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  1. #1
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    Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Let me start by offering two definitions;

    Definition of Subjective

    1. Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
    2. Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.

    Definition of Objective

    1. Of or having to do with a material object.
    2. Having actual existence or reality.
    3. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic.
    4. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually: an objective appraisal.


    If morality is particular to a specific person then it is different for everyone because everyone is unique and experiences the world in their own unique way. Here is an example. The Earth is about to end and there is a man who believes, for whatever reason, that the only way to save humanity is by killing 32 people between the ages of 12 and 14. From his perspective he is doing the morally correct thing. From another persons perspective he is doing something immoral. So the action of murder, under a subjective morality, is both moral and immoral at the same time. This is directly contradictory, means NOTHING and is therefore useless.

    Now, under an objective morality there is a clear distinction between moral and immoral. The above man still believes that he is doing the morally correct thing, but he is simply mistaken. The conclusion that the man arrives at, that murdering 32 people is acting in a moral way, stems from a false premise. Any conclusion that is drawn from a false premise is obviously false. Even if the conclusion is valid, there is absolutely no way that it can every be sound. It is simple logic. To know what is morally correct we need to arrive at the morally correct decision by basing our conclusion of true premises. We should follow the principles that the above definition of objective lays out. Following these things makes it more likely that we end up using true premises to arrive at the correct conclusion and therefore the correct moral choice.

    To sum up:

    1. All sound conclusions stem only from sound premises.
    2. The conclusion that I am acting morally must stem from sound premises in order for that conclusion to be sound.
    3. By following the definition of objective it is far more likely that one uses sound premises to arrive at a sound conclusion. That is far more likely then if we followed the definition of subjective. This is because the subjective experience of a human is tainted by biases and false beliefs.

    In short, for a choice to be moral it must be the "correct" choice.
    abc

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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    Let me start by offering two definitions;

    Definition of Subjective

    1. Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
    2. Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.

    Definition of Objective

    1. Of or having to do with a material object.
    2. Having actual existence or reality.
    3. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic.
    4. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually: an objective appraisal.


    If morality is particular to a specific person then it is different for everyone because everyone is unique and experiences the world in their own unique way. Here is an example. The Earth is about to end and there is a man who believes, for whatever reason, that the only way to save humanity is by killing 32 people between the ages of 12 and 14. From his perspective he is doing the morally correct thing. From another persons perspective he is doing something immoral. So the action of murder, under a subjective morality, is both moral and immoral at the same time. This is directly contradictory, means NOTHING and is therefore useless.
    It isn't useless if you're trying to figure out how they will act, since actions are guided by beliefs.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    It isn't useless if you're trying to figure out how they will act, since actions are guided by beliefs.
    Not all actions are guided by beliefs and perhaps no actions are guided by beliefs.

  4. #4
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by Rodriguez View Post
    Not all actions are guided by beliefs and perhaps no actions are guided by beliefs.
    Right, I'm just saying that it isn't true that subjective morality has no use whatsoever, since some people do think that actions are guided by belief (or at least that they can be). So it's of use to them.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    It isn't useless if you're trying to figure out how they will act, since actions are guided by beliefs.
    That is correct, seems subjective morality does have a use, however limited it might be.

    How about we continue to the other point in the OP then, which is that objective morality is "better" than subjective morality.

    ---------- Post added at 03:15 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:11 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Rodriguez View Post
    Not all actions are guided by beliefs and perhaps no actions are guided by beliefs.
    Interesting, can you support that no actions are in any way guided by beliefs? I have a very hard time believing that that could be true. Actually I believe that the opposite is true and that belief has caused me to perform the action of writing these sentences.
    abc

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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    That is correct, seems subjective morality does have a use, however limited it might be.

    How about we continue to the other point in the OP then, which is that objective morality is "better" than subjective morality.
    Well, I think it's "stronger" in the sense that you get non-trivial answers to questions of interest ("Is there a Good? What does it mean to be ethical?"). I don't know that that makes it "better" or even more likely to be true.

    And there's a rather glaring hole in your conclusion: Even if there is objective morality, we only ever have access to our subjective experience. Your own understanding of objective morality is through your subjective experiences. We can't do anything but form subjective moral codes; hopefully, they will correspond to the objective moral truth, but we don't have access to the Objective.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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  7. #7
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    Here is an example. The Earth is about to end and there is a man who believes, for whatever reason, that the only way to save humanity is by killing 32 people between the ages of 12 and 14. From his perspective he is doing the morally correct thing. From another persons perspective he is doing something immoral. So the action of murder, under a subjective morality, is both moral and immoral at the same time. This is directly contradictory, means NOTHING and is therefore useless.
    But let's say that he is correct, that killing a handful of people would save the whole world and therefore his moral position, that it's better that a handful of people die by his hand than the whole world die by his inaction and he acts on it and saves the whole world, it doesn't matter if his moral position is objective or subjective. He still acted on it and saved the world thus making his moral position very useful, even if it is subjective.

