0
   

Free will vs. determinism

 
 
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 11:53 am
@Thomas,
Thomas, I know man's will is not free. If there is a problem it's not because of the word 'choice', it's with my ability to explain to you why choice is an illusion.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 12:03 pm
@peacegirl,
Okay, so you're saying man's will isn't free because you know it isn't. No conceivable evidence could possibly change your mind. In that case, what is there to discuss?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 12:34 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

Okay, so you're saying man's will isn't free because you know it isn't. No conceivable evidence could possibly change your mind. In that case, what is there to discuss?


Well, she is sort of right-I guess, since wills are neither free nor are they not free. "Free will" is a category mistake like "purple number". To quote John Locke, it is not wills that are free, it is persons who are free. So, talking about "free will" is just a confusion, and, since confusion leads to confusion, we have these threads piling up.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 12:41 pm
In that case, I will refrain from adding to the pile until we have something intelligible to talk about.
0 Replies
 
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 12:55 pm
@Thomas,
There is a lot to discuss, because it's what lies behind the door of determinism that is so important for our world. The updated book was just uploaded, so there are no computer glitches hopefully. I really urge you to read the first two chapters. That way, we will have a basis for communication, for without your understanding of the author's proof of why man's will is not free, you will continue to defend free will because you are going by the conventional definition, which has caused a false dichotomy between the two viewpoints. Here is the link again. Click on the first thread on the page: New Discovery. Occasionally, I will post the link for anyone who is interested.

http://www.unco.edu/philosophy/current/forums/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=5
0 Replies
 
InfraBlue
 
  2  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 01:17 pm
For what it's worth, here's a more direct link to the pdf file:
http://www.unco.edu/philosophy/current/forums_pdfs/Decline_and_Fall_8-24-2010.pdf
0 Replies
 
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 02:28 pm
@squinney,
Squinney, I will post this for your convenience, but I suggest you go to the link and read the book in its entirety.

The dictionary states that free will is the power of
self-determination regarded as a special faculty of choosing good
and evil without compulsion or necessity. Made, done, or given of
one’s own free choice; voluntary. But this is only part of the
definition since it is implied that man can be held responsible,
blamed and punished for doing what is considered wrong or evil
since it is believed he could have chosen otherwise. In other words,
it is believed that man has the ability to do other than he does, if he
wants to, and therefore can be held responsible for doing what he is
not supposed to do. These very words reveal the fallacy of this
belief to those who have mathematical perception: Man is held
responsible not for doing what he desires to do or considers right,
better or good for himself under his particular set of circumstances,
but for doing what others judge to be wrong or evil, and they feel
absolutely certain he could have acted otherwise had he wanted to.
Isn’t this the theme of free will? But take note. Supposing the
alternative judged right for him by others is not desired by himself
because of conditions known only to him, what then? Does this
make his will free? It is obvious that a great part of our lives offers
no choice; consequently, this is not my consideration. For example,
free will does not hold any person responsible for what he does in an
unconscious state like hypnosis, nor does it believe that man can be
blamed for being born, growing, sleeping, eating, defecating,
urinating, etc.; therefore, it is unnecessary to prove that these
actions, which come under the normal compulsion of living, are
beyond control.

Supposing a father is desperately in need of work to feed his
family but cannot find a job. Let us assume he is living in the
United States and for various reasons doesn’t come under the
consideration of unemployment compensation or relief and can’t get
any more credit for food, clothing, shelter, etc., what is he supposed
to do? If he steals a loaf of bread to feed his family the law can
easily punish him by saying he didn’t have to steal if he didn’t want
to, which is perfectly true. Others might say stealing is evil, that he
could have chosen an option which was good; in this case almost any
other alternative would have sufficed. But supposing this individual
preferred stealing because he considered this act good for himself in
comparison to the evil of asking for charity or further credit
because it appeared to him, at that moment, that this was the better
choice of the three that were available to him — so does this make
his will free? It is obvious that he did not have to steal if he didn’t
want to, but he wanted to, and it is also obvious that those in law
enforcement did not have to punish him if they didn’t want to, but
both sides wanted to do what they did under the circumstances.

