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Hume, Sweet Hume: Hume On The Range: The disconnect between "is" and "should"

 
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Old 22-Jul-2009, 02:22 AM (02:22)     1        27410
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Default Hume, Sweet Hume: Hume On The Range: The disconnect between "is" and "should"

There is a recurring problem which comes up all the time everywhere every time, and that is, people trying to say X is so, therefore X or Y should be so.

This is badly illogical, and a straight formal fallacy; the fallacy of having a whole class in the conclusion which appears nowhere in the original premises.

Like saying:

Premise: It is raining today.
Conclusion: Therefore New Zealand will invade China.

There's nothing in the premise about New Zealand, China or invading, so the conclusion just doesn't follow from the premise.

Now take that a step further:

Premise: It is raining today.
Conclusion: Therefore it is raining in China.

You can see that while "raining" does appear in the premises and conclusion of the argument, it's still illogical. The conclusion just doesn't follow from the premise (unless you actually happen to be living in China, which was not specified in the premises).

Another example, and getting to the point:

Premise: Murder means killing someone.
Conclusion: Therefore murder is wrong.

Now, murder may well be wrong -- but you need a hell of a lot more in your premises and argument to say that. You can't simply say only that causing death is wrong because it is causing death; it just doesn't logically follow.

You can say, "I choose to say causing death is morally wrong. Therefore murder is wrong (at least, according to me)". Now that is fine and follows logically, more or less, or at least it is not illogical (though a circular argument).

But trying to only say, "Murder means killing someone. Therefore murder is wrong", is logically and practically equivalent to saying, "There are fish in the Antarctic. Therefore murder is wrong." In other words, it simply doesn't follow.

Because no "should" appears in the premises, it cannot appear in the conclusion and still be logical; a "should be" or "ought to be" is a whole different class. If it appears in the conclusion but not the premises, the argument is disconnected and illogical.

Now, this fallacy comes up again and again everywhere, and a lot of people are guilty of being prone to committing that fallacy. There are interesting efforts to find new ways of thinking about ethics and morals that overcome that problem, but so far no-one has succeeded; I will talk more about those efforts in a new thread later.

For now, here is the original citation from (as far as I know) the first person, David Hume, to write down (almost 300 years ago) and publish the problem of the logical disconnect between "is" and "ought" / "should":


Quote:
I cannot forbear adding to these reasonings an observation, which may, perhaps, be found of some importance. In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds from some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establish the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of all sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. this change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observerd and explained: and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor as perceived by reason.

--- from A Treatise of Human Nature, (1739-40), Book III, Part 1, Section 1, p. 469-470, by David Hume
References:

David Hume and also A Treatise of Human Nature

Also: The is/ought problem, then also the fact/value distinction.

And, associated, the Naturalistic (Natural) Fallacy.
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Old 22-Jul-2009, 02:57 AM (02:57)     2        27420
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Because science and ethics should be separate (as per your blog, which I agree with). The answer seems simple for the scientist stick to facts and observation and avoid making assumptions and moral implications. What's an ethicist to do?
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Old 22-Jul-2009, 03:51 AM (03:51)     3        27423
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fallacy in the form of the fallacy

the conclusion IS not inherent in the premise
the conclusion SHOULD not be derived from the premise.
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Old 22-Jul-2009, 07:00 PM (19:00)     4        27493
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Because science and ethics should be separate (as per your blog, which I agree with). The answer seems simple for the scientist stick to facts and observation and avoid making assumptions and moral implications. What's an ethicist to do?
Why *should* science and ethics be separate? Upon what do you base this assertion?
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Old 22-Jul-2009, 07:04 PM (19:04)     5        27494
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Originally Posted by dglas View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by alicat View Post
Because science and ethics should be separate (as per your blog, which I agree with). The answer seems simple for the scientist stick to facts and observation and avoid making assumptions and moral implications. What's an ethicist to do?
Why *should* science and ethics be separate? Upon what do you base this assertion?
Wouldn't that be a logical outcome of the problem outlined in the OP?