    And if he's mistaken and kills a bunch of people needlessly, likewise his moral position being objective or subjective makes no difference.

    So I do not see how, in any practical sense, subjective morality is any better or worse than subjective morality.

    Why someone thinks murder is wrong is of much less practical importance than the moral position leads to him not murdering.

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    Now, under an objective morality there is a clear distinction between moral and immoral.
    Just like there is under subjective morality. I, subjectively, think murder is clearly immoral and charity is clearly moral. There's your clear distinction.


    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    The above man still believes that he is doing the morally correct thing, but he is simply mistaken. The conclusion that the man arrives at, that murdering 32 people is acting in a moral way, stems from a false premise. Any conclusion that is drawn from a false premise is obviously false. Even if the conclusion is valid, there is absolutely no way that it can every be sound. It is simple logic.
    And it's exactly the same if the person subjectively held the position that it's better that a handful die than the world die.


    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    To know what is morally correct we need to arrive at the morally correct decision by basing our conclusion of true premises. We should follow the principles that the above definition of objective lays out. Following these things makes it more likely that we end up using true premises to arrive at the correct conclusion and therefore the correct moral choice.
    But since there is no way to prove that a moral position is objectively true, this is a rather useless point.




    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    To sum up:

    1. All sound conclusions stem only from sound premises.
    2. The conclusion that I am acting morally must stem from sound premises in order for that conclusion to be sound.
    3. By following the definition of objective it is far more likely that one uses sound premises to arrive at a sound conclusion.
    Support or retract point 3.

  8. #8
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    If morality is particular to a specific person then it is different for everyone because everyone is unique and experiences the world in their own unique way. Here is an example. The Earth is about to end and there is a man who believes, for whatever reason, that the only way to save humanity is by killing 32 people between the ages of 12 and 14. From his perspective he is doing the morally correct thing. From another persons perspective he is doing something immoral. So the action of murder, under a subjective morality, is both moral and immoral at the same time. This is directly contradictory, means NOTHING and is therefore useless.
    Although this may not change the argument significantly, it is still worth pointing out.

    For something to be contradictory it has to be both A and non A at the same time and in the same sense. Even though it may appear that objective morality can be both moral and immoral, and therefore contradictory, this is not true. It it not contradictory because it is not both A and non A at the same time and in the same sense. A different person's perspective is a different "sense". I am sure that his moral code has a "point" to him.

    Otherwise, if your argument were to hold, it could be used to say that any form or type of opinion is pointless. Joe thinks bananas taste good. Jeff thinks bananas taste bad. Therefore bananas taste both good and bad at the same time, and opinions of taste are pointless... No.

    This also brings me to another point. Just like all humans inherently think that fat, salt, and sugar taste so good (it is in our genetic code), our genetic code makes us believe that harm to another person is wrong, and conversely, pleasure to another person is good. We feel pity when we see somebody in harm, this evokes an emotional response, and we therefore think it is immoral. We perceive that death is a harm (once again, in our genetics) so we feel it is immoral when a man is murdered. We feel it is good when you give a gift to somebody, etc. etc.

    So why can't we (just like we do with taste), as the human race, all agree that we feel causing harm is wrong, and make laws to prevent it?

    I could keep going on, but I think I will stop my ramble now.
    Udabindu yathāpi pokkhare
    Padume vāri yathā na lippati,
    Evaṃ muni no palippati
    Yadidaṃ diṭṭhasutaṃ mutesu vā.

  9. #9
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    It isn't useless if you're trying to figure out how they will act, since actions are guided by beliefs.
    Value as it is applied in the op, is on a much grander scale, a more general sense, not specific. That is, objective morality has more value than any subjective moral standard. And while I disagree with HOW the op got there, I agree with the conclusion re: objective morality has the higher value.

    We we have two scenarios:

    1) Bob thinks it is morally good to murder 32 children because it will save the world. Joe disagrees because murdering 32 teens cannot save the world and Bob is using bad logic (there's a problem with the REASON here as to why murdering 32 people is wrong...but not the conclusion reached...and it is the conclusion I'm arguing for here).

    2) Bob and Joe see the end of the world coming. They realize that it is beyond their control, and committing a moral wrong will not save the world.

    Both scenarios result in the end of the world (I really dislike the example in the op btw). However, #1 does two things here: 1) commits a moral wrong (murdering children) and 2) commits fallacious reasoning. Thus, #2 is superior...or has more value than #1.

    That's what I believe the op is trying to argue anyway.

    ---------- Post added at 04:45 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:41 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Soren View Post
    Although this may not change the argument significantly, it is still worth pointing out.