In reality, we are carried along on the wings of time or life
during every moment of our existence and have no say in this matter
whatsoever. We cannot stop ourselves from being born and are
compelled to either live out our lives the best we can, or commit
suicide. Is it possible to disagree with this? However, to prove that
what we do of our own free will, of our own desire because we want
to do it, is also beyond control, it is necessary to employ
mathematical (undeniable) reasoning. Therefore, since it is
absolutely impossible for man to be both dead and alive at the same
time, and since it is absolutely impossible for a person to desire
committing suicide unless dissatisfied with life (regardless of the
reason), we are given the ability to demonstrate a revealing and
undeniable relation.

Every motion, from the beating heart to the slightest reflex
action, from all inner to outer movements of the body, indicates that
life is never satisfied to remain in one position for always like an
inanimate object, which position shall be termed ‘death.’ I shall
now call the present moment of time or life here for the purpose of
clarification, and the next moment coming up there. You are now
standing on this present moment of time and space called here and
you are given two alternatives, either live or kill yourself; either
move to the next spot called there or remain where you are without
moving a hairs breadth by committing suicide.

“I prefer...” Excuse the interruption, but the very fact that you
started to answer me or didn’t commit suicide at that moment
makes it obvious that you were not satisfied to stay in one position,
which is death or here and prefer moving off that spot to there,
which motion is life. Consequently, the motion of life which is any
motion from here to there is a movement away from that which
dissatisfies, otherwise, had you been satisfied to remain here or
where you are, you would never have moved to there. Since the
motion of life constantly moves away from here to there, which is an
expression of dissatisfaction with the present position, it must
obviously move constantly in the direction of greater satisfaction.
It should be obvious that our desire to live, to move off the spot
called here is determined by a law over which we have no control
because even if we should kill ourselves, we are choosing what gives
us greater satisfaction, otherwise, we would not kill ourselves. The
truth of the matter is that at any particular moment the motion of
man is not free for all life obeys this invariable law. He is constantly
compelled by his nature to make choices, decisions, and to prefer of
whatever options are available during his lifetime that which he
considers better for himself and his set of circumstances. For
example, when he found that a discovery like the electric bulb was
for his benefit in comparison to candlelight, he was compelled to
prefer it for his motion, just being alive, has always been in the
direction of greater satisfaction. During every moment of man’s
progress he always did what he had to do because he had no choice.
Although this demonstration proves that man’s will is not free, your
mind may not be accustomed to grasping these type relations, so I
will elaborate.

Supposing you wanted very much of two alternatives A, which
we shall designate something considered evil by society, instead of
B, the humdrum of your regular routine; could you possibly pick B
at that particular moment of time if A is preferred as a better
alternative when nothing could sway you from your decision, not
even the threat of the law? What if the clergy, given two
alternatives, choose A, which shall now represent something
considered good, instead of B, that which is judged evil; would it be
possible for them to prefer the latter when the former is available
as an alternative? If it is utterly impossible to choose B in this
comparison, are they not compelled by their very nature to prefer
A; and how can they be free when the favorable difference between
A and B is the compulsion of their choice and the motion of life in
the direction of greater satisfaction? To be free, according to the
definition of free will, man would be able to prefer of two
alternatives, either the one he wants or the one he doesn’t want,
which is an absolute impossibility because selecting what he doesn’t
want when what he does want is available as an alternative is a
motion in the direction of dissatisfaction.

