Determinism Question - possibility of scientific explanations for human behaviour

  • Thread starter Ken Natton
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  • #51
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Let me go off the deep end here.

Say the mind operated on the quantum level in some respect. So, if quantum mechanics is not deterministic, then so isn't the mind and the resulting will. But, this is just speculation which I suspect won't be taken seriously.
 
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  • #52
Ryan_m_b
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Let me go off the deep end here.

Say the mind operated on the quantum level in some respect. So, if quantum mechanics is not deterministic, then so isn't the mind and the resulting will. But, this is just speculation which I don't suspect to be taken seriously.
Taking into account quantum aspects then determinism changes from strictly deterministic to probabilistic. Either way it doesn't get around the fact that "will" is the result of uncontrolled cause.
 
  • #53
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Taking into account quantum aspects then determinism changes from strictly deterministic to probabilistic. Either way it doesn't get around the fact that "will" is the result of uncontrolled cause.
The mere existence of a possibility that can be acted upon, gives rise to a free will.
 
  • #54
disregardthat
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Because of causality. The determinist principle is that cause and effect are absolute. Therefore everything that happens is contingent on the past, in other words every atom of your and your environment's existence is governed by physical laws through time.
This is the answer I had hoped for.

I believe there is a grave mistake in this type of view.

Causality is the relationship between physical events. But what are such relationships? This can only be answered by referring to physical models. But models are descriptions, with built-in rules for inference. (e.g. Newtons laws of mechanics) The inferences are logical. Thus causality is simply a logical connection between descriptions of events, but has no fundamental connection to the physical world (other than that it is what that is described).

Models need not be mathematical models; the physical models we are familiar with. They can be simple (even primitive) forms of expressing relationships between events.

Just as the only necessity that exists is logical necessity, so too the only impossibility that exists is logical impossibility.
- Wittgenstein

You mention as an explanation (or example) of causality as the interaction between atoms. This is certainly correct, but in the proper manner of in the context of the models we have for atoms. I don't propose that we "just haven't got deep enough in the physics", nor that "causality is found at the "deepest" level of natural laws".

However, it seems to be very clear that what happens is inevitable. But this does not depend on causality. Rather, what is the meaning of the word inevitable? When do we use it, and why? If an event has happened, of course it is inevitable. This is actually a tautology. But can we ever say that an event is inevitable if it has not happened? Not by far. (We can predict the future to a certain degree, but the predictions are interpretations of the logical implications within a model for the phenomena we are describing, not carrying any fundamental connection with the actual physical phenomena).

The use of the word inevitable is misplaced in this context. "Everything that happened was inevitable" is meaningless (unless it is used in the fashion that we expected it to happen with great certainty, which is not what is meant by inevitability here). It is a linguistic error, it seems obvious since it always is obvious whenever used correctly. But a subtle change in the logical place of the word (unnoticably) lead us into believing it with absolute certainty.

Don't interpret this as me saying that everything is random (or worse: stochastic). I'm saying that determinism as a stance is an error of language, not of ontology (and that it is meaningless as an ontological fact).

The only reasonable use of the word deterministic as I can see is "a deterministic model".
 
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  • #55
Ryan_m_b
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The mere existence of a possibility that can be acted upon, gives rise to a free will.
The probability comes from quantum effects only. I.e. a dropped ball may hit the ground or may just disappear (with a 1/1^10^10^10^10 chance). The fact that there are possibilities based on the chances that a quantum event may go one way or another does not change the fact that at macroscale levels everything is mechanical.

Another way of putting it is this:

I will flip a coin
If it is heads I will say "yes"
If it is tails I will say "no"

Let's propose this is a quantum coin. Regardless of how it goes I haven't really made a choice. The decision to partake in this endeavour and decide it's parameters was caused by all the phenomenon in my past. So in reality even with randomness the deterministic argument against free will holds.
 
  • #56
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Ah. Makes sense. So, determinism implies an observer that cannot be within the deterministic system to call it deterministic. Truly, incoherent.
 
  • #57
Ryan_m_b
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But can we ever say that an event is inevitable if it has not happened? Not by far. (We can predict the future to a certain degree, but the predictions are interpretations of the logical implications within a model for the phenomena we are describing, not carrying any fundamental connection with the actual physical phenomena).
There is a great problem with the semantics of this issue. However I disagree with this statement partially. Arguably the future is inevitable in the sense that there are a number of possible futures with different likelihoods born out of the fundamental probabilistic nature of the universe. For example, it is most like that if I throw a rock at my neighbours window it is most likely that it will break and my neighbour will call the police. There is a smaller chance that my rock will phase right through the house, this will cause different effects i.e. my neighbour will never know what I tried to do.

