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Great Philosophers and their Starsigns 2/Talk

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Rules for philosophizing:
Rule 1. Back your argument up
Rule 2. Respect other people’s work
Rule 3. Know thyself
Rule 4. Be open to other ideas
Rule 5. Stick to the point
Rule 6. Discuss

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2012-03-28 21:29:21   All comments gratefully received! —docmartin

2012-04-04 20:27:10   Thanks for the feedback, Mark. There's a large amount of consensus, no? And a certain amount of useful precsion. But I also think some nit-picking. Valery, alright, a poet as well. But also a philosopher, and here we quote his prose - not a poem. Other places, I use a little bit of irony... hence the Zodiac book is unremarkable but not ina derogatory sense, far from it. But we can certainly rephrase this so as to avoid the impression.

Hobbes, yes, this story about the Great Fire is quite solid. He (from memory) is cited in the official investigation into possible causes/ people to blame! —docmartin

2012-04-04 20:34:11   Otherwise, looking more generally, what do you think, Mark? I've got your email comments, of course... Is it broadly (a few more tweeks?) okay to put up for Google to chew over on the Philosopher? —docmartin

2012-04-05 19:24:43   Yes, of course, broadly. Give me the weekend please, for the rest of those tweaks. —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-04-15 23:01:03   We're getting there? I thought my ending was well, 'weak', if you want to take the scissors to that too. —docmartin

2012-04-16 01:58:45   yes we're getting there. but you don't really want to mention the six major Tauruses and then not follow up on Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard, do you? Hope not. I'll attend to them next. —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-04-18 22:38:30   Attend, Mark, attend! Rascals though they are... —docmartin

2012-04-28 22:45:15   Any edit summary relevant, Mark? I checked the info for an electronic account, but the whole page was highlighted in green and yellow! I guess its less a complete rewrite and more a bit of cut and paste has been done.

Otherwise, 'keep going!' —docmartin

2012-06-06 14:23:39   Right, at long last, as it might seem, I have got my responses back to Mark's careful edits of May. Hopefully this is pretty well THE version now that I can put up on the Philosopher site and indeed I think in the printed version in September too Bien sur, the site is more important, of course, these days!

Over to you again, Mark. Please try to keep changes, if not comments, now to the absolute minimum, we really need to finalise THIS piece. There are an infinite number of other things we can do later - indeed you could put a different version up here. But this is how I would like to run it for the philosophers.

Note that I have added in some very plain accounts of what the signs are 'suppposed' to represent, and taken out bits that seemed to be from the point of view of an astrological expert - we want to write from the point of view of the non-astrologer really here. —docmartin

2012-06-06 18:15:17   I've done a little copy editing. Would still like to chew on it a bit, improve the Sidgwick paragraph. Happy to see the stuff about Kant and Uranus out (this is not the moment to be explaining why a Taurus can also be an idealist). I think it best to leave Cancer to the next installment. I've been working on Cancer and am not happy with the old stuff. I will post my new Cancer story soon. Can't get rid of the last line — June 6 something — Not sure we need the last two quotes (Emerson & Baudrillard).

2012-06-07 22:01:06   OK. I removed those mystical Emerson & Baudrillard. quotes, they didn't fit. I'm willing to let it go now. —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-06-07 22:31:31   Good stuff, Mark.

Some thoughts on the changes, though Basically, I think some of them are a bit radical, and I'd really rather try to avoid that at this stage. We both want to reach a final version (that is for the limited project of an article on the Philosopher site) soon don't we!

Here's some thoughts... I've not edited the article so as to keep it easy to see what I'm asking you to reconsider.

'but  wearing the scientific hat of objectivity forces'

suggest we need something more here, how about 'but if we wish to don the scientific hat…'

'One "au courant" Gemini

What's this about? I think tmight be a confusing turn of phrase here…

'There is not dogmatism, there is examination, more questions are raised than answered.'

Presumably, there is less dogmatism, more examination etc.