To give you a more familiar example, let us imagine that a
woman has a special business meeting to attend and must quickly
choose between two dresses because she is running late. If both
dresses are undesirable, she is compelled to select the dress that is
the least undesirable of the two, therefore her final choice in this
comparison is the better alternative. Obviously, she has other
options; she could leave both dresses and wear something from
home, continue to shop and call in late, etc. This is a hypothetical
situation for the purpose of showing that once she decides to buy a
dress as a solution to her problem, she is compelled to prefer the one
that gives every indication of being the best possible choice. It is
true that her choice will be influenced by many variables such as
price, quality, color, etc., but regardless of the factors that
contribute to her final decision she is compelled by her very nature
to pick the dress that is the most preferable after weighing the pros
and cons. For example, if cost is an important consideration she
may desire to buy the less expensive dress because it is within her
price range and though she would be happier with the more
expensive dress, she moves in the direction of greater satisfaction by
picking the dress that appeals to her the least. This is where people
get confused. Moving toward greater satisfaction does not mean
that we are always satisfied. It just means that when comparing the
options that are available to us, we are choosing [what we believe to
be] the best alternative under our particular circumstances. [Note:
This does not mean that we have considered all possible options;
only those that have come to mind or have been brought to our
attention at any given moment in time. Nor does it mean that our
choices are unlimited, for the availability of choices depends on a
myriad of cultural, economic, and social factors]. After coming
home and trying on the dress, she may have a change of heart and
wish she had splurged on the more expensive dress. She may decide
to go to the store to make an exchange, or she may decide to just
keep the dress even though she isn’t that happy with her choice.
Each moment offers a new set of options but always in the direction
of greater satisfaction. I will now put the conclusive proof that
man’s will is not free to a mathematical test.

Imagine that you were taken prisoner in war time for espionage
and condemned to death, but mercifully given a choice between two
exits: A is the painless hemlock of Socrates, while B is death by
having your head held under water. The letters A and B,
representing small or large differences, are compared. The
comparison is absolutely necessary to know which is preferable.
The difference which is considered favorable, regardless of the
reason, is the compulsion of greater satisfaction desire is forced to
take which makes one of them an impossible choice in this
comparison simply because it gives less satisfaction under the
circumstances. Consequently, since B is an impossible choice, man
is not free to choose A. Is it humanly possible, providing no other
conditions are introduced to affect your decision, to prefer exit B if
A is offered as an alternative?

“Yes, if this meant that those I loved would not be harmed in
any way.”
“Well, if this was your preference under these conditions, could
you prefer the other alternative?”
“No I couldn’t, but this is ridiculous because you really haven’t
given me any choice.”
“You most certainly do have a choice, and if your will is free,
you should be able to choose B just as well as A, or A just as well as
B. In other words, if B is considered the greater evil in this
comparison of alternatives, one is compelled completely beyond
control to prefer A. It is impossible for B to be selected in this
comparison (although it could be chosen to something still worse) as
long as A is available as an alternative. Consequently, since B is an
impossible choice, you are not free to choose A for your preference
is a natural compulsion of the direction of life over which you have
absolutely no control.

The definition of free will states that good or evil can be chosen
without compulsion or necessity despite the obvious fact that there
is a tremendous amount of compulsion. The word ‘choice’ itself
indicates there are preferable differences otherwise there would be
no choice in the matter at all as with A and A. The reason you are
confused is because the word ‘choice’ is very misleading for it
assumes that man has two or more possibilities, but in reality this is
a delusion because the direction of life, always moving towards
greater satisfaction, compels a person to prefer of differences what
he considers better for himself and when two or more alternatives
are presented he is compelled, by his very nature, to prefer not that
one which he considers worse, but what gives every indication of
being better for the particular set of circumstances involved.
Choosing, or the comparison of differences, is an integral part of
man’s nature, but, once again, he is compelled to prefer of
alternatives the one he considers better for himself, and even though
he chooses various things all through the course of his life he is
never given any choice at all. Although the definition of free will
states that man can choose good or evil without compulsion or
necessity, how is it possible for the will of man to be free when
choice is under a tremendous amount of compulsion to choose the
most preferable alternative each and every moment of time?”

“I agree with all this, but how many times in your life have you
remarked, ‘You give me no choice’ or ‘it makes no difference’?”

Just because some differences are so obviously superior in value
where you are concerned that no hesitation is required to decide
which is preferable, while other differences need a more careful
consideration, does not change the direction of life which moves
always towards greater satisfaction than what the present position
offers. What one person judges good or bad for himself doesn’t
make it so for others especially when it is remembered that a
juxtaposition of differences in each case present alternatives that
affect choice. My friend, still believing he could prove that man
can move in the direction of dissatisfaction, offered the following
example.