If one cannot go logically from a description to a prescription, how would ethics at all fall under science?

On a different level, ethics is actually a very complex area, and one with a huge amount of history and thinking to learn. Medical ethicists and science ethicists commonly do advanced degrees in Philosophy into addition to their natural sciences degrees, because ethics is so complex.
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Old 22-Jul-2009, 07:08 PM (19:08)     6        27496
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Under the current definitions of ethics and science, the is-ought barrier is alive and well, because they have been stipulated such that they do not overlap, despite the best attempts by many to find overlap. But is not that simply a matter of mere definition? Change the definition slightly of "ethics" to add some reference to empirical reality and suddenly ethics falls within the natural realm and hence within the realms of science.

We can stipulate stipulations such that they are non-natural at will. Gremlins in your car engine. Invisible green dragons in your garage. Pictures of pink unicorns. Does this mean these definitions are interesting? Or does it merely mean we are conjuring up fantasy worlds?

If the word "should" doesn't mean anything in the real world, perhaps it doesn't really mean anything at all...
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Old 22-Jul-2009, 08:56 PM (20:56)     7        27512
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As far as should or should not the answer so often is- Need More Information!
In scientific research, we see this when reading serious articles, experiments may show interesting effects, support or not support the hypothesis, generally the conclusions include... need more information, suggestions for further research etc. A should or should not is a forced choice, and the definition makes an assumption that a specific outcome is the desirable one.

It is raining hard.
You should carry an umbrella when you go outside.

Well, should you?
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Old 22-Jul-2009, 11:48 PM (23:48)     8        27547
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If you don't want to get wet, then yes?
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Old 23-Jul-2009, 12:05 AM (00:05)     9        27552
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Originally Posted by Fizzle View Post
If you don't want to get wet, then yes?
Very good answer. Instead of phrasing ethical statements in terms of directives, perhaps we might consider phrasing them as conditionals.

This is what the law does. If you do X, we will do Y to you.
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Old 23-Jul-2009, 01:36 AM (01:36)     10        27560
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yes, it depends on the assumption that you don't want to get wet, although there may be other options, you could wear a raincoat and hat, maybe there's an awning you can walk under. Much of should and should not is because of the way our brains work, as Hick's law states, it's very difficult to really process all possible choices and variations, construction of forced choice can be a tool for the mind.
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Old 23-Jul-2009, 05:51 AM (05:51)     11        27596
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dglas View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fizzle View Post
If you don't want to get wet, then yes?
Very good answer. Instead of phrasing ethical statements in terms of directives, perhaps we might consider phrasing them as conditionals.

This is what the law does. If you do X, we will do Y to you.
Except that then that is no longer an ethical statement. It is just a conditional. An ethical statement looks quite different.

The statement, "It is wrong to kill someone",
is in a completely different class to:
"If you kill that person, we will put you in prison".

In fact, such a conditional need have nothing whatsoever to do with ethics at all, though it can have.

.

Last edited by Gurdur; 23-Jul-2009 at 07:01 AM (07:01).
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Old 23-Jul-2009, 06:25 AM (06:25)     12        27605
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What would make something wrong? Doesn't it depend on conditions?
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Old 23-Jul-2009, 06:29 AM (06:29)     13        27606
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What would make something wrong? Doesn't it depend on conditions?
For a meaningful ethic, it must be wrong simply because it is wrong (i.e. declared so), not because of any consequences rebounding on the offender.

Anything else just is not meaningful ethics. It may be a meaningful something else, but it is still then only a something else, not an ethic.
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Old 23-Jul-2009, 06:35 AM (06:35)     14        27607
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If there were no consequences, would there be right and wrong? And I'd like to know what makes something wrong; this is interesting.
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Old 23-Jul-2009, 07:00 AM (07:00)     15        27612
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Originally Posted by Fizzle View Post
If there were no consequences, would there be right and wrong?
If you declare a right and wrong, yes.

