Philosophy vs. Theology

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Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
What would you say the difference between "philosophy" and "theology" is? Especially from a Reformed perspective?

It seems to me that if we take the Bible as a basic presupposition, that affects all areas of "philosophy"--not only religion, but also metaphysics, epistemology, ethics(especially ethics!) and so forth. So, for the Christian, is there(or should there be) a difference between philosophy and theology? Or are they co-extensive in scope?
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Theology is the study of doctrines of scripture. I think Alvin Plantinga once said that philosophy is just thinking hard about things.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Depends on what specifically you're thinking about. Are you thinking about whether or not you can claim to know some of the things that scripture teaches? Then you're doing philosophy. Are you thinking about whether or not scripture is reliable? You're not doing philosophy then; that would count as history.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Philosophy is the study of metaphysics, epistemology, and ontology.

Theology is the study of God--His character, His relationship to us, our relationship to Him, and how that affects us in everyday life.

Philosophy does not necessarily presuppose revelation. Theology necessarily presupposes revelation.

For a Christian Philosopher, his philosophy and his theology should coincide, influencing one another. However, they do not necessarily need to be the same. Philosophy should not cross Scripture, but it can be useful in understanding doctrine and theology.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
So philosophy is a broader study which includes, and is built upon, but goes beyond special revelation? (For the Christian, of course)
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
So philosophy is a broader study which includes, and is built upon, but goes beyond special revelation? (For the Christian, of course)
I wouldn't say "goes beyond special revelation." The study of, say, politics is going to be derived from our theology, but it is not theology proper, in the sense that, say, the study of the Trinity is.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
So philosophy is a broader study which includes, and is built upon, but goes beyond special revelation? (For the Christian, of course)
I wouldn't say "goes beyond special revelation." The study of, say, politics is going to be derived from our theology, but it is not theology proper, in the sense that, say, the study of the Trinity is.

But if it's not immediately arrived at by exegesis, then is it philosophy?

By "goes beyond special revelation" I mean "goes beyond that which can be extracted from the Bible through exegesis".
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
So philosophy is a broader study which includes, and is built upon, but goes beyond special revelation? (For the Christian, of course)
I wouldn't say "goes beyond special revelation." The study of, say, politics is going to be derived from our theology, but it is not theology proper, in the sense that, say, the study of the Trinity is.

But if it's not immediately arrived at by exegesis, then is it philosophy?

By "goes beyond special revelation" I mean "goes beyond that which can be extracted from the Bible through exegesis".
All thought and logic falls under "philosophy," and as Christians, all of ours should be based on our theology and derived from Scripture in however the Scripture speaks to it or however its principles apply to it.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
I wouldn't say "goes beyond special revelation." The study of, say, politics is going to be derived from our theology, but it is not theology proper, in the sense that, say, the study of the Trinity is.

But if it's not immediately arrived at by exegesis, then is it philosophy?

By "goes beyond special revelation" I mean "goes beyond that which can be extracted from the Bible through exegesis".
All thought and logic falls under "philosophy," and as Christians, all of ours should be based on our theology and derived from Scripture in however the Scripture speaks to it or however its principles apply to it.

So then, if all thought and logic falls under philosophy, and all thought and logic falls under theology, then philosophy and theology are co-extensive, unless either philosophy or theology covers something other than thought and logic as well.

Did you follow that? :)
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
But if it's not immediately arrived at by exegesis, then is it philosophy?

By "goes beyond special revelation" I mean "goes beyond that which can be extracted from the Bible through exegesis".
All thought and logic falls under "philosophy," and as Christians, all of ours should be based on our theology and derived from Scripture in however the Scripture speaks to it or however its principles apply to it.

So then, if all thought and logic falls under philosophy, and all thought and logic falls under theology, then philosophy and theology are co-extensive, unless either philosophy or theology covers something other than thought and logic as well.

Did you follow that? :)
I sort of agree, but I think we have to distinguish between theology proper, which is a category of philosophy and would include study of the Trinity, Christology, doctrine, etc. vs. theology as it applies to ALL of philosophy. But I guess we're just getting into semantics now. :)
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Philosophers question your answers.