0 Replies
 
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 02:40 pm
peacegirl wrote:
It does make a difference what choice one makes if that choice hurts another.

Joe: No it doesn't, at least not when it comes to the question of free will. Suppose I have two choices: I can either go to the circus or I can rape and murder an eight-year old girl. If I go to the circus, it's because (according to you) I considered that to be the best alternative and was, therefore, compelled to make that choice. On the other hand, if I decide to rape and murder an eight-year old girl, it's because I considered that to be the best alternative. Whatever choice I make, I make because it's the best alternative, so it really doesn't matter whether I choose to go to the circus or choose to rape and murder an eight-year old girl, since any choice I make is the "best" choice.

peacegirl: Of course it matters because in the first choice one no one would be hurt, but in the second choice a little girl would be hurt.

Joe: Now, of course, it might make a moral difference whether I choose to go the circus or choose to rape and murder an eight-year old girl, but then if my choice is determined, you will have to explain why I am morally responsible for that choice.

peacegirl: Under the new conditions, you would have no way to shift your responsibility, so you would have to assume it. That is why responsibility goes up, not down, with the understanding of determinism. The deepest of thinkers could not get beyond the vestibule of determinism, for it was assumed that if man's will is not free, then we can't hold people responsible for their actions. And how can we not hold people responsible for this hurt to others? That is why Durant didn't agree with his friend Spinoza, but Spinoza was right in a confused sort of way.

peacegirl wrote:
You are right that we can't predict what is going to happen until after the fact, but with this law we can prevent the choice, in the direction of satisfaction, to hurt another with a first blow.

Joe: I really don't see how. If your choice can be influenced by something, then how is it determined?

peacegirl: That's what the discovery is all about. I hope you read Chapter Two.

peacegirl wrote:
The fact that something happened because it happened does not imply that something supernatural made it happen.

Joe: You may be right, but I don't see how you could prove that. After all, the explanation that "things happen the way they happen because they're determined" and the explanation that "things happen the way they happen because of the intervention of invisible fairies" are equally disprovable, and thus equally plausible.

peacegirl: There is nothing supernatural about this law of our nature. Once the basic principle becomes a condition of the environment, there will be a major paradigm shift but still within the confines of science. There is nothing supernatural about this discovery, or any intervention by fairies.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 02:48 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead wrote:

Aleviation of responsibility by determinism has been an argument since at least the ancient Greeks


The Stoics were the first to discuss it at any length. Aristotle discussed moral responsibility, but not in connection with determinism, since his view of causation was teleological. The attempt to tie in moral responsibility to determinism is a fairly recent confusion, as these things go.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 03:07 pm
@peacegirl,
peacegirl wrote:
Of course it matters because in the first choice one no one would be hurt, but in the second choice a little girl would be hurt.

It only matters in terms of morality, not in terms of free will.

peacegirl wrote:
Under the new conditions, you would have no way to shift your responsibility, so you would have to assume it. That is why responsibility goes up, not down, with the understanding of determinism.

There's no need to "shift responsibility" if there's no such thing as "responsibility." You can't talk about "responsibility" until you first establish that someone can be morally responsible. To talk about responsibility before that's established is to beg the question.

peacegirl wrote:
That's what the discovery is all about. I hope you read Chapter Two.

Well, I'm sure if Chapter Two is anything like the excerpt you posted here, that will be an enormous waste of time.
0 Replies
 
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 06:51 pm
@kennethamy,
Tying moral responsibility to determinism is not a confusion. The only confusion is that it was never gone into depth because philosophers could not get beyond the implications.
0 Replies
 
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 06:56 pm
peacegirl wrote:
Of course it matters because in the first choice one no one would be hurt, but in the second choice a little girl would be hurt.
It only matters in terms of morality, not in terms of free will.

peacegirl wrote:
Under the new conditions, you would have no way to shift your responsibility, so you would have to assume it. That is why responsibility goes up, not down, with the understanding of determinism.

