The limits of reason

  • Thread starter FZ+
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  • #1
FZ+
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Just idle wondering, but I think this is something that may need to be addressed.

Why do we trust reason? What is reason? Is reason really limitless?

On one hand, we can see reason as purely a notion we receive from observation. We see this pattern, and we store it in our minds. However, how can we then trust this reason, if it is only obtained from our restricted perspectives. What seems logically incorrect may simply be blocked from us, or not yet learned. Reason is hence limited, simply because we who made it are also limited.

On the other hand, reason may be a thing that is intrinsic to this universe. Rather, the laws of logic and reason may be the structure that makes up the universe. But then, how does our person sense of reason fit in? How can we justify the idea of reasoned explanations?

Ok, devil's advocate moment follows...
So, it seems that a very plausible explanation is that we simply do not have credibility to trust reason, or at least human. Rather, our very belief in reason must be perhaps by definition unreasonable. Logic is an irrational notion.

Who disagrees? And why?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Iacchus32
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Do you believe the acknowledgment of truth is inborn? If not, then you will "never" know anything. Period.
 
  • #3
drag
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Greetings !
Originally posted by FZ+
So, it seems that a very plausible explanation
is that we simply do not have credibility to
trust reason, or at least human. Rather, our
very belief in reason must be perhaps by
definition unreasonable.
Logic is an irrational notion.
How do you define unreasonable and irrational then ?

What we think is everything for us. In this
data input we see certain patterns. We build
larger patterns and systems of patterns that
seem to fit. As we do this - we say that
it is probable for as yet not received data
to conform to these patterns and systems of
entities we already know. Other stuff is
not probable.

The difference we make between the concepts of
a thought(about something) and a belief is that
a thought should appear probable to us according
to all the input data we ever received and a
belief should be unprobable. Since we can form
different patterns and systems and have different
input data - the thoughts and beliefs may be
different.

What we should strive towards is to try to assume
as little as possible and to do it in a way that
is only a pure discription of reality rather than
the addition of more data. Math, as the system that
deals with patterns, does that for us
(unfortunetly - 'cause it's so hard :frown: ).

Live long and prosper.
 
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  • #4
FZ+
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What if I acknowledge the truth that the inborn acknowledgment of truth is untrue?
Ok, in another note, why should the acknowledgment of truth be inborn?
 
  • #5
Mentat
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Originally posted by FZ+
Just idle wondering, but I think this is something that may need to be addressed.

Why do we trust reason? What is reason? Is reason really limitless?

On one hand, we can see reason as purely a notion we receive from observation. We see this pattern, and we store it in our minds. However, how can we then trust this reason, if it is only obtained from our restricted perspectives. What seems logically incorrect may simply be blocked from us, or not yet learned. Reason is hence limited, simply because we who made it are also limited.

On the other hand, reason may be a thing that is intrinsic to this universe. Rather, the laws of logic and reason may be the structure that makes up the universe. But then, how does our person sense of reason fit in? How can we justify the idea of reasoned explanations?

Ok, devil's advocate moment follows...
So, it seems that a very plausible explanation is that we simply do not have credibility to trust reason, or at least human. Rather, our very belief in reason must be perhaps by definition unreasonable. Logic is an irrational notion.

Who disagrees? And why?

I think that you are misinterpreting what "reason" is. Reason is not just the pattern that we observe. Reason is really the ability to distinguish such patterns in the first place. So, while reason may be flawed (in that the patterns that we percieve do not really exist), it doesn't necessarily mean that logic is irrational.
 
  • #6
quantumdude
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First, the prescriptive laws of reasoning (aka logic) cannot be proven "right" within the system of logic itself.
Second, all arguments rely on unproven axioms (aka assumptions).

I think that the only arguments whose conclusions can be said to be 'absolutely true' are those arguments pertaining to defined Platonic ideal forms. All arguments pertaining to real, concrete objects must have some element of inductive reasoning, and hence all conclusions reached about reality are tentative and contingent on observational confirmation/falsification
 
  • #7
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by FZ+
What if I acknowledge the truth that the inborn acknowledgment of truth is untrue?
Ok, in another note, why should the acknowledgment of truth be inborn?
How does one acknowledge anything? If in fact he can't see it for himself. How do you know 1 + 1 = 2? Does "flesh and blood" have to reveal it to you? Or, can you see it for yourself?
 