Theologians answer your questions.

Theology is the queen of the sciences, to which all others must submit if they are to be legitimate.
 

JTB

Puritan Board Freshman
In the academy, philosophy generally attempts to get at the fundamental or basic questions that govern all branches or disciplines of knowledge. There will be, for example, a philosophy of history, a philosophy of science, a philosophy of religion, etc. Philosophy searches out the most basic principles or assumptions of any branch of knowledge and concerns itself with the consistency of those principles with professed and practiced methods, arguments, and conclusions.

If Christianity is to take every thought captive under the Lordship of Christ, then the Christian definition of philosophy is that it is theology applied to the basic questions concerning all disciplines of knowledge, because the definition of God and His purposes is basic to Christian thought. In practice, pagan philosophy and Christian philosophy make look very similar--a well-trained and acute pagan or Christian philosopher will both be able to spot contradictions in a given view of history, for example. Where pagan philosophy and Christian philosophy clash is when they turn the lenses of consideration upon each other to uncover or discover the basic assumptions that either hold to be true.
 

Matthew1034

Puritan Board Freshman
Education in early church theology will help put theology and philosophy in a proper relationship. Early theologians and apologists such as Justin Martyr (Dialogue w/Trypho) and Gregory of Nazianzus (Five Theological Orations) are great examples of how the Christian can integrate philosophy and theology into meaningful conversation with emphasis on Jesus Christ and the gospel.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Philosophers question your answers.

Theologians answer your questions.

That's Sophistry, not philosophy.

I would say that there is a such thing as natural theology--that is, theology derived from general revelation--as man has knowledge of God and suppresses it. However, that knowledge is limited to what God is. To know God for who He is, one has to accept special revelation.

JTB said:
If Christianity is to take every thought captive under the Lordship of Christ, then the Christian definition of philosophy is that it is theology applied to the basic questions concerning all disciplines of knowledge, because the definition of God and His purposes is basic to Christian thought.

Which are the "disciplines of knowledge" here? Maybe you mean "fields of inquiry."
 

PMBrooks

Puritan Board Freshman
Theology can actually be considered a branch of metaphysics as theology studies what is beyond this reality with which we interact. However, I would propose that to study philosophy properly, one needs to begin with a Christian epistemology...one that is given through divine revelation.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Adam is correct -- philosophy raises questions and theology answers them. That is not sophistry. Philosophy without theology is itself sophistical and sceptical. Philosophy is not normative. I usually distinguish them by saying philosophy is descriptive while theology is prescriptive.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
However, I would propose that to study philosophy properly, one needs to begin with a Christian epistemology...one that is given through divine revelation.

And just where do the Scriptures provide an epistemology?
 

JTB

Puritan Board Freshman
P.F. Pugh said:
Which are the "disciplines of knowledge" here? Maybe you mean "fields of inquiry."

I'm not sure what you consider the difference to be. As for me, I don't see the point of inquiring into a field without turning out some conclusions that are true, and organizing those true conclusions into a robust system of thought, which is what I consider a good summary of what disciplines of knowledge are concerned to accomplish.

One may not arrive at "the one and only true" history, but one can have "the one and only true" approach to understanding or viewing history. One may not arrive at "the one and only true" science, but one can have "the one and only true" approach to understanding or viewing science. God's commandments don't simply or chiefly govern behavior, but rather they primarily govern what our thoughts ought to be. As I said before, in practice, a pagan philosopher may look for consistency in the same manner that a Christian philosopher does, but the Christian philosopher and pagan philosopher alike will seek to organize positive conclusions under some overarching principle or set of principles that direct the nature of inquiry or whatever you wish to call it.

The Christian philosopher will organize his thought in obedience to God's revealed Word, whereas the pagan philosopher will organize his thought according to whatever his autonomous desires and reason considers best of all.