I don't really like the new wection on Sidgwick, it seems too ponerous. We've gonte to a lot of trouble to strip this thing down - don't let's start building it back up again. And I felt the tone slipped again into being 'an astrologer's view'… we're writing it from a philosophical perspective.

Surely we can drop the quotes, at the end , yes. But I'd like to keep the closing paragraphs on Gemini. Maybe they could be tweeked, but I worked on them carefully and I'm reluctant to have them discarded too quick!

Over to you again!

2012-06-07 23:42:22   OK Martin — I defer to you on all those points. Bad of course to get ponderous at the end. Do cut or restore Sidgwick material. I can't seem to delete that line '—nearly final version June 6 —' Sidgwick will get his due as an exemplary Gemini on another occasion — 'tis funny tho that he actually wrote back from the other side. —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-06-08 16:53:25   Thanks Mark. I've added those edits in then, reinstating the Crabby philosophers, but at the same time trying to slightly work on the text there which evidently you thought read a bit roughly before.

That said, are we there? I can then take this page and convert it to the Philosopher format for adding to the fabulous 'Centenary issue there. —docmartin

2012-06-08 17:29:41   A suggestion: a one-word attempted summary of each zodiacal commonalty as found among our philosophers, for the section titles: Aries philosophers — Self-ists? ; Taurus philosophers — world-ists? ; Gemini philosophers — Dialoguers? Cancer philosophers — irrationalists?

Sort of presuggests an acceptable, traditional thesis, antithesis and synthesis in the first 3 signs, legitimately aligns them with a pre-existing philosophical template, counteracts an unfair presumption that the sequence must be looked on as a meaningless randomness. Another possibility would be to be consistent with epigraphs, maybe right after the [Sign] philosopher headers. E.g. (Aries) from the cogito to the transcendental ego. (Taurus) from the 'cement of the universe' and the 'thing-in-itself' to 'The world is all that is the case'. (Gemini) from "Know thyself" to . . . . . let me study the Cancer section a bit. I've been working that material . . . 10 minutes —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-06-08 17:55:02   OK I go along but, an inveterate tinkerer, I have just changed the shape of your Cancer material a bit, straightened out the time line, a few new phrases.. If you don't like it better this way, use the existing.

Crabby philosophers
And finally, a look at Cancer, the Crab, the fourth sign, and one without on the face of it any grand aims in life. In astrological lore, Cancerians instead love home-life, the family and domestic settings. They are said to be traditionalist and to like operating on ‘a fundamental level ‘. Astrologers talk about those born under this sign as being fascinated with the beginnings of things - suggesting that everyday Cancerians will be interested in heraldry, ancestry and so on.

So how do our two stand-out philosophers here, namely: Gottfried Leibniz (July1) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June) fit with this astrological antecedent?
An inveterate tinkerer, Leibniz represents well Cancer ‘s practical side. And Leibniz's grand (Pythagorean) philosophical project was to make the world rational by reducing it to numbers and forcing it to obey the laws of mathematics. Yet, like Pythagoras, his fundamental building blocks for the project seem anything but rational - indeed Leibniz‘s monads are among the most mysterious objects in the universe.

As for Rousseau, he aptly illustrates not only Cancer‘s practical side in his love of grand houses and homes, but also (in his philosophical appeal to ‘life before property' and quintessentially romantic view of human nature) the Crab's 'moon' spirit. Quite simply, Rousseau speaks up for the claims of feeling.

Once again admitting the small-fry into the tabulation we find among the earlier philosophers Gianbattista Vico (23 June), who insiste that Descartes has no right to privilege the ‘clear and distinct idea ‘ except in mathematics and physics. Then a cluster of continentals such as Gaston Bachelard (27 June), who thought he could see in science the poetry and elemental psychology of Fire, Earth, Air and Water; Walter Benjamin (15 July), who looked for mysticism in historical materialism, and Jacques Derrida (15 July!) who spent his philosophic life busily erasing the margins of the rational.

