our internal balance. There is actually a time variable involved when introducing information to an established equilibrium. The problem with denial is when it overcomes our necessity to adapt and evolve in light of reason. This is true in my observed conclusions about these denialists.

I hope that when people read this, the can observe their own choices and see if they are caught up in their own denial that is preventing them from evolving. Another hope is that people will want to get the momentum of action, testing out their ideas and not being discouraged by failure.

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