Milly asked:

Examine the view that our understanding of the universe is enhanced by our ability to distinguish appearance and reality.

Answer by Geoffrey Klempner

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, right? Raj, who joined the class at the beginning of term looks a bit of a dimwit. He sits at the back of the class, never asks questions and his conversation consists mostly of monosyllables. Wrong! Turns out that Raj has an IQ of 187 (and you can continue the story from there).

It’s a truism that knowledge and understanding are advanced by questioning our preliminary judgements or the way things first appear to us. Looks can be deceptive. On the other hand, your initial judgement can be absolutely on target. That happens too. Human beings have a remarkable ability to suss things out swiftly, a valuable survival trait gifted to us by evolution. With people, especially. You can be right in your initial impression then subsequently get taken in by a web of lies because you didn’t trust your ‘intuition’.

The ability to distinguish appearance and reality is not confined to human beings. Mimicry as a method of self-defence is a widespread feature of the animal and insect worlds, which has led to an evolutionary arms race between the resourcefulness of the mimics and the ability of predators to see through the mimicry.

To the best of my knowledge, however, non-human animals do not have any ‘understanding of the universe’, so let’s put that aside.

Histories of Western philosophy identify the Presocratic philosophers, Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes as the first thinkers to question whether the world really is as it appears. Anaximenes held the remarkable view that every object in the universe is more or less compressed air. Despite appearances, you and I are compressed air. The chair you are sitting on is nothing but compressed air, and so on.

The Presocratics were the first thinkers to propose theories to explain the world and how it came to be the way it is. Up to that time, cosmogony, or accounts of how the universe came into being, was basically make-believe.

Here’s an example: once upon a time there was a male and a female god, who had sex and as a result the female god hatched a giant egg which cracked open revealing a fully formed world. — Dumb, right? However, as the Presocratic philosopher Xenophanes noted, the best theories of the time were ultimately not much more than guesswork. Human beings can never know what is really real, he thought. We entertain one another with more or less rational ‘accounts’ of the cosmos.

Fast forward 2500 years and we now have ways of testing at least some of these accounts. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity predicted the bending of light by large gravitational fields, a prediction that was first confirmed in 1919. On the other hand, M-theory or ‘string theory’ as it’s known is still waiting a practical test and may never be capable of being verified or falsified.

So what?

So far so good — for science, anyway. Most theories are testable, and the ones that aren’t still provide a useful occupation for theoretical physicists who don’t like to bother with finicky experiments and are happy with just a whiteboard and coloured markers. (They are much cheaper to run than the ones who insist on having time on the Large Hadron Collider, so universities love them.)

In metaphysics, on the other hand, the appearance-reality distinction has proved catastrophic. Over the centuries, philosophers have proposed ever more elaborate ‘theories of everything’ or accounts of ‘ultimate reality’ — from Berkeley to Leibniz to Kant to Schopenhauer, Fichte and Hegel — none of which commands any credence except as an historical curiosity. As a result, metaphysics has become what exactly Kant feared, writing in 1781 in his Preface to the First Edition of Critique of Pure Reason:

“Time was when metaphysics was entitled the Queen of all the sciences; and if the will be taken for the deed, the pre-eminent importance of her accepted tasks gives her every right to this title of honour. Now, however, the changed fashion of the time brings her only scorn; a matron outcast and forsaken, she mourns like Hecuba: Modo maxima rerum, tot generis natisque potens — nunc trahor exul, inops.” [‘Greatest of all things by birth and power, now I am exiled and destitute.’]

Kant is as much to blame as any Western philosopher, with his hopelessly obscure theory of ‘Phenomena and Noumena’, which Hegel rejected only to replace it with an even more fantastical theory, according to which — despite all appearance to the contrary — ‘the Real is Rational and the Rational is the Real.’

Today, the term ‘metaphysics’ in English-speaking philosophy is largely used as a label for anything but the serious attempt to give an account of ultimate reality.

However, I happen to believe that it is possible to give an account of ultimate reality without invoking the appearance-reality distinction. If you want to know how, well that’s something I’m currently working on but you can start by looking at my blog Metaphysical Journal.

Kenny asked:

Could a non-believer in a god sin? 

Colin asked:

How would a philosopher evaluate Aleister Crowley: ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’? 