-----Added 10/26/2009 at 09:56:42 EST-----

However, I would propose that to study philosophy properly, one needs to begin with a Christian epistemology...one that is given through divine revelation.

And just where do the Scriptures provide an epistemology?

In numerous passages God is refered to as the Truth, and Christ as the Wisdom of God and the Truth. Elsewhere it is stated that Christ or God illuminates the minds of men with knowledge, wisdom, or truth. What else is epistemology than the study of knowledge? What else is knowledge but an understanding of the truth? The epistemology is there for one who considers the Scriptures a place worth making one's start.
 

PMBrooks

Puritan Board Freshman
The Scriptures are a source for epistemology. Because we believe God is the Creator of the universe and the only source of the Ultimate Truth, revealed in Jesus Christ, we believe that the Scriptures are the ONLY infallible and inerrant epistemological source. Other epistemological sources may be used, such as reason, but not without the taint of sin. That is why I stated that our philosophy must be built upon a Christian epistemology, one grounded in Scripture.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
JTB said:
In numerous passages God is refered to as the Truth, and Christ as the Wisdom of God and the Truth. Elsewhere it is stated that Christ or God illuminates the minds of men with knowledge, wisdom, or truth. What else is epistemology than the study of knowledge?

The equivocation here is staggering. When I say that I know someone, I do not mean "know" in the same sense that I mean it when I claim to know that George Washington was the first president of the United States or that 2+2=4.

What else is knowledge but an understanding of the truth?

And you would claim to understand the truth? Even Sts. Peter and Paul could not claim that much. The day that I claim to really understand Jesus is the day that I fall into major heresy.

You are here equivocating on truth and knowledge. Knowledge here is personal, not propositional. Truth, likewise, is personal, not propositional. To know God is not simply to know every proposition about God--that was the error of Leibniz. To know God is to be in and with God--it is to understand Him more fully on a personal level and to become more like Him. Can I express this propositionally? Partially.

Here is my contention: all education should be directed toward the discovery of truth, both factual and otherwise. Any philosophy of education that does have this goal in mind or believe it possible should be rejected.

PMBrooks said:
The Scriptures are a source for epistemology.

Do you mean a source for knowledge here? Again, I don't think that the Scriptures provide an epistemology--they presuppose an epistemology (In my humble opinion they presuppose direct realism).
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Interesting question ...

Philosophy seeks to systematize thought, classically defined as a pursuit of wisdom or a quest for truth through logical reasoning.

As a pursuit of wisdom, theology makes sense as one part of philosophy -- for the christian the two are closely integrated since we are to bring all thought captive to Christ.

The quest for truth through logical reasoning is more problematic -- on one hand, the scriptures inform us what truth is (about God and what he has revealed to us). On the other hand, God has given man the ability to reason and to logically think through what he sees in natural revelation.
 

JTB

Puritan Board Freshman
The equivocation here is staggering. When I say that I know someone, I do not mean "know" in the same sense that I mean it when I claim to know that George Washington was the first president of the United States or that 2+2=4.

Your consistency in being obtuse is staggering. Truth is something that only applies to propositions. Knowledge, even "personal" knowledge is the sum of what is true about something. One cannot have knowledge without truth, nor truth without propositions.

And you would claim to understand the truth? Even Sts. Peter and Paul could not claim that much. The day that I claim to really understand Jesus is the day that I fall into major heresy.

Paul and Peter both believed that God could be known, and that they had a knowledge of God. Indeed, they stated plainly that every believer has knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. They did not think that this knowledge originated in themselves, but it was still knowledge.

2 Peter 1:1-3 "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence."

1 Corinthians 2:11-13 "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words."

The day you claim NOT to really understand Jesus is the day you demonstrate that you are not a partaker with Him, or that you are extremely confused about what it is to understand your Savior.

Knowledge is not the same as omniscience, and "personal" knowledge does not require you to have touched or seen the object of knowledge. You might try reading Clark's commentary on First John.