This is just another way of saying that good must be its own reward.

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And I'd like to know what makes something wrong; this is interesting.
Morality. Morality makes something right or wrong. What your morality is is decided by you, if you take care to be your own authentic, independent personality.

Often, people simply take for morality what is presented as guidelines by their parents or their peer group. That is not genuine morality; it's simply following instructions.

BTW: new thread here.
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Old 28-Jul-2009, 09:02 AM (09:02)     16        28515
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The is/ought fallacy is premised on Plato's myth of the cave, a Cartesian cleft between nature and culture, forever separate. As such, it is based on one of the greatest metaphysical myths of today. There used to be a belief that there are two kinds of physics required for explaining the world: one for the sub-lunar world and the other for the heavens or the firmament. Almost everybody today scoffs at such an imagination, and then turns around and starts believing in an essentially similar one: that there are two completely separate worlds out there, "nature" with its immutable laws and mechanical causation, and "culture" or "society" constituted by human freedom and representations and politics. A true pre-Copernican myth alive today.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruno Latour
As it happens, in the West, through the ages we have become heirs to an allegory that defines the relations between Science and society: the allegory of the Cave, recounted by Plato in the Republic.

The Philosopher, and later the Scientist, have to free themselves of the tyranny of the social dimension, public life, politics, subjective feelings, popular agitation—in short, from the dark Cave—if they want to accede to truth. There exists no possible continuity between the world of human beings and access to truths "not made by human hands."

The Scientist, once equipped with laws not made by human hands that he has just contemplated because he has succeeded in freeing himself from the prison of the social world, can go back into the Cave so as to bring order to it with incontestable findings that will silence the endless chatter of the ignorant mob. Once again, there is no continuity between the henceforth irrefutable objective law and the human—all too human—logorrhea of the prisoners shackled in the shadows, who never know how to bring their interminable disputes to an end.

Although the world of truth differs absolutely, not relatively, from the social world, the Scientist can go back and forth from one world to the other no matter what: the passageway closed to all others is open to him alone. In him and through him, the tyranny of the social world is miraculously interrupted when he leaves, so that he will be able to contemplate the objective world at last; and it is likewise interrupted when he returns, so that like a latter-day Moses he will be able to substitute the legislation of scientific laws, which are not open to question, for the tyranny of ignorance.

Science can survive only as long as it distinguishes absolutely and not relatively between things "as they are" and the "representation that human beings make of them." Why? Because, without it, there would be no more reservoir of incontrovertible certainties that could be brought in to put an end to the incessant chatter of obscurantism and ignorance. There would no longer be a sure way to distinguish what is true from what is false. Nature and human beliefs about nature would be mixed up in frightful chaos.

If you point out politely that the very ease with which scientists pass from the social world to the world of external realities, the facility they demonstrate through this business of importing and exporting scientific laws, the fluency of the discourse in which they convert human and objective elements, prove clearly enough that there is no rupture between the two worlds and that they are dealing rather with a seamless cloth, you will be accused of relativism; you will be told that you are trying to give Science a "social explanation"; your unfortunate tendencies toward immoralism will be denounced; you may be asked publicly if you believe in the reality of the external world or not, or whether you are ready to jump out a fifteenth-story window because you think that the laws of gravity, too, are "socially constructed"!
And note that to say "yes, of course there's just one nature and thus human societies and human minds too are completely deterministic just like natural laws" is already to presume the original, pre-Copernican division. Reduction to either side automatically presumes the original division into two worlds of nature and culture, and it is this division that is the problem.
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Old 28-Jul-2009, 09:41 AM (09:41)     17        28516
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Great to see you here again, Pyrogenesis! Needless to say, I disagree with you; but that can wait for my next post in this thread.
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Old 28-Jul-2009, 09:56 AM (09:56)     18        28519
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pyrogenesis View Post
The is/ought fallacy is premised on Plato's myth of the cave, a Cartesian cleft between nature and culture, forever separate.
That assumes some kind of cultural analysis. Yet all Hume did was look only at the logic presented, or rather lack of logic. Nothing to do with a Cartesian split. Ever since then, there has been no real bridge made over the division. A lot of people have tried, but all failed. What is perceived as a Cartesian cleft is actually the result, not the cause, of empirical observations on the is/should disjunction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruno Latour
... will be able to substitute the legislation of scientific laws, which are not open to question, for the tyranny of ignorance.