Answer by Gershon Velvel

What is a ‘sin’? I read in Wikipedia:

“In a religious context, sin is the act of transgression against divine law. Sin can also be viewed as any thought or action that endangers the ideal relationship between an individual and God; or as any diversion from the perceived ideal order for human living. ‘To sin’ has been defined from a Greek concordance as ‘to miss the mark’.”

What is wrong with that statement? — You might think that the last sentence doesn’t seem to fit here at all.

Aristotle in his Ethics gives the example of an archer aiming a bow to illustrate ethical judgement. Making correct judgements is something that requires care and the appropriate training. In archery, you have to allow for the distance of the target, the direction and strength of the wind and so on. In a competition, where you have the final shot and need to score at least a ‘9’ and your arrow only hits the ‘6’ ring, you’ve lost, and maybe your team lost too.

And so it is, the Greeks thought, with ethical judgements. When you need to take care, and you ‘miss the mark’, that’s something you might regret, possibly for a long time. The assumption here is that one is aiming for the mark. We want to do good, do the right thing.

It might be something seemingly trivial. The doughnuts in the supermarket you thought were jam doughnuts turned out to have a vanilla filling. No big deal, but suppose that this was a cancer patient’s dying request. Regardless of how your friend takes the disappointment, you castigate yourself for not taking sufficient care to look at the label first. The shelf said ‘doughnuts’, and you assumed ‘jam doughnuts’. And now it’s too late to make amends. Your lack of care is the thing that rankles. You feel guilt.

Not a ‘sin’? What would Jesus say? Callousness, not taking care, is the ultimate sin in a religion based on the precept of ‘love’. Let’s suppose that just as you were approaching the doughnut shelf, you remembered that you had to make an appointment to get your piano tuned. That stray ‘selfish’ thought at a time when your friend’s need should have been uppermost in your mind was all the distraction you needed. — It’s not difficult to see why a thinker like Nietzsche would discern a cruel streak underlying the religion of loving kindness.

Then what about real criminals? The story, as a Greek would tell it, is that through a series of ‘missed shots’, you deviate further and further away from a correct view of the target. For example, you come to believe that a successful robbery is something to be proud of, rather than ashamed. This is the staple of gangster movies: loyalty, obedience, punishment and reward are concepts that every gang member implicitly understands. As the saying goes, ‘there’s honour amongst thieves.’

With God in the picture, it seems we are playing a different game entirely. Whatever we conceive as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, the word of God is the final arbiter. Ethical laws are God’s laws. The religious concept of ‘sin’, in essence, recognizes the fundental difference between which actions you or I call ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, and those which are so in reality. No room for quibbling.

God doesn’t need to give a reason for His commands. If the command is, ‘Never mix cotton and wool in the same garment,’ as the priests of ancient Israel told, then regardless of the whys or wherefores, by ignoring God’s law you have defied God. You have deliberately stuck your finger in God’s eye. No punishment is too severe for one who defies God.

‘Missing the mark’ in an archery competition or some other sport, is something to regret. You mentally go through the motions, trying to work out where you went wrong. We all make judgements we regret. The feeling of guilt implies something more, over and above regret: the sense of accountability. It needn’t be accountability to another person or persons. As a would-be follower of Aleister Crowley, you might feel guilt about failing to take an opportunity to enjoy carnal delights because of the vestiges of a ‘conscience’ instilled by your strict religious upbringing. You have sinned against your ‘true nature’.

As a non-believer and nihilist, this makes sense to me, although, to borrow from Oscar Wilde, sin is ‘not one of my words’. Things are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for me simply by virtue of the things I care about. When I aim to do better, and do worse, then given an appropriate context that is something to be feel bad about, guilty, even. But ‘sin’? Pass.

Jack asked:

I’m curious about the nature of “harm.” As I understand it, it is often required measurable damage of some sort to the other party. But does that mean then, as long as the party is ignorant of the act then no harm is done?

For example, X act is both illegal and immoral (in most cultures). If X act was done to an aware being, it would cause some form of harm (such as psychological, mental, social). To be clear, the harm done would require knowledge of act X. But if that same being were completely unaware of X act occurring to them, it would seem they would never notice the existence of X act and without awareness of X act, there could be no harm.