  • #8
FZ+
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So, you mean the concept of logic is a function of the brain, and not a part of the universe? Then once again, I must ask, how can we assume that what is logical to one person is logical to others, and that this logic is always valid?
Is there such a thing that is beyond logic and reason itself?
 
  • #9
FZ+
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Originally posted by Tom
First, the prescriptive laws of reasoning (aka logic) cannot be proven "right" within the system of logic itself.
Second, all arguments rely on unproven axioms (aka assumptions).

I think that the only arguments whose conclusions can be said to be 'absolutely true' are those arguments pertaining to defined Platonic ideal forms. All arguments pertaining to real, concrete objects must have some element of inductive reasoning, and hence all conclusions reached about reality are tentative and contingent on observational confirmation/falsification
I agree completely.
 
  • #10
Mentat
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Originally posted by FZ+
So, you mean the concept of logic is a function of the brain, and not a part of the universe? Then once again, I must ask, how can we assume that what is logical to one person is logical to others, and that this logic is always valid?
Is there such a thing that is beyond logic and reason itself?

You have a point, FZ+. If knowledge is inborn, for all people, then what's to say that we will all arrive at the same knowledge? In fact, it is obvious that we do not always arrive at the same conclusions. Thus, it seems better to seek an external source, as such might help two people come to an agreement, based on what they have both seen.

Of course, in the end, the only person one can convince is oneself, but the knowledge can still have been found externally.
 
  • #11
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by FZ+
So, you mean the concept of logic is a function of the brain, and not a part of the universe? Then once again, I must ask, how can we assume that what is logical to one person is logical to others, and that this logic is always valid?
Is there such a thing that is beyond logic and reason itself?
Maybe life is just a big assumption? Of course I would prefer not to say I assume that I exist, because then all I would need to do is say I assume, and I could make anything happen. Yeah right!
 
  • #12
wuliheron
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Why do we trust reason? What is reason? Is reason really limitless?

Reason and logic are abstractions, rituals, habits. You don't necessarilly adopt habits out of trust. Thus, an even more pointed question when discussing such things is not why do I trust my habits, but why do I persist maintaining my habits when they are obviously counterproductive?
 
  • #13
drag
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Greetings !
Originally posted by Mentat
I think that you are misinterpreting what
"reason" is. Reason is not just the
pattern that we observe. Reason is
really the ability to distinguish such
patterns in the first place. So, while
reason may be flawed (in that the patterns
that we percieve do not really exist),
it doesn't necessarily mean that logic
is irrational.
I'm sorry but I do not understand this.
Could you explain what you mean, please.
Originally posted by Tom
Second, all arguments rely on unproven
axioms (aka assumptions).
Indeed.
Originally posted by Tom
I think that the only arguments whose
conclusions can be said to be
'absolutely true' are those arguments
pertaining to defined Platonic ideal forms.
All arguments pertaining to real, concrete
objects must have some element of inductive
reasoning, and hence all conclusions reached
about reality are tentative and contingent
on observational confirmation/falsification
What are Platonic ideal forms ? (Geometrical
forms ?) And why are only they absolute ? (The
rules of chess are also absolute for example.)

I fully agree with this overall though.
Originally posted by wuliheron
Reason and logic are abstractions, rituals,
habits. You don't necessarilly adopt habits
out of trust.
Habit does not clearly imply usefullness,
and reason and logic are clearly usefull.
Originally posted by wuliheron
Thus, an even more pointed
question when discussing such things is
not why do I trust my habits, but why do
I persist maintaining my habits when they
are obviously counterproductive?
They are not counterproductive if I also
recognize other possible approaches, are they ?

Live long and prosper.
 
  • #14
quantumdude
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Originally posted by drag
What are Platonic ideal forms ? (Geometrical
forms ?)

Geometry is part of it, but I would include all of mathematics and logic, as well as any abstract object.

And why are only they absolute ? (The
rules of chess are also absolute for example.)