Science can survive only as long as it distinguishes absolutely and not relatively between things "as they are" and the "representation that human beings make of them." Why? Because, without it, there would be no more reservoir of incontrovertible certainties that could be brought in to put an end to the incessant chatter of obscurantism and ignorance. There would no longer be a sure way to distinguish what is true from what is false. Nature and human beliefs about nature would be mixed up in frightful chaos.

If you point out politely that the very ease with which scientists pass from the social world to the world of external realities, ...
Bruno Latour seems to be saying something here quite different, Pyrogenesis; while he is commenting on the continuing fall-out from the is/ought divide, he doesn't actually tackle the divide itself. His remarks as quoted here pertain most of all to the attempts to gain legitimatization -- ersatz legitimization, fake legitimization -- for one view or the other, rather than the underlying logical problem.

Quote:
. Reduction to either side automatically presumes the original division into two worlds of nature and culture, and it is this division that is the problem.
Well, you know, there are a variety of answers possible, not just two.
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Old 28-Jul-2009, 10:18 AM (10:18)     19        28522
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Hey Gurdur, hopefully I'll stick around. But you never know.

Anyway, it's just that I've been reading a lot of Latour recently and just now I'm writing a presentation for this Sunday on some of his ideas, so the above bit was just something that came to mind when I read the rest of the thread. So it was perhaps a somewhat random post. And it is indeed about how the relations between nature and culture are conceived of, not about the underlying formal logic of the fallacy, with which I have no dispute. Here's another good but equally tangential quote:

Quote:
Are not most ethicists busy with those two opposite but symmetrical tasks: defending the purity of science and rationality from the polluting influence of passions and interests; defending the unique values and rights of human subjects against the domination of scientific and technical objectivity?
The naturalistic fallacy is the Cerberus of this divide: never should the is cross over to the ought, and never should the ought prescribe what is.

Last edited by Pyrogenesis; 28-Jul-2009 at 10:24 AM (10:24).
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Old 28-Jul-2009, 10:30 AM (10:30)     20        28523
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Hey Gurdur, hopefully I'll stick around. But you never know.
Wanna cookie?

Quote:
Anyway, it's just that I've been reading a lot of Latour recently .....

Quote:
Are not most ethicists busy with those two opposite but symmetrical tasks: defending the purity of science and rationality from the polluting influence of passions and interests; defending the unique values and rights of human subjects against the domination of scientific and technical objectivity?
The naturalistic fallacy is the Cerberus of this divide: never should the is cross over to the ought, and never should the ought prescribe what is.
Well, yes. But that's the fall-out, not the fissile material that caused the divide.

But many thanks for bringing us onto the topic of legitimization; that's the next step, and one I really wanted to get onto.
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Old 14-Aug-2009, 12:39 AM (00:39)     21        30244
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Originally Posted by Gurdur View Post
There is a recurring problem which comes up all the time everywhere every time, and that is, people trying to say X is so, therefore X or Y should be so.

This is badly illogical, and a straight formal fallacy; the fallacy of having a whole class in the conclusion which appears nowhere in the original premises.

Like saying:

Premise: It is raining today.
Conclusion: Therefore New Zealand will invade China.

There's nothing in the premise about New Zealand, China or invading, so the conclusion just doesn't follow from the premise.

Now take that a step further:

Premise: It is raining today.
Conclusion: Therefore it is raining in China.

You can see that while "raining" does appear in the premises and conclusion of the argument, it's still illogical. The conclusion just doesn't follow from the premise (unless you actually happen to be living in China, which was not specified in the premises).