On opposite sides of the contemporary philosophic divide, two Crabby 'social constructivists', Thomas Kuhn (18 July) and the less well known Bruno Latour (22 June) both tried to undermine scientific certainty. Also on the analytic side of the fence is Willard Quine (25 June) whose philosophical objections to Derrida might now be reinterpreted as a kind of zodiacal discomfort at sharing traits. If ‘to quine is to repudiate a clear distinction‘ then Derrida is a champion quiner. Likewise Michael Dummett (27 June) both read tarot cards and joined the Catholic Church.

Indeed, it is easy and fun to scan the lives and works of our Cancerian philosophers for references to the traditional concerns of that sign: the element water, the Moon, seashells and enclosures, the womb, organicity, the erosion of the linear by the ‘morphological ‘. And so it seems that once again, the astrologers perspective can yield a host of intriguing and subtle insights.

2012-06-08 21:36:29   will do, soon as I get back from my poetry reading. MS —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-06-08 21:36:35   will do, soon as I get back from my poetry reading. MS —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-06-09 17:56:15   Did it. I also added a few sentences which I trust you can easily detect, and remove if you don't like them. Now what? —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-06-11 23:18:03   Only eeny weeny changes are easy to track here... but I can go with this, no problem. What next, then? Well, I think I take the text here now and convert it to a standard style Philosopher web-page- and then it joins the rest of the fabulous articles for the Centenary issue (chimpanzee art, fifth fundemental force 'n' all...) Let me know what you think of that, I can always update it if any errors have slipped past us.

After that, well, onward and upward! I got two ideas - one of which is, yes, shall we try to do the next four signs (no rush, though!) and the other is maybe I can turn the article into a little YouTube movie. I'm well into movies just now... pop over and 'evaluate' my latest efforts if you like here...


2012-06-12 23:33:32   I can play the Doomsday piece but not the other, on the Amazon page. I just discovered the Philosopher Magazine site (really!) which is terribly rich (bravo!). Had time so far only to read the last section of book reviews from which I picked up quite a bit. Very droll review of God Delusion.

I was interested in Sarah Kofman's view of the two 'Socrates'. . . good and bad twin

In the attention to Chesterton, a pet Gemini of mine; his oddly noted book 12 Types. You know the story of Chesterton and his brother?

2012-06-14 21:44:45   Thanks for the postive on the 'other place'! Yes, Sarah Kofman wrote one of the best books on Socrates... there is so much trite stuff around...

I've read a bit on Chesterton in relation to his philosophical leanings, but no, this story about his brother would be new to me. Care to share here?


Maybe try this link for the Philosophical Tales?


2012-06-15 01:59:45   "When I was middle-aged, great men of science of the first rank like Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge claimed to have studied spirits as they might have studied spiders, and discovered ectoplasm exactly as they discovered protoplasm. At the time I write, the thing has grown into a considerable
religious movement, by the activity of the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, much less of a scientist, but much more of a journalist." Autobiography, Chapter IV: How to Become a Lunatic. ([WWW]

As you know, I detect the strong role of siblinghood in the lives of many Geminis. Chesterton's relationship with his younger (by four years) brother Cecil is exemplary. Cecil was journalist, political commentator
and editor; the two were always close professionally and personally and as teenagers shared intellectual formation. At which time they also scared each other to death with a Ouija board. G. K. said that was his first deep experience of the spirit, and eventually led to his Catholic conversion over 30 years later. He recognized the continuity of superstition in his life. This is all, lightheartedly, in Chapter IV of the Autobiography. The intensity of this experience, I believe, is what prevented Chesterton from participating in Sidgwick's SPR, which I have mentioned was populated with Geminis, curious about the limits or deep nature of communication. He mentions the very ones I noticed in the above paragraph. I believe he did try to commune with Cecil, who died in WW1.

I'm going to post here next my overflow of ruminations on Cancer, exp. Leibniz. Will save the Leibniz/Newton comparisons till Capricorn time. There might be an phrase or idea you'd like to use in the article. Must come to grips with Leo now so I'm reading Popper's Autobiography. He had, I think, a Napoleon complex.