They are absolute because they are true by definition. For instance, it is absolutely true that there are 360o in a circle in Eucldean 3-space. This can be proven from the definition of a circle. When talking about real objects, events, and processes however, we cannot simply define things as we please. Our arguments will not correspond to reality to the extent that our definitions do not correspond to reality. Since we can not know reality a priori, we have to use inductive reasoning.

In a sense, inductive logic is to natural philosophy (aka science) what definitions are to reasoning on abstract forms. They both determine the truth of propositions: the former relatively, the latter absolutely.
 
  • #15
drag
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Originally posted by Tom
Geometry is part of it, but I would include
all of mathematics and logic, as well as any
abstract object.
Understood, that's what I meant. Thanks Tom.
I agree with the rest.

Live long and prosper.
 
  • #16
Iacchus32
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So what happens when you have an idea, which is totally abstract by the way (only in your mind), and then create a whole reality based upon that idea? Isn't this what we as people do? Whereas if the idea had never occurred, or was never implemented, then there would be nothing (materially) to reflect the "reality" behind the idea (which, was merely an abstraction in the first place).

Therefore in this sense, would it be reasonable to say that everything which is man made, is merely an abstraction on "the outside" of man's existence?
 
  • #17
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
So what happens when you have an idea, which is totally abstract by the way (only in your mind), and then create a whole reality based upon that idea?

What do you mean? Like an architect who comes up with an idea for a building, and then builds it?
 
  • #18
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by Tom
What do you mean? Like an architect who comes up with an idea for a building, and then builds it?
Yes, anything that involves creating things through ideas.
 
  • #19
drag
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Greetings !
Originally posted by Iacchus32
So what happens when you have an idea,
which is totally abstract by the way
(only in your mind), and then create a
whole reality based upon that idea?
Isn't this what we as people do?
Ideas are also the result of data input.
Once we are aware of data we can also "play"
with that data - create fantasies. So, ideas
are usefull but only when their eventual result
has some connection to affecting the data input
(affecting the Universe). Otherwise, they are
just that - fantasies.

Peace and long life.
 
  • #20
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by drag
Ideas are also the result of data input.
Once we are aware of data we can also "play"
with that data - create fantasies. So, ideas
are usefull but only when their eventual result
has some connection to affecting the data input
(affecting the Universe).
I guess what I'm trying to get at is that so much of this whole thing we call "external reality" is man made, none of which would exist if it wasn't for an "abstract idea" that conceived of it in the first place.


Otherwise, they are just that - fantasies
Do you mean a fantasy such as "the world is round?"
 
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  • #21
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
Therefore in this sense, would it be reasonable to say that everything which is man made, is merely an abstraction on "the outside" of man's existence?

No, because it fails to share one important feature with other abstractions: Its existence is not confined solely to human thought.

When I have an idea of a building, I can change the height, the edifices, the gargoyles, etc by merely thinking about it. With the 'real thing', I have to get a construction crew out there and rearrange concrete, steel, and glass to change the structure of a building.
 
  • #22
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
I guess what I'm trying to get at is that so much of this whole thing we call "external reality" is man made, none of which would exist if it wasn't for an "abstract idea" that conceived of it in the first place.

Yes, but it also wouldn't exist if it weren't for the moving around of materials.
 
  • #23
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by Tom
No, because it fails to share one important feature with other abstractions: Its existence is not confined solely to human thought.
On the other hand, if people didn't put thought into "maintaining" it, it would eventually fall to the ground.

When I have an idea of a building, I can change the height, the edifices, the gargoyles, etc by merely thinking about it. With the 'real thing', I have to get a construction crew out there and rearrange concrete, steel, and glass to change the structure of a building.
Yes, but even they would have their own ideas on how to go about "getting the job done."
 
  • #24
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
On the other hand, if people didn't put thought into "maintaining" it, it would eventually fall to the ground.

Yes, and if they didn't actually get off their butts and maintain it, it would also fall down.

Yes, but even they would have their own ideas on how to go about "getting the job done."

Yes, and if they didn't actually get off their butts and get the job done, it would also not get changed.

Thinking + No Action = No Work Done

Thinking + Action = Work Done

Get it now? I sure hope so.
 