Another example, and getting to the point:

Premise: Murder means killing someone.
Conclusion: Therefore murder is wrong.

Now, murder may well be wrong -- but you need a hell of a lot more in your premises and argument to say that. You can't simply say only that causing death is wrong because it is causing death; it just doesn't logically follow.

You can say, "I choose to say causing death is morally wrong. Therefore murder is wrong (at least, according to me)". Now that is fine and follows logically, more or less, or at least it is not illogical (though a circular argument).

But trying to only say, "Murder means killing someone. Therefore murder is wrong", is logically and practically equivalent to saying, "There are fish in the Antarctic. Therefore murder is wrong." In other words, it simply doesn't follow.

Because no "should" appears in the premises, it cannot appear in the conclusion and still be logical; a "should be" or "ought to be" is a whole different class. If it appears in the conclusion but not the premises, the argument is disconnected and illogical.

Now, this fallacy comes up again and again everywhere, and a lot of people are guilty of being prone to committing that fallacy. There are interesting efforts to find new ways of thinking about ethics and morals that overcome that problem, but so far no-one has succeeded; I will talk more about those efforts in a new thread later.

For now, here is the original citation from (as far as I know) the first person, David Hume, to write down (almost 300 years ago) and publish the problem of the logical disconnect between "is" and "ought" / "should":


Quote:
I cannot forbear adding to these reasonings an observation, which may, perhaps, be found of some importance. In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds from some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establish the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of all sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. this change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observerd and explained: and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor as perceived by reason.

--- from A Treatise of Human Nature, (1739-40), Book III, Part 1, Section 1, p. 469-470, by David Hume
References:

David Hume and also A Treatise of Human Nature

Also: The is/ought problem, then also the fact/value distinction.

And, associated, the Naturalistic (Natural) Fallacy.


Ethics is a VERY complex field I tend to side with non-cognitivism. For those not familar with the term.

Non-cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical sentences do not express propositions and thus cannot be true or false.
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Old 14-Aug-2009, 01:04 AM (01:04)     22        30249
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.... Ethics is a VERY complex field I tend to side with non-cognitivism. For those not familar with the term.

Non-cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical sentences do not express propositions and thus cannot be true or false.
It definitely has a lot going for it. The explicit non-relevance of truth values is a big plus.
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Old 14-Aug-2009, 08:56 AM (08:56)     23        30282
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Non-cognitivism is also one of the biggest misnomers in ethics, since it is probably the closest thing to what cognitive sciences would say about ethics. How can an opposition to logic or language-based approach, one based mostly on attitudes and developed orientations toward situations, be called non-cognitive?
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Old 25-Sep-2010, 03:28 AM (03:28)     24        41131
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Sam Harris has a new book coming out: The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. I might buy it out of curiosity, but I find myself skeptical.
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Old 25-Sep-2010, 03:37 AM (03:37)     25        41132
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Ta muchly for the news!
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Old 25-Sep-2010, 03:48 AM (03:48)     26        41133
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Ta muchly for the news!
Is this...eagerness?
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Old 25-Sep-2010, 03:52 AM (03:52)     27        41134
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Blood, blood, blood!!!!!!
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Old 25-Sep-2010, 04:31 AM (04:31)     28        41135
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Blood, blood, blood!!!!!!
lol, Gurdur.
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Old 25-Sep-2010, 04:45 AM (04:45)     29        41136
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"There will be blogs"
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(much altered by Gurdur)

For smilies:

Koloboks, including Aiwan, ViShenk, Just Cuz, Laie, Connie, snoozer, Viannen,
and especially Mother Goose too.
KitKatty. and PederDingo, and phantompanther.

For help, coding, and/or modifications:

Different people at vBulletin.com, and a whole lot of people -- too many to be individually named, sorry -- at vBulletin.org

For artwork, avatars, backgrounds and so on:

KitKatty, and verte, and britpoplass


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