joe: There's no need to "shift responsibility" if there's no such thing as "responsibility." You can't talk about "responsibility" until you first establish that someone can be morally responsible. To talk about responsibility before that's established is to beg the question.

peacegirl: You're losing the concept completely. No one can establish for someone else whether they are morally responsible. The only reason that one cannot shift his responsibility in a wrongful act is because no one is charging him with responsibility. In other words, how can one shift to someone or something else what is definitely his responsibility, when no one in the world is saying he is responsible? I don't think you understand this thread at all.

peacegirl wrote:
That's what the discovery is all about. I hope you read Chapter Two.
Well, I'm sure if Chapter Two is anything like the excerpt you posted here, that will be an enormous waste of time.

Joe: My advice to you is please DO NOT read this book. It will only confuse you.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 07:35 pm
@peacegirl,
peacegirl wrote:
You're losing the concept completely. No one can establish for someone else whether they are morally responsible.

Why not?

peacegirl wrote:
The only reason that one cannot shift his responsibility in a wrongful act is because no one is charging him with responsibility. In other words, how can one shift to someone or something else what is definitely his responsibility, when no one in the world is saying he is responsible? I don't think you understand this thread at all.

No, I just don't think you understand the notion of "responsibility."

peacegirl wrote:
My advice to you is please DO NOT read this book. It will only confuse you.

There's always that risk.
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2010 08:05 pm
@joefromchicago,
peacegirl wrote:
You're losing the concept completely. No one can establish for someone else whether they are morally responsible.

Joe: Why not?

peacegirl: Because that is exactly what prevents someone from recognizing his own moral responsibility.

peacegirl wrote:
The only reason that one cannot shift his responsibility in a wrongful act is because no one is charging him with responsibility. In other words, how can one shift to someone or something else what is definitely his responsibility, when no one in the world is saying he is responsible? I don't think you understand this thread at all.

Joe: No, I just don't think you understand the notion of "responsibility."

peacegirl: Yes I do Joe. Maybe not the way you perceive it. I am only speaking of how responsibility for one's actions can be made stronger with the knowledge that man's will is not free. But you don't understand why I say this, so we absolutely on different wavelengths at this point.


peacegirl wrote:
My advice to you is please DO NOT read this book. It will only confuse you.

Joe: There's always that risk.

peacegirl: Yes, and it's a big risk based on your present understanding.
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2010 09:03 am
@peacegirl,
peacegirl wrote:
peacegirl wrote:
My advice to you is please DO NOT read this book. It will only confuse you.

Joe: There's always that risk.

peacegirl: Yes, and it's a big risk based on your present understanding.

I read it -- well, I skimmed it. Like the work of a lot of cranks, it has a rather circumlocutious way of presenting an argument, and it delays revealing the BIG SECRET for dramatic rather than logical reasons (you know, the BIG SECRET that only the author has discovered and that no one wants you to know about). Nevertheless, I found it more amusing than confusing, and so, unlike peacegirl, I'll try to save everyone the ordeal of wading through all of Seymour Lessans's crankery and provide an outline here:

  • There is no such thing as free will. Lessans proves this mathematically. You'll just have to trust me on that one.
  • Since no one is responsible for their actions, no one should be blamed for their actions. That's the principle of "Thou shalt not blame."
  • People only act to increase their satisfaction. People only get satisfaction out of hurting other people because they are acting in retaliation for the injuries that they have suffered as a result of their actions. But if no one is to be blamed for their actions, there is no reason to retaliate.
  • Since there's no reason to retaliate, no one would get any satisfaction from retaliating. And since people only act to increase their satisfaction, no one would retaliate, as there would always be some action that would produce more satisfaction than retaliation.
  • With no retaliation, there would be no more violence, and so everyone would live in peace and harmony all the days of their lives.