2012-06-15 02:07:34   Cancer and Counter-enlightenment

Turing machine as Crab.jpg

Turing machine as Crab

[In his 1996 article for The American Political Science Review (Vol. 90, No. 2), Arthur M. Melzer identifies the origin of the Counter-Enlightenment in the religious writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, showing Rousseau as the man who fired the first major shot in the war between the Enlightenment and its enemies. Graeme Garrard follows Melzer in his "Rousseau's Counter-Enlightenment" (2003). ]

2012-06-19 00:22:10   Yes, some interesting stuff here, Mark. I think you sum up these characters pretty well! That said, Leibniz seems to have been a great egotist in the mold of Descartes too - and (again, Like Descartes) most of his ideas went nowhere. Who to trust on whom, then? One other caution, perhaps, though, about Kuhn. Here is what Feyerabend says about him:

We should not be too in awe of Kuhn though. As Feyerabend acerbically puts it:

2012-06-20 13:43:44   No awe for Kuhn. But social constructivism, SST, and phil of science certainly owe him a great deal. —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-06-21 02:42:10   I'm not sure where best to mount this, or how, so I leave it to you:

Gently enfolding Thoreau into the Cancerian batter.

I find the Thoreauvian to be Rousseauvian in moonlit philosophical rambles examining identity at the border of natural and social, in botanizing, back-to-naturism, prickly independence, surprisingly elaborated social theories. Thoreau's particular association with a pond and a cabin came from a brief period in his life, but they are metonymic of the introvert crab and his shell, as are Rousseau's various sentimental abodes. You have referred to Hawthorne's lovely description of Thoreau, which I paste here at greater length just because I have it, and a few particularly Cancerian traits are singled out . . simplicity, for one. What's funny is that Hawthorne himself was a Cancer, and is principally associated with a particular house, 7 gables, y'know.

I think Walden Pond is one of Leibniz's ponds within ponds and Thoreau shares Leibniz's Monadology, that Leibniz would assent to statements in Walden like: This is the only way we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant. Confucius said, 'To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.'

And this from the Conclusion, and many more: I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

I think Derrida's important characterization of Rousseau, stands for Thoreau as well. "Within this age of metaphysics . . . Rousseau . . . starts from a new model of presence: the subject's self-presence within consciousness or feeling."

I also think that the charming fact that Thoreau ran the family pencil factory has Rousseauvian implications, inscriptive and grammatological.

"Let your life be a counterfriction to stop the machine." Civil Disobedience,
i.e. right angles to Aries/Cartesian progress.

Henry David Thoreau
From Nathaniel Hawthorne's journal, September 1, 1842

AmericanTranscendentalism Web

Mr. Thoreau dined with us yesterday. He is a singular character - a young man with much of wild original nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own. He is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and rustic, though courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty. He was educated, I believe, at Cambridge, and formerly kept school in this town; but for two or three years back, he has repudiated all regular modes of getting a living, and seems inclined to lead a sort of Indian life among civilized men - an Indian life, I mean, as respects the absence of any systematic effort for a livelihood. He has been for some time an inmate of Mr. Emerson's family; and, in requital, he labors in the garden, and performs such other offices as may suit him - being entertained by Mr. Emerson for the sake of what true manhood there is in him. Mr. Thoreau is a keen and delicate observer of nature - a genuine observer - which, I suspect, is almost as rare a character as even an original poet; and Nature, in return for his love, seems to adopt him as her especial child, and shows him secrets which few others are allowed to witness. He is familiar with beast, fish, fowl, and reptile, and has strange stories to tell of adventures and friendly passages with these lower brothers of mortality. Herb and flower, likewise, wherever they grow, whether in garden or wildwood, are his familiar friends. He is also on intimate terms with the clouds, and can tell the portents of storms. It is a characteristic trait, that he has a great regard for the memory of the Indian tribes, whose wild life would have suited him so well; and, strange to say, he seldom walks over a ploughed field without picking up an arrow-point, spear-head, or other relic of the red man, as if their spirits willed him to be the inheritor of their simple wealth.