You are here equivocating on truth and knowledge. Knowledge here is personal, not propositional. Truth, likewise, is personal, not propositional. To know God is not simply to know every proposition about God--that was the error of Leibniz. To know God is to be in and with God--it is to understand Him more fully on a personal level and to become more like Him. Can I express this propositionally? Partially.

I am convinced that you have no idea what you are saying here. Why don't you start by giving us a definition of "personal" and "propositional" so we can distinguish them. Hopefully you can understand the difference between a definition and a description.

Here is my contention: all education should be directed toward the discovery of truth, both factual and otherwise. Any philosophy of education that does have this goal in mind or believe it possible should be rejected.

I'd like to know what is a non-factual truth?

For all of your assertions that Clark is a fideist, you yourself are more subject to that claim. You say that I'm equivocating truth and knowledge, but you don't express a difference between the two. In fact, you say they are both non-propositional and rather, "personal." But you don't say what you mean by the latter term, and I frankly don't think you can, because it is an anti-intellectual absurdity.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
JTB said:
Your consistency in being obtuse is staggering. Truth is something that only applies to propositions. Knowledge, even "personal" knowledge is the sum of what is true about something. One cannot have knowledge without truth, nor truth without propositions.

So when Jesus said "I am the truth", what He meant was "I am a set of true propositions"? Knowing God is simply knowing propositions about Him? Knowing my best friend Luke is simply knowing propositions about him?

Tell me, then, if persons are just sets of propositions, what is the qualitative difference between knowing my friend Luke and knowing Elizabeth Bennett? The only qualitative difference that I can see is that Luke exists in my college campus while Miss Bennett exists in Pride and Predjudice and has a smaller set of propositions.

Paul and Peter both believed that God could be known, and that they had a knowledge of God. Indeed, they stated plainly that every believer has knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. They did not think that this knowledge originated in themselves, but it was still knowledge.

But could they claim to really understand God? St. Peter admitted that he didn't understand the letters of St. Paul while St. Paul said that his vision of God was cloudy at best, as in a mirror. We can't claim to understand the Scriptures--not fully. Show me someone who has a clear propositional interpretation of Revelation and I'll show you a heresy. Show me someone who has a clear and exhaustive understanding of the trinity and I'll show you a heretic.

We can't claim to really understand other people--much less, God. I suggest that your definition of knowledge is flawed.

Here's what I mean by propositional: that which can be expressed exhaustively by means of propositions. It deals with the head.

Personal: that which relates to the soul and heart of a person in addition to the mind.

I would like to ask: is there, for you, any difference between the intellectual and the spiritual?

You say that I'm equivocating truth and knowledge, but you don't express a difference between the two. In fact, you say they are both non-propositional and rather, "personal." But you don't say what you mean by the latter term, and I frankly don't think you can, because it is an anti-intellectual absurdity.

I'm not saying that the two (the propositional and the non-propositional) are mutually exclusive, just that they are not the same.

I'd like to know what is a non-factual truth?

God's holiness. You can say that "God is Holy" is a fact and that it is true, but His holiness in itself is both true and non-propositional. We can formulate a lot of propositions about it--but a thing is not the propositions. Propositions only describe what it is. They are not what the thing is in itself.
 

JTB

Puritan Board Freshman
So when Jesus said "I am the truth", what He meant was "I am a set of true propositions"? Knowing God is simply knowing propositions about Him? Knowing my best friend Luke is simply knowing propositions about him?

Tell me, then, if persons are just sets of propositions, what is the qualitative difference between knowing my friend Luke and knowing Elizabeth Bennett? The only qualitative difference that I can see is that Luke exists in my college campus while Miss Bennett exists in Pride and Predjudice and has a smaller set of propositions.

Jesus often spoke using figurative expressions. When he called the the cup "the new covenant in my blood," he wasn't being literal, anymore than calling himself the truth equated to calling himself a set of propositions. However, when speaking about knowledge of something, the only relevant means by which anything is known is propositional.