So then can it be said that X act isn’t an act of harm? That because it may not result in harm (if the other party is not aware of act X) in all instances, the most that could be said about it is that despite it being illegal and immoral 100% of the time, it isn’t an act of harm itself, it can only result in harm under certain conditions. Is this accurate?

The confusion lies in the idea of “harm” being an affront to another, regardless of consequences or measurable harm. If the other party is devalued in some way, regardless if they acknowledge it or feel effects from it, by devaluing a human being it can still be said to be harming them.

Answer by Geoffrey Klempner

The question of harm and its definition typically arises in relation to J.S. Mill’s Liberty Principle

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” (On Liberty, 1859)

But what exactly constitutes ‘harm’?

Before we go any further, we need to clear up an ambiguity where you say, ‘as long as the party is ignorant of the act then no harm is done’.

Let’s say that by subterfuge I get hold of your Ethics exam script before it reaches the examiner and make changes that result in your achieving a lower score than you would have otherwise. A few pages go missing. The word ‘not’ is added in a few places, and removed in others. When the results come in, and you see that you have failed the exam, you have no idea at all that any harm was done to you. You blame yourself for your bad performance.

That would be a case of harm even though you were unaware that you had been harmed. What you are very much aware of, is the result of my malicious action: your disappointing exam result. That’s harm by any reasonable definition.

But what about a case where you don’t experience any negative effects of my action? Let’s say as I brush past you in the street, I stick a piece of paper on your coat with the words, ‘I am a dork.’ You carry on your way, blissfully unaware that people are sniggering behind your back. By the time you reach home, the piece of paper has fallen off. (Someone you know might see what I did and tell you, but for the sake of the example we’re assuming that doesn’t happen.)

As in the previous example, here is a flagrant case of harm, even though this time you experience no negative effect whatsoever.

More interesting and controversial, are cases where a person feels ‘affront’, feels that they have been ‘harmed,’ but despite feeling that way no harm has in fact been done to them. An example that has been cited is someone who feels affronted by the sight of a gay couple kissing in public. You have no right to feel that way, so no real ‘harm’ has been done, we would say.

The problem with this is that a different judgement would be made in New York or in Tehran. What would Mill’s view be? The whole point of the Liberty Principle is to cut through ethical disputes that depend on this or that person’s feelings or ‘intuition’ about what is right or wrong. Feelings of ‘harm’ that result solely from your holding ethical or religious beliefs that are different from someone else’s ethical or religious beliefs are not examples of real harm.

Mill wanted to see vigorous debate between different ethical and religious, or indeed anti-religious, views. Provided the debate is polite, he believed, and not conducted in an atmosphere of animosity, no ‘harm’ is done to any side.

Then what if I make a ‘V’ sign to your face, clearly intending to insult you? Maybe you feel deeply hurt and affronted. ‘You shouldn’t be so sensitive,’ I might say in my defence. The difference here concerns accepted conventions. The ‘V’ sign is widely read as an insult, and it was indeed my intention to insult you that resulted in your feeling insulted, i.e. harmed.

Bad language, or rude gestures, where they are meant to be hurtful to another person, are cases of ‘harm’. Whether the actions actually cause upset or psychological discomfort in a particular case is in fact irrelevant. What is important is the intention. By making a ‘V’ sign to you, intending this as an insult, I have caused you ‘harm’ — something concerning which, in Mill’s words ‘power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community’ — even if you just laugh it off. You ought to take exception to what I have done, because it was not acceptable behaviour, by Mill’s Principle.

On the other hand, hurting someone’s feelings, by making a statement that you had every right to make, is not an example of ‘harm’. Nor is punishment a case of ‘harm’, when justified and administered in the appropriate context. All this goes to show that the question of ‘harm’ is a question about rights.

Mill’s starting point is that I have the right to do any action if the only person harmed is myself. Others may be hurt by my actions, but they are only ‘harmed’ when a certain line has been crossed. Defining that line has proved to be quite difficult in practice.

You will find more on this topic in my answer Problems with J.S. Mill’s harm principle.