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  • #25
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by Tom
Yes, and if they didn't actually get off their butts and maintain it, it would also fall down.

Yes, and if they didn't actually get off their buts and get the job done, it would also not get changed.

Thinking + No Action = No Work Done

Thinking + Action = Work Done

Get it now? I sure hope so.
You're just evading the whole question. Let me try and rephrase it. If there was no idea in the first place, then there would be "nothing to do" in the second place.

Whereas if there was something to do, it would still require one to "take thought" about what one should do. In which case reality is built upon, and maintained upon, an abstraction ... Get it?
 
  • #26
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
You're just evading the whole question. Let me try and rephrase it. If there was no idea in the first place, then there would be "nothing to do" in the second place.

Whereas if there was something to do, it would still require one to "take thought" about what one should do. In which case reality is built upon, and maintained upon, an abstraction ... Get it?

Of course I get it, and I am answering the question straightforwardly. What I'm telling you is that a conjunction of two things is required: thought and action.

That was, I thought, the obvious intention of this:

Originally posted by Tom:
Thinking + No Action = No Work Done

Thinking + Action = Work Done

Thoughts by themselves can't affect anything concrete, and that is what makes those things concrete.
 
  • #27
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by Tom
Of course I get it, and I am answering the question straightforwardly. What I'm telling you is that a conjunction of two things is required: thought and action.

That was, I thought, the obvious intention of this:

Thoughts by themselves can't affect anything concrete, and that is what makes those things concrete.
I guess this has something to do with you telling me in the other thread that the "idea of God" was abstract and that nothing would become of it. And yet what I'm telling you is that this whole world is built upon nothing "but" abstractions. Therefore it all must have begun with a single "concrete idea." Based upon the idea of God perhaps?
 
  • #28
FZ+
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I'm telling you is that this whole world is built upon nothing "but" abstractions.
There's a difference between the world and our perception of this world. Our perception is based on abstractions, that we extract from the concrete of the world. Our reason only really applies to these abstractions, but these are the best we have.
 
  • #29
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
I guess this has something to do with you telling me in the other thread that the "idea of God" was abstract and that nothing would become of it. And yet what I'm telling you is that this whole world is built upon nothing "but" abstractions. Therefore it all must have begun with a single "concrete idea." Based upon the idea of God perhaps?

And now we truly see "The Limits of Reason".

First, there's no way you could possibly conclude that based on anything we know.

Second, there's no such thing as "concrete idea". You're committing a category error there.

Third, it is not the case that the world is built on nothing but abstractions. I don't know why you're still saying that.

edit:
You really need to read this to get some definitions straight:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/abstract-objects
 
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  • #30
Third, it is not the case that the world is built on nothing but abstractions. I don't know why you're still saying that.
Exactly, for it is built upon the backs of several tortoises.
 
  • #31
Iacchus32
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Hey it was just an idea. And according to the way everyone is responding, a pretty "abstract one" at that. Hmm...
 
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  • #32
wuliheron
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quote: Originally posted by drag

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by wuliheron
Reason and logic are abstractions, rituals,
habits. You don't necessarilly adopt habits
out of trust.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Habit does not clearly imply usefullness,
and reason and logic are clearly usefull.
[/B]

Reason and logic can as useless, counterproductive, and even destructive as anything else.

quote:Originally posted by drag

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by wuliheron
Thus, an even more pointed
question when discussing such things is
not why do I trust my habits, but why do
I persist maintaining my habits when they
are obviously counterproductive?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They are not counterproductive if I also
recognize other possible approaches, are they ?

I would put it more pointedly that they can be less useless, counterproductive, and destructive if other possible approaches are accepted.

Logic is founded on the concept of the absurd, which is a reasonable concept (sic). That is, the absurd and reasonable are like up and down, back and front, inside and out. In turn, these concepts are not merely abstractions, but originate from our emotions and physiology as much as anything.

Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am" but recent neurological evidence is finding more support for the idea of "I Feel, therefore I think." Rational thought then seems likely to emerge from our feelings and affect more so than vice versa. Metaconcepts like absurd and reasonable then likely evolved out of more primitive emotions and still retain those connections, possibly in some kind of Gestalt or contextual manner.