(38 and 25 years old respectively)

Thoreau's response to Derrida:

Most of the complaints lodged against A Week by Thoreau’s contemporaries concerned his digressions, which meander like the rivers, his obscurities, and his touting of Oriental thought. George Ripley, in a New York Tribune review, disparages Thoreau’s “misplaced Pantheistic attack on the Christian faith.” Thoreau’s “assertion that he considered ‘the sacred books of the Brahmins in nothing inferior to the Christian Bible’ led Ripley to explode that he found Thoreau’s treatment ‘revolting alike to good sense and good taste’” (as quoted in Jackson, 1981, p.68). And James Russell Lowell, who remained a life-long enemy of Thoreau’s writing, sneered, “What. . . have Concord and Merrimack to do with Boodh?” Lowell attributed Thoreau’s tendency to obfuscation to the “same taste that makes him so fond of Hindoo philosophy, which would seem admirably suited to men, if men were only oysters”(as quoted in Jackson, p.68). There is a certain truth to Lowell’s observation. Because Thoreau had immersed himself so wholeheartedly in a philosophy that denies the validity of thought as presence, a philosophy that negates the idea of absolute reason, a philosophy that asserts that the thinking subject can only experience relative truth, Thoreau had lost touch with the precepts of Christian fundamentalism and logocentricism and instead had embraced indeterminacy: “We are acquainted with a mere pellicle of the globe on which we live. Most have not delved six feet beneath the surface, nor leaped as many feet above it. We know not where we are. Besides, we are sound asleep nearly half our time. Yet we esteem ourselves wise, and have established order on the surface” (W. 329). This is not the message most of Thoreau’s contemporaries wanted to hear. They wanted the reassurance of their dogmatic beliefs, not uncertainty.
Nevertheless, Thoreau could not abandon literature. As his voluminous journal attests, he defined himself through writing. It was his “genius,” his special gift, and he felt compelled to impart the message of his personal myth to the world:
I would fain communicate the wealth of my life to man, would really give them what is most precious in my gift. I would secrete the pearls with the shellfish and lay up honey with the bees for them. . . . I inclose and foster the pearl till it is grown. [c.f. ". . if men were only oysters" above] I wish to communicate those parts of my life which I would gladly live again. (Thoreau, 1842/1927, p.30)


. . . . The moon is laboring in a mackerel cloud, and my hopes are with her. The distant village sounds are the barking of dogs, the animal with which man has allied himself, and the rattling of wagons, for the farmers have gone into town a-shopping this Saturday night. The dog is the tamed wolf, as the villager is the tamed savage. But near, the crickets are heard in the grass, chirping from everlasting to everlasting, a mosquito sings near my ear, and the humming of a dor-bug drowns all the noise of the village, so roomy is the universe. The moon comes out of the mackerel cloud, and the traveler rejoices. How can a man write the same thoughts by the light of the moon, resting his book on a rail by the side of a remote potato-field, that he does by the light of the sun, on his study table? The light is but a luminousness. My pencil seems to move through a creamy, mystic medium. The moonlight is rich and somewhat opaque, like cream, but the daylight is thin and blue, like skimmed milk. I am less conscious than in the presence of the sun, my instincts have more influence.

2012-06-22 22:21:30   Well, I do like Thoreau. I think it is a kind of prose peotry, with philosohical elements. How do you compare it to Leibniz, though? He seems to me to be a very turgid sort of fellow, verbose, pompous. Quite the opposite! Rousseau I would put as a kind of elder brother to Thoreau, he writes well, and also argues well. But again, I'd struggle to find any commonality of purpose with the Great Gottfried! —docmartin

2012-06-23 19:05:02   I admit, 'Walden Pond as Monad' is not an argument. The problem in Cancer, is the shift in rhetorical ground in the Cancerian narrative, from Gemini's binarism, unable to originate, only to reiterate, and consequently to ask for meaning, to ask the Socratic question. Shifting to Cancer's swirling, generative wholism. Cancer doesn't ask questions, Cancer engages in solutions, witnesses and directs processes coming into being.