You don't seem to be able to distinguish between ontology and epistemology. What Luke or Jesus or Elizabeth Bennett are is distinct from how we know what each of them are. To express knowledge is to use a proposition: Luke is your friend. Jesus is the Son of God. Elizabeth Bennett is a fictional character penned by Jane Austen. Apart from these propositions, what truth or knowledge can be attempted?

But could they claim to really understand God? St. Peter admitted that he didn't understand the letters of St. Paul while St. Paul said that his vision of God was cloudy at best, as in a mirror. We can't claim to understand the Scriptures--not fully. Show me someone who has a clear propositional interpretation of Revelation and I'll show you a heresy. Show me someone who has a clear and exhaustive understanding of the trinity and I'll show you a heretic.

We can't claim to really understand other people--much less, God. I suggest that your definition of knowledge is flawed.

Here's what I mean by propositional: that which can be expressed exhaustively by means of propositions. It deals with the head.

Personal: that which relates to the soul and heart of a person in addition to the mind.

I would like to ask: is there, for you, any difference between the intellectual and the spiritual?

You are being obtuse again. Did I not say that knowledge is not the same as omniscience? One does not have to know everything in order to know something. I know that Jesus is the Son of God without knowing everything about the relationship of the Son to the Father. Regardless of that deficiency, I still know that "Jesus is the Son of God" is a true statement, accurately depicting the relationship between Jesus Christ and God the Father.

First of all, Peter didn't say that he failed to understand Paul. He merely said that some things that Paul wrote were difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16). Difficult is not the same as impossible, nor does it preclude knowing the meaning of what Paul wrote. Paul's statement about seeing through a glass darkly implies only that our knowledge is incomplete, not that it is not knowledge at all. You would make all knowledge impossible upon such a conclusion, and you certainly cannot infer from my statements that an exhaustive knowledge of all things is what I claim is necessary for something to be known.

Your definition of proposition is not the definition I'm using, nor is it the normal meaning of the word. For example, when a group of debaters are asked to formulate a proposition upon which to argue for and against, no one expects them to exhaust the subject matter contained in that proposition. The burden is upon you to establish such a definition of proposition as relevant to this discussion. Upon your definition, no human being could ever use a proposition, for no human being can state anything exhaustively. As I said before, you seem to be talking in absurdities.

As for your definition of personal, I'd like to know how you distinguish the terms "soul," "heart," and "mind." The Bible uses the word for "heart" to represent all three of the English words (soul, heart, mind). If you don't believe me you can check any good lexicon for examples.

I don't make a distinction between "intellectual" and "spiritual," nor do I distinguish "soul" "heart" and "mind" in any strict fashion. Our soul is the immaterial aspect of our being, which thinks and wills, both of which find expression in the terms stated.

You seem to be making a lot of random assertions on the basis of nothing more than what occurs to you in the moment to be right. Perhaps a bit of study would be beneficial to you. Clark, if you are willing to read him, deals extensively with these very matters.

I'm not saying that the two (the propositional and the non-propositional) are mutually exclusive, just that they are not the same.

Well that's conveniently opaque. How about some explanation of the difference then, if you are capable?

God's holiness. You can say that "God is Holy" is a fact and that it is true, but His holiness in itself is both true and non-propositional. We can formulate a lot of propositions about it--but a thing is not the propositions. Propositions only describe what it is. They are not what the thing is in itself.

More absurdities. "God is holy" is both true and a proposition. "God's holiness" is simply a noun with an adjective describing what can only be known by expressing propositions, for example: "God's holiness is not like man's holiness because God's holiness is not derivative." No one is going to argue that the statement IS God's holiness, but it remains that you cannot know what God's holiness IS without a proposition. Again, you are conflating ontology with epistemology--what is, with what is known about what is.

Again, I'd suggest that you spend a bit less time making foolish statements and a bit more time reading some clear thinking treatments on these matters and thinking carefully through their contents. You may have the last word, for I don't foresee much progress will be made beyond this point.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Jesus often spoke using figurative expressions. When he called the the cup "the new covenant in my blood," he wasn't being literal, anymore than calling himself the truth equated to calling himself a set of propositions. However, when speaking about knowledge of something, the only relevant means by which anything is known is propositional.