Regardless of if the universe is fundamentally deterministic or not the argument still stands that "free will" in the sense of being able to take any path available is fallacious.
 
  • #58
Ryan_m_b
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Ah. Makes sense. So, determinism implies an observer that cannot be within the deterministic system to call it deterministic. Truly, incoherent.
Sorry? I don't get how you concluded this.
 
  • #59
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The probability comes from quantum effects only. I.e. a dropped ball may hit the ground or may just disappear (with a 1/1^10^10^10^10 chance). The fact that there are possibilities based on the chances that a quantum event may go one way or another does not change the fact that at macroscale levels everything is mechanical.

Another way of putting it is this:

I will flip a coin
If it is heads I will say "yes"
If it is tails I will say "no"

Let's propose this is a quantum coin. Regardless of how it goes I haven't really made a choice. The decision to partake in this endeavour and decide it's parameters was caused by all the phenomenon in my past. So in reality even with randomness the deterministic argument against free will holds.
I don't think it's randomness but indeterminacy.
 
  • #60
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Sorry? I don't get how you concluded this.
I was referring to disregardthat previous post. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Time to shut up.
 
  • #61
Ryan_m_b
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I don't think it's randomness but indeterminacy.
Good spot :smile: I knew something was wrong with my wording.

Also just to note: If I had to choose (pardon the pun) I would say I subscribe to compatiblism. To me it doesn't matter if the universe is strictly deterministic or just probabilistic. Pragmatically we can use the term "free will" to mean making a decision without duress.

Useful links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism_(metaphysics [Broken])
 
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  • #62
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We had a nice https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=478799" (present in the reductionist view). Free will can be defined as a unique type of downward causation, which the mental state can apply over the physical. And by unique is meant a causation, which would not be the same in two identical physical systems. So the physical state would not be able to predetermine it's next state, if it would then "free will" is reduced to simple mental causation. Can we have free will in materialism? I think no, but of course if materialism is true, I am free to think so.
 
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  • #63
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...the idea that there is something more than the physical world and that having a mind means that human beings are exempt from cause and effect when it comes to free will. Obviously this view is the one most favoured by religionists.

I recognise that this thread has moved on considerably from the original question as I posed it, and I do understand that the level of the active discussion is much more genuinely a serious philosophical discussion. I therefore hesitate to drag it back with my more plodding perspective, but I do want to challenge something that Ryan said.

In the context of my own experience of all the frustrations of arguing with the anti-evolution lobby and those prepared to not just challenge but to fly in the face of science, I have cause to be sensitive to the suggestion that my viewpoint is more in accordance with ‘religionists’ than with science. But this is not just about me defending myself from such a suggestion, I think this is an important point. Believe me, though I believe wholeheartedly in the notion of the dignity of human life, I am able to put that aide and make a quietly rational assessment of this question of whether there really is any such thing as free will. As I mentioned further up the thread, where it seems to me to become seriously problematic is in the matter of criminal justice. Whatever your opinions of the proportionality of the sentences, it is clear that the treatment of the recent rioters by British criminal justice is entirely based on the idea that they could have chosen to behave differently, and that the responsibility for the choice they actually made is theirs and not the laws of physics.

But in point of fact, you don’t have to go to that extreme. If my wife asks me to go shopping with her, there is a bunch of conflicting thoughts that might enter my head, surrounding how I would rather spend the time and the knowledge that it would make things easier for her and she is entitled to expect my help and support, that sort of thing, but it seems clear to me that the final decision I take is mine and I could, just as easily have taken the contrary decision. One of the concepts I have encountered in my attempts to get some understanding of quantum physics is this notion of ‘decoherence’. In the case of Schrodinger’s cat, it says that somewhere between the quantum uncertainties of the alpha particle and the macro world of the cat, those quantum uncertainties ‘decohere’ such that the cat is alive until it is dead. Does that concept not allow for the free will of an individual to operate somewhere above the quantum interactions of the particles that make up that individual’s body? I might accept that there is no particular scientific evidence to confirm that, but I don’t accept that it is any way unscientific or supernaturalist to suppose that it might.
 