Mabel asks:

Evaluate the moral implication of Aristotle’s popular saying that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

Answer by Craig Skinner

The remark about the unexamined life is made by Socrates at his trial. He has already been found guilty (of corrupting the young and holding the city’s gods in contempt), the prosecutor has suggested the death sentence, and Socrates addresses the jury. They expect him to ask for leniency, grovel a bit, promise to stop haranguing young men in the town square about the nature of virtue, exposing their ignorance and trying to get them to think clearly. But Socrates doesn’t play ball. Instead he says:

“I say that this is the greatest good for a human being — to have discussions every day about virtue and the the other things about which you hear me conversing and examining myself and others; and that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” (Apology, 38a 1-6)

He is sentenced to death and accepts it without question, refusing offer of escape from prison by his friend Crito.

“Not worth living” is strong stuff. Not just a bad way to live but worse than not living at all. Socrates clearly believed it. Few others do. Plato, for instance, in his ideal city in the Republic, has three classes, philosophers, soldiers, workers. Only the first live an examined life whilst the others have unreflective lives, yet lives worth living. And most of us would surely agree that a life comprising useful work, family and leisure interests can be worthwhile.

However Plato does think that the examined life of the philosophers is the best life. And we can understand Socrates as holding the same less extreme view if we translate the greek “biotõs” as “to be lived” rather than “worth living” so that the saying becomes “the unexamined life is not to be lived”.  In short, no human should live an unexamined life.

Now we have something many of us would agree with. Aristotle certainly would (although I’m not aware that he went around quoting Socrates as your question rather suggests). He says:

“Human beings began to do philosophy, even as we do now, because of wonder, at first because they wondered about the strange things right in front of them, and later, advancing little by little, because they came to find greater things puzzling” (Metaphysics, 982b12).

He argues in Nicomachean Ethics that the philosophical life is the pinnacle for humans, using reason in virtuous activity.

And I’m sure you agree with me that a full human life includes wonder about things and a sustained attempt to understand:  why there’s a universe rather than nothing, how it works, how did we come to be, how should we live, how will it end, what can we know, what does it all mean? Otherwise you and I wouldn’t be engaged in this dialogue.

So one implication of the saying is that all of us should philosophise in the broad sense at least some of the time.

You ask about the moral implications. Of course, saying how we should live because it is best for us, is already a moral judgment. But does it make me a better person? In the Apology Socrates assumes rather than argues for it. Elsewhere (Euthyphro, Crito, Charmides, Gorgias for instance) he argues that all virtue is related to the endless search for understanding, and those failing to do this fall into to all kinds of vice. However, lest we get carried away thinking philosophy is the royal road to virtue, reflect on Kant’s view that moral agents need no help from philosophy, they know where duty lies (but don’t always do it), and perfecting the soul needs a pure heart not a trained mind.

Ozzy asked:

Heraclitus says that everything is changing all the time. List at least two problems with believing this. Do you think that they can be overcome?

Miriam asked:

Could you please tell me what Socrates speech in Plato’s dialogue ‘Parmenides’ is about? in your opinion?

Paula asked:

Explain what it means for Plato to side with Parmenides more than Heraclitus.

Peter asked:

How did Plato resolve the problem of permanence?

Answer by Geoffrey Klempner

I’m taking these questions together because they all relate in one way or another to Plato’s theory of Forms. Parmenides and Heraclitus were Plato’s great predecessors. I am going to say something controversial here: Plato agreed with Parmenides and he also agreed with Heraclitus. They were both ‘right’ as far as he was concerned.

What are Forms? The common explanations I’ve seen of this are misleading at best. i remember as a school student in Chemistry first hearing about Plato’s belief that there is an ‘Ideal Table’, a heavenly Table that all actual tables more or less closely resemble. And similarly for all other things that we recognize and give a name to. This is complete piffle, as I will explain below.

In answer to each question:

No, Ozzy, there was no real problem for Heraclitus in the notion that ‘everything is changing all the time’ although there seems to be. If everything is changing all the time, how is it that we are able to refer to things, or recognize something as ‘the same again’? If everything is changing all the time how is it that all sorts of things that we see around us don’t seem to change?