By retaining an accepting attitude and affect we can strengthen that gestalt or connection and broaden its context.
 
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  • #33
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by FZ+
So, it seems that a very plausible explanation is that we simply do not have credibility to trust reason, or at least human. Rather, our very belief in reason must be perhaps by definition unreasonable. Logic is an irrational notion

Reason can be trusted because it operates in harmony with the ordered aspects of the universe. You can test that by manipulating the external universe in an orderly way, and seeing if you can make things that "work." When they work, your reason has functioned in accordance with reality; when it doesn't, you can reason out why by discovering where you misapplied orderly principles. The feedback proves over and over again (if you are involved in actualizing) that reason can be trusted.

Originally posted by Tom Our arguments will not correspond to reality to the extent that our definitions do not correspond to reality. Since we can not know reality a priori, we have to use inductive reasoning.

You may assume too much. A child is born, and if emotionally unhampered, knows a priori how to smile and be fascinated. Since joy and interest are part of reality, it seems there is a priori knowledge of reality. Possibly it would be more accurate to say we cannot know anything external to ourselves a priori.

Originally posted by Iacchus32 If there was no idea in the first place, then there would be "nothing to do" in the second place
Originally posted by Tom Thoughts by themselves can't affect anything concrete, and that is what makes those things concrete.

Both points seem true, but maybe the issue is a chicken-egg sort of thing. All humanly-created objects are preceded by reason, yet an idea in this universe would never come to fruition without physical effort.

Nonetheless, I can't see how it can be denied that we can have creative thought without action, but no creative action without thought.
 
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  • #34
drag
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Greetings !

Tom's part about the building was really funny...

wuliheron, you have an interesting point,
but don't we have the criteria of
apparent consequences to compare our basic
abstract ideas to ? You can't fully trust
anything, but I do not see how the apparent
consequenses of our abstract thought justify
an opinion that says something like - "our logic
is merely a function of physiological and
phsycological evolution (biology in other words)
and is not the result of our attempt to grasp
reality". After all, what is the evolutionary
advantage of creatures with thought "frames" that
are disconnected from reality ?

LW Sleeth, interesting points as well.
I'd like to point out that we are complex
biological machines and we are born adapted to
this world. It would be strange to assume that
the adaptations are only regarding our physical
traits - we have complicated brains that are
also adapted to this Universe. For example,
brains of our size could be created with just
the preferable adaptive state to deal primarily
with chess games - like a separate computer program.
Of course, our brains appear to differ from computer
programs because we appear to be able to include
and learn new possibilities but we still have
some basic processing principles "set in".

For example, we can not comprehend the lack of
time or space. Though I'm not certain that's
a fitting example, I think that's probably a
controversial issue some of you may want to discuss. :wink:

Live long and prosper.
 
  • #35
Iacchus32
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The Paradox of Manifestation

So "abstract" is equal to idealism, and "concrete" is equal to materialism. And there you have it, the "paradox of manifestation." The two exist as correlatives and you can't have one without the other.

And yet, if there was no idea (conceived of the mind = essence) in the first place, there would be nothing concrete to "brag about" in the second place. Which is very interesting (credit to Lifegazer), for it suggests our whole notion of material existence is brought about by abstract thought (or, as Tom would say, the application thereof) and, since we all live in the world collectively (or so materialists claim), then we all must be part of the same "collective mind" as a whole ... Only question is, whose mind is it?

So tell me, what's the difference between a concrete idea and a "solid idea?" Say like 1 + 1 = 2? Is this what an axiom is? (I just looked up axiom in the dictionary for the first time by the way.)

In which case let me restate what I said to Tom:

I guess this has something to do with you telling me in the other thread that the "idea of God" was abstract and that nothing would become of it. And yet, what I'm telling you is that this whole world is built upon nothing "but" abstractions. Therefore it all must have begun with a single "axiom" or idea. Based upon the idea of God perhaps?

So you see that's the whole point, because if God does exist, then this becomes the axiom (idea) by which everything (materially) becomes manifest.

Nope nope ... Shunt shunt! ... Nope nope ... Shunt shunt! ... Yeah, I can see the alarms going off already!
 

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