  • #64
Ryan_m_b
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In the context of my own experience of all the frustrations of arguing with the anti-evolution lobby and those prepared to not just challenge but to fly in the face of science, I have cause to be sensitive to the suggestion that my viewpoint is more in accordance with ‘religionists’ than with science. But this is not just about me defending myself from such a suggestion, I think this is an important point. Believe me, though I believe wholeheartedly in the notion of the dignity of human life, I am able to put that aide and make a quietly rational assessment of this question of whether there really is any such thing as free will. As I mentioned further up the thread, where it seems to me to become seriously problematic is in the matter of criminal justice. Whatever your opinions of the proportionality of the sentences, it is clear that the treatment of the recent rioters by British criminal justice is entirely based on the idea that they could have chosen to behave differently, and that the responsibility for the choice they actually made is theirs and not the laws of physics.
Even the strictest of determinists would disagree with this and on this basis: If a person's past affects their future then justice will prevent them from doing it again. They are the product of their environment and whilst their action might have been inevitable it does not change the necessity of justice. Also as I outlined above I'm a compatibilist when it comes to these things so even if your actions are inevitable words like "choice" and "will" are still practical terms.
But in point of fact, you don’t have to go to that extreme. If my wife asks me to go shopping with her, there is a bunch of conflicting thoughts that might enter my head, surrounding how I would rather spend the time and the knowledge that it would make things easier for her and she is entitled to expect my help and support, that sort of thing, but it seems clear to me that the final decision I take is mine and I could, just as easily have taken the contrary decision. One of the concepts I have encountered in my attempts to get some understanding of quantum physics is this notion of ‘decoherence’. In the case of Schrodinger’s cat, it says that somewhere between the quantum uncertainties of the alpha particle and the macro world of the cat, those quantum uncertainties ‘decohere’ such that the cat is alive until it is dead. Does that concept not allow for the free will of an individual to operate somewhere above the quantum interactions of the particles that make up that individual’s body? I might accept that there is no particular scientific evidence to confirm that, but I don’t accept that it is any way unscientific or supernaturalist to suppose that it might.
As far as the evidence shows no decoherence goes on in the brain, this is something that has been put forward by crackpots for a long time trying to explain psychics and the soul (just look up Orch-or). There are two things to respond to in your question, firstly the fact that there are loads of voices in your head arguing different things doesn't mean the outcome was not inevitable. In the same way that a ball falling through a tree can get caught on branches it is just simple physics whether or not it will hit the ground. Secondly even taking into account quantum indeterminacy we don't rescue free will for the reason I outlined above; because now we go from deterministic to probabilistic and in neither case is the mind exempt from cause and effect.
 
  • #65
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...the fact that there are loads of voices in your head arguing different things doesn't mean the outcome was not inevitable. In the same way that a ball falling through a tree can get caught on branches it is just simple physics whether or not it will hit the ground. ... even taking into account quantum indeterminacy we don't rescue free will for the reason I outlined above; because now we go from deterministic to probabilistic and in neither case is the mind exempt from cause and effect.
Well Ryan, I can only say that I find it to be a very melancholy and a very bleak view of life and of humanity. Every instinct in me rebels against such a notion. I suppose I have to accept that is a failure of dispassion on my part.
 
  • #66
Ryan_m_b
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Well Ryan, I can only say that I find it to be a very melancholy and a very bleak view of life and of humanity. Every instinct in me rebels against such a notion. I suppose I have to accept that is a failure of dispassion on my part.
It's swings and roundabouts, on the one hand you have no free will but on the other hand you can't tell the difference anyway :smile: If you really want a melancholy output Ken I would advise reading up on epiphenomenalism and experiments like the Libert's delay. It's always nice to know that neuroscience is proving more and more that consciousness is a vestigial organ.
 
  • #67
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It's swings and roundabouts, on the one hand you have no free will but on the other hand you can't tell the difference anyway :smile: If you really want a melancholy output Ken I would advise reading up on epiphenomenalism and experiments like the Libert's delay..

What is it that advises? And what is this "I" you keep referring to? You use consciousness to disprove consciousness? How does that work?

Must be a fun way living in the Matrix, eh?


It's always nice to know that neuroscience is proving more and more that consciousness is a vestigial organ

It's always nice to remind that neuroscientists still have no clue about awareness.
 
  • #68
Ryan_m_b
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What is it that advises? And what is this "I" you keep referring to? You use consciousness to disprove consciousness? How does that work?