So Jesus is not the truth? Either He literally is or He literally isn't. If this is metaphorical, what is the meaning behind it?

You don't seem to be able to distinguish between ontology and epistemology. What Luke or Jesus or Elizabeth Bennett are is distinct from how we know what each of them are. To express knowledge is to use a proposition: Luke is your friend. Jesus is the Son of God. Elizabeth Bennett is a fictional character penned by Jane Austen. Apart from these propositions, what truth or knowledge can be attempted?

As far as I am concerned, it seems that they are. If Luke, Jesus, and Elizabeth Bennett can all only be known via propositions, then as far as I am concerned, that's all they are: sets of propositions in a Leibnizian sense. Unless you are willing to say that some knowledge is not propositional, that's what you're left with.

The knowledge I am suggesting is expressible though propositions, but not entirely. For example, it is one thing to talk about Christian joy, but a whole different matter to actually experience it. It is one thing to talk about God and learn what God is--but to experience God Himself is an entirely different one. If you want to reduce spirituality to a merely intellectual matter, you lose knowledge of God in terms of a relationship with Him.

You are being obtuse again. Did I not say that knowledge is not the same as omniscience?

If knowledge equals complete understanding, then yes it would have to be, because everything relates in some way to everything else.

I know that Jesus is the Son of God without knowing everything about the relationship of the Son to the Father.

This is somewhat incoherent: if you define knowledge (in this maximal warrant sense) as involving pure intellectual understanding, then you don't know it. Intellect can only take you so far.

As for your definition of personal, I'd like to know how you distinguish the terms "soul," "heart," and "mind." The Bible uses the word for "heart" to represent all three of the English words (soul, heart, mind). If you don't believe me you can check any good lexicon for examples.

The heart is the emotional seat of a person, the mind is rational, and the soul is spiritual. I'm using this in a technical sense (sometimes the bible speaks in terms less precise than the ones we mean). These three are distinct but inseparable--inextricably linked.

I don't make a distinction between "intellectual" and "spiritual," nor do I distinguish "soul" "heart" and "mind" in any strict fashion. Our soul is the immaterial aspect of our being, which thinks and wills, both of which find expression in the terms stated.

So where is the emotion? Is that merely animal? We might be tempted to say so, but then we would also have to say that rationality is too, because animals are intelligent as well.

No, I must reject this Platonic picture of man that elevates the intellect and will above the emotions. Christianity is not stoicism.

No one is going to argue that the statement IS God's holiness, but it remains that you cannot know what God's holiness IS without a proposition.

No, I just cannot state it without a proposition.

Well that's conveniently opaque. How about some explanation of the difference then, if you are capable?

If you read my last post, I defined the terms, though I think my definition of the propositional was badly stated.

The propositional is that which is known only by means of propositions.

Actually, I think that one can express truth without propositions: it's called art. Music, especially, is suited to express non-propositional truth, which is why God has ordained it in conjunction with words.

At this point, I too must be off to refute Kierkegaard's view of truth (I seem to be caught between two extremes).
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
You are being obtuse again. Did I not say that knowledge is not the same as omniscience? One does not have to know everything in order to know something. I know that Jesus is the Son of God without knowing everything about the relationship of the Son to the Father. Regardless of that deficiency, I still know that "Jesus is the Son of God" is a true statement, accurately depicting the relationship between Jesus Christ and God the Father.

Surely you mean "abstruse." I can't imagine you would deliberately call another person "stupid."

How do you know that Jesus is the Son of God? Because you trust Him and therefore receive His testimony. Your knowledge is therefore dependent on a personal relation not a propositional statement.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Because you trust Him and therefore receive His testimony. Your knowledge is therefore dependent on a personal relation not a propositional statement.

Certainly, the knowledge we possess is likewise dependent upon the testimony, or the propositional content God delivers as well? Faith is merely the hand that receives the gift. I suppose that the relational aspect would depend on one's definition and usage of faith in this context.

Cheers,

Adam
 
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