The answer isn’t ‘some things change very slowly so it isn’t a problem’ (I’ve actually seen this proposed by a dimwitted commentator) but rather that there is one thing that is universal and can never change: the Logos. The Logos describes the rules by which things appear to change or not change, transform into other things rapidly or over a longer period of time. If you have Logos you don’t need permanent ‘stuff’ as well. All there is, is the Logos and appearances. You can think of the Logos as ‘the laws of nature’ but Heraclitus had something much more abstract in mind then a specific set of rules. Logos is rationality, reason itself. The human soul is part of, or participates in the Logos. That is how you and I are able to reason things out — because of a fundamental ‘fit’ between our minds and reality. Brilliant!

Miriam, I don’t know which ‘speech’ you are referring to specifically but I can guess. In Plato’s late (and arguably greatest) dialogue Parmenides the young Socrates meets the elderly Parmenides (a meeting that so far as we know did not actually take place). In the first part of the dialogue, Parmenides quizzes Socrates on his thoughts about the Forms, then in the second part Socrates turns the tables and gives Parmenides’ theory of the One a thorough working over.

The first question Parmenides puts to Socrates is deceptively simple: what sort of things have Forms? Is there a Form for hair? How about a Form for mud? Oh, no! says Socrates, not that kind of stuff. ‘That is because you are still young,’ remarks Parmenides, condescendingly, ‘When you are older you will learn not to despise such things.’

Why would there be a Form for hair? Human beings have hair, it is one of their constant, universal attributes. Why is that? Why are any attributes of anything universal? Why don’t some ‘human beings’ have metal spikes instead of hair? Why do we find life in general divided into kinds? Mud looks more like a random a mixture of stuff — you can have every kind of mud, and between any two samples of different kinds of mud, you can mix the two together. But if you think of mud as made from water and earth, then you may begin to see that the physical properties of mud are not so random after all.

Paula, you are just plain wrong in saying that Plato ‘sided more with Parmenides than Heraclitus’. Or, rather, your teacher is. (I’m guessing that this was a question you were given.) Parmenides realized that apart from all the things we talk about or perceive around us, the things about which we say, ‘it is’, or ‘it is not’, there has to be something that simply IS, full stop. Things change IN reality, but reality, what IS, cannot change. He called this the One. There are various ways of spelling this out — and much controversy over exactly what Parmenides meant — but I’ll keep things simple. A few days ago, you posted your question on Ask a Philosopher. That’s a fact. It will still be a fact in 1000 years time, or after the human race has become extinct. What IS, is, and can never not be.

As I’ve already explained, Heraclitus is not in fundamental disagreement with the idea that what IS is unchanging. The Logos IS. The notion that the Logos could be different from one day, or millennium, to another is something Heraclitus would never have entertained for one second. Reason just IS reason. ‘Fire’, ‘strife’, ‘war’ describe both metaphorically and literally the result of the continuing and unchanging hand of the Logos that ‘governs all things’.

Finally, Peter. What is the problem of permanence? Reading Plato’s earlier Socratic dialogues, the same question comes up again and again: how is it that we seem to have notions of human virtues, like ‘justice’, ‘courage’, ‘temperance’ — show by the fact that we just know when an offered definition is wrong? His answer was, because these things simply are, and never change. What human beings mistakenly or correctly call ‘just’ or ‘unjust’ is determined by the unchanging fact of Justice itself.

But, as I’ve already explained, concrete reality shows the same features as our abstract ethical concepts. Gold is always gold, horses are always horses. Gold will always have the same density. Search as hard as you like, you won’t find a continuum of animals ranging between a typical horse and a typical lion. Because they fall into ‘natural kinds’. The notion of an underlying explanation of things falling into kinds in terms of the atomist theory of Democritus and Leucippus seemed at the time far fetched or even impossible. By the principle of ‘insufficient reason’ there are atoms of every shape and size, moving randomly. How could that possibly give rise to gold, or horses?

It could be argued the greatest invention of all time was the lens (according to Wikipedia, some time between the 11th and 13th centuries) because it led to the discovery of the ordered world of the microscopic. and eventually the possibility of explanation in terms of microstructure — the laws of physics, chemistry and biochemistry. Take that away, and there’s a massive gap that can only be filled by the notion that natural kinds arise from a Logos, an ultimate classifying principle built in to the very nature of reality itself. In other words, Plato’s Forms.