Must be a fun way living in the Matrix, eh?
Eh? I said nothing about disproving consciousness :confused:
It's always nice to remind that neuroscientists still have no clue about awareness.
Firstly my statement was flippant. Secondly, what evidence are you basing this on exactly?
 
  • #69
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Eh? I said nothing about disproving consciousness :confused:

You made the statement that:

on the one hand you have no free will but on the other hand you can't tell the difference anyway

There is no way to be conscious(self-aware) without freewill and some sense of self. While i can't prove that you are not zombie(as you seem to imply in the above quote), i know that i am not, as i choose my own actions - I can even commit a suicide if i experience an insurmountable emotional pain(emotional pain is inexplicable by today's science as are most of the important questions anyway).


Firstly my statement was flippant. Secondly, what evidence are you basing this on exactly?


What do you know about self-awareness? You seem to be a staunch materialist - can you show me consciousness? Or my rich inner life? What about my thoughts and how are decisions made(and why)? Am i posting this message because of the infinitely low entropy at the time of the BB, which kind of heavily leans towards the idea of a computer simulation as the simplest explanation per the Occam's razor?

Consciousness is quite real, one wouldn't know about materialism and the physical body if it were otherwise.
 
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  • #70
Ryan_m_b
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There is no way to be conscious(self-aware) without freewill and some sense of self. While i can't prove that you are not zombie(as you seem to imply in the above quote), i know that i am not, as i choose my own actions - I can even commit a suicide if i experience an insurmountable emotional pain(emotional pain is inexplicable by today's science as are most of the important questions anyway).
Have you read any of this thread? What is your definition of free will and what evidence do you have that it is a necessary part of consciousness (this discussion has little to do with philosophical zombies)? Have you even looked into what I mentioned above regarding epiphenomenalism and the Libert's delay? The fact that you feel like you have free will is no indication that you do. I've already outlined my stance as a compabilist in that I see no evidence that choice and decision making is not constrained by the same mechanical cause and effect that all other processes are government by, however I do think the use of the terms are useful.
What do you know about self-awareness? You seem to be a staunch materialist - can you show me consciousness? Or my rich inner life? What about my thoughts and how are decisions made(and why)? Am i posting this message because of the infinitely low entropy at the time of the BB, which kind of heavily leans towards the idea of a computer simulation as the simplest explanation per the Occam's razor?

Consciousness is quite real, one wouldn't know about materialism and the physical body if it were otherwise.
What you are referring to is the "en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_problem_of_consciousness"[/URL]. In summary "how to mechanical forces give rise to subjective experience"? But this has little to do with free will. I also have no idea why you are bringing entropy into it and why you are making reference to the simulation hypothesis. Could you please be more concise with your posts.

Lastly I can't fathom why you thought I was arguing that consciousness does not exist, I have never said that and it quite obviously does exist. What I have mentioned is the findings of various neuroscience investigations that produced evidence showing that conscious thoughts are not in control of the body and that consciousness is a bye product of the brains decision making.
 
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  • #71
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Yes Ken, the materialistic view at life is bleak indeed, however I have good news for you - no one has proved its validity yet. There are some very old problems for the reductive physicalism (http://www.iep.utm.edu/qualia/" [Broken]). It turns out that epiphenomenalism is the most "stable" materialistic option. However it has its problems too and a lot of the philosophers view it as incoherent.
 
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  • #72
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Sorry for the long reply to your posts, you raise a lot of interesting points that need to be addressed, or else my comments will seem incoherent(though they may seem incoherent to a different viewpoint either way).

Have you even looked into what I mentioned above regarding epiphenomenalism and the Libert's delay?


The experiment and its interpretation are controversial and, as usual, suffer from confirmation bias.


The fact that you feel like you have free will is no indication that you do.


If there is the 'me' you keep referring to, then I have at least at times the ability to enforce my own will. If you are self-aware, you have free will. I think you might be pushing materialism way past its useful limits.


I've already outlined my stance as a compabilist in that I see no evidence that choice and decision making is not constrained by the same mechanical cause and effect that all other processes are government by, however I do think the use of the terms are useful.


I could never understand the compatibilism theory. How does free will jive with determinism? My actions are either predermined(i.e. there is no free will) or they are not(free will is real).