We're going to run out of a stable vocabulary and require images to do the work: moon, pond, house, pot, womb. There's certainly an analogy between the cabin and Leibniz's Library, and architecture to male wombing.

I'm quoting below what Marc Edmund Jones writes about Cancer. Please bear in mind that Jones was unique and eccentric among astrological writers, and with a rigorous philosophical background. His Columbia doctorate in philosophy (after a theological degree) was a thesis written under John Dewey, on Dewey's teacher, George Sylvester Morris, the University of Michigan idealist. His vocabulary is possibly more precise than it seems —


One thing about Cancer that Jones willfully ignores is gender: the domination of moon, womb, motherhood is almost invariably a part of any astrological discussion of Cancer. Not here. But one gets insights rereading Jones's description of Cancer using the female pronoun. In fact, in associating Cancer with anti-rationality, I am invoking the female stereotype, irrational, emotional, changeable, lunar, psychic, menstrual, fiercely maternal, domestic. I don't suppose that should be ignored in thinking about Cancer philosophers. Kristeva, a Cancer, takes up these issues. Here Derridean invagination describes the mise-en-abyme of the monads of both Leibniz and Turing, and the embodied fractal miracle of the womb. (Programs within programs within programs are called monads in Turing's Universal Machine) See G. Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, 1992. "This mise-en-abime is a definitive feature of both the post-modern and the neo-baroque sublime." also see J. Lyotard, "The Sublime and the Avant-Garde" 1988.

I trolled up a few quotes of Thoreau's that seem to relate to Leibniz and/or Rousseau, or just Cancer, or I just like them.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.

However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do want society.

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.
(Leibnizian optimism?)

It is as hard to see one's self as to look backwards without turning around. (Crablike and snail shelly).

Men are born to succeed, not fail. (Leibniz)
Men have become the tools of their tools. (Rousseau)

The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.

To regret deeply is to live afresh.

We must have infinite faith in each other. If we have not, we must never let it leak out that we have not.

What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?

What people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can.

[Water is] the only drink for a wise man.

2012-06-23 20:18:40   Here is what I'm saying about Cancer and 'anti-rationaliy', which is of course a tricky term presupposing a definition of rationality.


Current attention to Turing on his 100th birthday, today, reminds me that he is born just on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer, and a remarkable amount of the weight of his horoscope is focused on that adjacency, where, to put it succinctly, the binary becomes the recursive. —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-06-29 23:18:34   Mmmm... I'm not really with you on much of this. Partly because it's hard to follow - but mainly because I think the arguments and comprisons are too fuzzy. (Marc Edmund Jones left me 'cold' as they say...) I'm not saying you're wrong, but I'm just saying you've left me behind a bit here.

From my perspective, Thoreau (who I like) is a very plain person, I think not very imaginative, or indeed very philosophical. His merit is the careful way he observes and records. I'd argue that he is a kind of 'environmental philospoher' - but not any kind of metaphysician, concealed or otherwise.

In that list of Thoreau quotes, the only one I liked was... Rousseaus'!

Then the —docmartin

2012-06-30 13:02:23   Then the . . .? —Mark-Shulgasser

2012-07-01 16:52:18   ? er... Wittgensteinian silence? That of which I cannot speak?

But I think maybe I just mistyped. —docmartin

2012-11-10 15:30:12   Here's a remark about Bachelard which summarizes quite well the thrust of the Cancerian critique of the Cartesian scientific/philosophical lineage. It comes from a paper called "From Metaphysics to Metachemistry" by Alfred Nordmann which appeared in the anthology "Philosophy of Chemistry: Synthesis of a New Discipline" (2006):

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