What about the ideal Table, then? Plato actually uses this as an example in his dialogue Republic to explain the Forms, but he doesn’t mean simply that there is a Form of the table, in the same way as there is a Form of the human. Tables exist in a variety of shapes and sizes, but anything that is literally a ‘table’ that we use as a table (by contrast with Table Mountain, or a doll’s house table) references human need. A table is like the ground, but higher up for convenience. You can deduce the range of constructed items that satisfy the requirements of being a table from the Form of the human. For example, the range of possible lengths of a table leg. Unlike human beings, tables are made by carpenters according to specifications and plans. Folding, not folding, square, round, rectangular, and so on. This is like the way the Form of the human gives rise to the variety of human beings. But only like. It’s an analogy, nothing more.

Theodore asked:

Our lungs do not produce the oxygen which we find necessary to breathe, so why should anyone think it unusual that our brain does not produce consciousness which we find necessary to think?

Answer by Gideon Smith-Jones

I am totally gobsmacked by this question, Theodore. Wow. So many possible lines of inquiry here.

Our lungs don’t produce the oxygen we need, as you well know. But if they did, their function could surely not be to oxygenate the blood. Because then it wouldn’t be necessary to breathe at all. We could produce all our own oxygen through the process of chemical reduction without having to take any from the outside world. Assuming that the oxygen is used to produce energy from food through the process of oxidation, fundamental laws of chemistry and thermodynamics would in tatters.

A more plausible theory is that human beings and animal life in general were created by the plant world in order to produce all the carbon dioxide it needs for photosynthesis. No fundamental laws broken here, but it would somewhat upset our view that human beings are higher than plant life. (It would make an interesting variation on the Matrix scenario of human beings as Duracell batteries designed to keep the computer world up and running.)

This is speculation, right? And as much as we know about human physiology and biochemistry, so little do we know about the nature of consciousness, how it ‘acts’ and how it is ‘produced’. So the field is open for any theory that sounds even a little bit plausible.

The Ancient Greeks were there first: the ‘Air’ of Anaximenes, the ‘Nous’ of Anaxagoras, and Xenophanes’ ‘One God’ who ‘sees all’ and ‘shakes all things by the thought of his mind’. The invisible substance that pervades all things has purpose. It is mind-like. Anaxagoras offers the most interesting version of this hypothesis. Unlike air, Nous is everywhere, it even pervades rock and solid metal. When Aristotle formed the metaphysical theory we know as ‘Hylomorphism’ to account for the ultimate nature of existence and change, it was the thought of Anaxagoras, out of all the Presocratics, that most influenced him.

So much for history. I take your idea to be this: the brain doesn’t ‘produce’ consciousness as material monists foolishly believe. Rather, its function is to interact with consciousness which is already ‘out there’. One well-know version of that story is the mind-body dualism of Descartes. The tiny pineal gland in the brain is the place, Descartes thought, where mental substance is able to move or be moved by the ‘animal spirits’ thus producing speech, action and perception. The problems with Descartes’ mind-body interaction theory are well known, so I won’t repeat them here.

However, here’s another theory, much closer to the Greeks, that you might like. Nous is everywhere. In the beginning, its powers were limited because it had so little to work with. All Nous can do, the sum total of its powers, is to alter probabilities, to make the relatively improbable probable. And so it was that the massive improbability of matter, energy and space appearing from nothing was conquered.

It was Nous that first nudged basic protein molecules together to produce molecules of DNA, that even today maintains the balanced processes in every living cell (a phenomenon that biologists have yet to fully understand), that in tiny stages pushed evolution all the way up the steep gradient of improbability ultimately to create human life. By manipulating quantum effects in the brain, you and I become its eyes and ears. We are the means to its end, which was simply, all along, to overcome its blindness and its solitude.

In the beginning Nous didn’t know what it was doing. It was not in any way ‘conscious’. Certainly not a ‘god’. It was just blindly thrashing about. But, gradually, as more and more order was created, it discovered its ‘purpose’. Through tiny steps, it transformed itself into the Demiurge of nature.

Basically, all I’ve done is rehash the doctrine of the Upanishads with added baroque or filagree to give the impression of being ‘scientific’. In the words of Alan Watts, ‘We are all It.’ Like any theory, it deserves to be considered as possibly true. Why not? At this moment in our history, no-one knows ‘the truth’ — if there is such a thing. So if this is what you would like to believe, no-one has the right to contradict you.

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