What you are referring to is the "en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_problem_of_consciousness"[/URL]. In summary "how to mechanical forces give rise to subjective experience"? But this has little to do with free will.[/quote]


Of course not. Conscious thought has a LOT to do with free will. Even if Epiphenomenalism were true, there must be someone who is aware and perceiving phenomena. That [i]I[/i] is consciousness, for lack of a better and easier to define term.




[quote]I also have no idea why you are bringing entropy into it and why you are making reference to the simulation hypothesis. Could you please be more concise with your posts.[/quote]



Because the aim of science is to find explanation. That's even more important to philosophers who seem even more interested in the deep questions.


[quote]Lastly I can't fathom why you thought I was arguing that consciousness does not exist, I have never said that and it quite obviously does exist. What I have mentioned is the findings of various neuroscience investigations that produced evidence showing that conscious thoughts are not in control of the body and that consciousness is a bye product of the brains decision making.[/QUOTE]


Don't you find it somewhat funny, that consciousness is 'looking' at what a physical brain does and concluding that what IT does is predetermined? :) Or did you mean that what the brain does is predetermined, while consciousness is not(I agree with this view, though i don't know what to call it, or if someone already has come up with a similar proposition)?

There is no way for me to verify that Shakespeare's poetry was encoded in the Big Bang, but i'll say that determinism has been giving way to emergence for the last hundred or so years.
 
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  • #73
Ryan_m_b
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The experiment and its interpretation are controversial and, as usual, suffer from confirmation bias.
Quite but you were refuting it out of hand/
If there is the 'me' you keep referring to, then I have at least at times the ability to enforce my own will. If you are self-aware, you have free will. I think you might be pushing materialism way past its useful limits.
I'm not sure why you keep going on about materialism. Are you arguing something else? The fact that the mind is an emergent phenomenon does not stop everything still being a product of mechanical process.
I could never understand the compatibilism theory. How does free will jive with determinism? My actions are either predermined(i.e. there is no free will) or they are not(free will is real).
Simple: determinism is largely true (aside from quantum indeterminacy) but we have the feeling and understanding of decision making. Also if the universe is not determined free will does not automatically exist. Are you proposing that decision making is not a causal process?
Of course not. Conscious thought has a LOT to do with free will. Even if Epiphenomenalism were true, there must be someone who is aware and perceiving phenomena. That I is consciousness, for lack of a better and easier to define term.
Again why do you assume that consciousness necessitates free will?
Because the aim of science is to find explanation. That's even more important to philosophers who seem even more interested in the deep questions.
I don't see how this relates to your comment about entropy and the simulation hypothesis.
Don't you find it somewhat funny, that consciousness is 'looking' at what a physical brain does and concluding that it's predetermined? :)

There is no way for me to verify that Shakespeare's poetry was encoded in the Big Bang, but i'll say that determinism has been giving way to emergence for the last hundred or so years.
No more than I find a camera taking a picture of itself in the mirror funny. Emergence doesn't get rid of determinism. Remember determinism at its most simplistic is just the observation that causality holds true, emergent phenomenon are a product of this.

EDIT: I'm probably going to unsub and retire from this thread now. After five pages all I see is that this thread goes around in circles, not that it isn't a good discussion but I'm tired of repeating myself.
 
  • #74
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I added a sentence to my previous post after you replied to it:

Or did you mean that what the brain does is predetermined, while consciousness is not(I agree with this view, though i don't know what to call it, or if someone already has come up with a similar proposition)?

Do you agree with this view, which seems to fit all the evidence there is at this time? I don't think you believe thoughts are predetermined too.
 
  • #75
Ryan_m_b
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I added a sentence to my previous post after you replied to it:

Or did you mean that what the brain does is predetermined, while consciousness is not(I agree with this view, though i don't know what to call it, or if someone already has come up with a similar proposition)?

Do you agree with this view, which seems to fit all the evidence there is at this time? I don't think you believe thoughts are predetermined too.
There is no evidence that thoughts are not contingent on cause and effect. Thoughts are an emergent property of the brain, the brain is materialistic, fundamentally the atoms in the brain obey mechanical laws that undergo cause and effect. The only thing preventing predeterminicity is quantum indeterminacy which switches the material phenomenon from strictly deterministic to probabilistic. Proposing that thoughts are not subject to this constraint and further proposing that there is evidence for this is fallacious. It seems like you are taking a very dualist view on this.

EDIT: I'm probably going to unsub and retire from this thread now. After five pages all I see is that this thread goes around in circles, not that it isn't a good discussion but I'm tired of repeating myself.
 

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