That's it, in a nutshell. I'll leave it to peacegirl to point out if I've misrepresented Lessans's basic argument. In my defense, I will confess that I haven't read the entire 547 page book. I think I'll wait for the movie version.
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2010 01:23 pm
@joefromchicago,
Joe, you are so confused it's laughable. I hope this inaccurate synopsis doesn't put people off. For those who are reading this thread, I ask you to please use your own judgment when deciding whether a book may have value. I find that a lot of people in these forums act like sheep; they go wherever another leads them. They will accept what someone says at face value just because they count on someone else's opinion. That is dangerous because not everyone's opinions are correct. I really hope people don't do that in here. It would be more your loss than mine because you would be losing out on a really amazing work, if you would just give it a chance.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2010 01:52 pm
@peacegirl,
peacegirl wrote:

Joe, you are so confused it's laughable.

That might very well be true, but you will need to explain why I'm confused, not merely assert it. How have I mischaracterized Lessans's basic argument?
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2010 02:10 pm
@joefromchicago,
•There is no such thing as free will. Lessans proves this mathematically. You'll just have to trust me on that one.

peacegirl: People need to understand how determinism is defined, not just take your word for it.

•Since no one is responsible for their actions, no one should be blamed for their actions. That's the principle of "Thou shalt not blame."

peacegirl: That is wrong. Obviously you do not understand the two-sided equation. There is no way we can just stop blaming people. He explained that in Chapter Two. Only when the basic principle becomes a permanent condition of the environment, is not blaming even possible.

•People only act to increase their satisfaction. People only get satisfaction out of hurting other people because they are acting in retaliation for the injuries that they have suffered as a result of their actions. But if no one is to be blamed for their actions, there is no reason to retaliate.

peacegirl: Retaliation is not the only reason why people hurt others; it's one reason. People hurt others because they can pay a price, if caught. They can go to jail, or worse, be put to death. Some people are willing to take that chance. Therefore threats of punishment are not a deterrence for them.

•Since there's no reason to retaliate, no one would get any satisfaction from retaliating. And since people only act to increase their satisfaction, no one would retaliate, as there would always be some action that would produce more satisfaction than retaliation.

peacegirl: Come on Joe, this is getting ridiculous. If someone is hurt, then it is a normal reaction to retaliate, but we are talking about a world where striking a first blow will be prevented, so how can someone strike back when they haven't been hurt first? Your whole thing about satisfaction is completely off base.

•With no retaliation, there would be no more violence, and so everyone would live in peace and harmony all the days of their lives.

peacegirl: When we are not struck with a first blow, then we will no longer need to strike back 'an eye for an eye' or turn the other side of our faces. And yes, if we can accomplish this, we will have a different world indeed.



URL: http://able2know.org/topic/160410-3
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2010 03:15 pm
@peacegirl,
But you have to understand that not everyone is willing to sit down and read 547 pages of work from someone whom espouses such seemingly unconventional and absurd views. You shouldn't expect people to do such a thing, let alone scold them when they do not.

If joe's synopsis is so inaccurate, then please post an accurate synopsis in its stead. Don't expect others to take the time to read that giant wall of text you pasted, either. Make it short and to-the-point, like joe's. Brevity and clarity, my friend, brevity and clarity.
peacegirl
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2010 03:34 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin, with all due respect I have tried that, and there are loopholes so it doesn't do it justice. I can't reduce it. I can give you the page numbers. You don't have to read the whole book although it really gets interesting after you grasp the two-sided equation. The author's definition of determinism is only a few pages long, and the two-sided equation which is the actual discovery is just a few pages as well. Yes, I can say man moves in the direction of greater satisfaction, but that is too simplified and people are going to give me all kinds of refutations. I can also say that a world of 'no blame' will prevent what threats of punishment could never accomplish, but in order to understand why you need to understand how conscience works in the world of free will, a world of judgment and blame, and how it will work in a world of no free will, a world of no judgment and blame. To repeat: This does not mean we suddenly stop blaming people. This could matters worse for everyone. People would have a field day taking everything that is not nailed down. Only when it is recognized that man's will is not free and this principle is put into effect on a global scale, can this principle prevent war, crime, and hatred. But it does have this power because it is an invariable law of our nature that was never understood until now.
 

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