    For something to be contradictory it has to be both A and non A at the same time and in the same sense. Even though it may appear that objective morality can be both moral and immoral, and therefore contradictory, this is not true. It it not contradictory because it is not both A and non A at the same time and in the same sense. A different person's perspective is a different "sense". I am sure that his moral code has a "point" to him.
    I agree with your understanding of "contradiction" here...it sounds strangely familiar. However, I disagree with the application. The reason being, is that it means that morality has not value outside of the individual (since there is no 'same sense' without it). And that is precisely what the op is arguing...that morality extends beyond the individual...that it is not subjective (due to the problems that occur when one tries to use it subjectively), and that it instead, is not dependent upon man (it is objective)....or at least...in a "value sense" I guess. I'd argue that subjective morality doesn't even exist at all (and it's merely a misunderstanding of morality...but the op doesn't go there, so I won't either I suppose).

    Otherwise, if your argument were to hold, it could be used to say that any form or type of opinion is pointless. Joe thinks bananas taste good. Jeff thinks bananas taste bad. Therefore bananas taste both good and bad at the same time, and opinions of taste are pointless... No.
    But morals are not personal preferences or tastes. Morality is a prescription of value and duty that applies to all human beings.
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  10. #10
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    But morals are not personal preferences or tastes. Morality is a prescription of value and duty that applies to all human beings.
    How do you know this? How can you show this? What, besides the unpleasant reality that morality might very well be subjective, necessitates its objectivity?

    I find it strange that people readily accept that things like art and music are subjective but when it comes to morality, where the penalty for error (or even disagreement) can be huge, we tend to think it MUST be objective, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence for that at all. In fact, it seems like the evidence suggests that morality is very much subjective, but that the tendencies of people concerning certain matters are more universally held. That is to say, there is far more disagreement over whether or not "Piss Christ" is art than there is that rape is immoral, but the only thing that separates one from the other is how we collectively tend to feel about the harm caused by the person holding the dissenting opinion. So I don't see that how we feel about the harm caused necessitates any transcendent nature to morality.

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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    How do you know this? How can you show this? What, besides the unpleasant reality that morality might very well be subjective, necessitates its objectivity?

    I find it strange that people readily accept that things like art and music are subjective but when it comes to morality, where the penalty for error (or even disagreement) can be huge, we tend to think it MUST be objective, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence for that at all. In fact, it seems like the evidence suggests that morality is very much subjective, but that the tendencies of people concerning certain matters are more universally held. That is to say, there is far more disagreement over whether or not "Piss Christ" is art than there is that rape is immoral, but the only thing that separates one from the other is how we collectively tend to feel about the harm caused by the person holding the dissenting opinion. So I don't see that how we feel about the harm caused necessitates any transcendent nature to morality.
    When someone's artistic or aesthetic taste differs from our own, we generally don't think, "You should know better." When someone does something that offends our artistic values, we don't think "You should have known better. You shouldn't have done that."

    But for morality, we generally think "The Nazis should have known better. They shouldn't have done what they did." And here's the kicker: even those who subscribe to subjective morality tend to think this. But how are the Nazis to have known better, if there is no objective moral value for them to have known? If there is only moral taste, then why should they have cared whether it was to our taste? Rather, they shouldn't care about what we think, going by our strong, American sense of individualism.

    And yet, we think that they should have known better. We think that they've done something more than offend our opinion; they've done something genuinely wrong.



    All of which is to say, there's no logical need for morality to be objective. We don't reject subjective morality, or Nazi morality, because of its logic; we reject it because it fails to capture to our sense of moral value (using the royal we).
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    All of which is to say, there's no logical need for morality to be objective.
    Yes, this is exactly my point. I don't accept Apok's declaration by fiat that morality is objective. We simply treat it as if it is, and how strongly we feel about whether or not "X" is objectively immoral tends to be in proportion to how strongly "X" offends our moral sensibilities.

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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Over the years, I've given many, many arguments and proofs, as to why morality is objective vs subjective. As I recall, no one has been able to put forth a worthy rebuttal...nor has anyone put forth a legitimate argument FOR subjective morality (but I don't see every argument admittedly, and perhaps I've missed them).

    If you know of one...or have an argument for subjective morality, I'd love to see it. But I see no reason to accept a position when it is never reasonably argued for to begin with.
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    Over the years, I've given many, many arguments and proofs, as to why morality is objective vs subjective. As I recall, no one has been able to put forth a worthy rebuttal...nor has anyone put forth a legitimate argument FOR subjective morality (but I don't see every argument admittedly, and perhaps I've missed them).

    If you know of one...or have an argument for subjective morality, I'd love to see it. But I see no reason to accept a position when it is never reasonably argued for to begin with.
    This is an interesting response. I wonder, when did it become acceptable on ODN to simply defer to enthusiastically contested arguments offered in the past (without so much as a link, mind you) as a sufficient response to direct and unambiguous questions regarding a claim made?

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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    This is an interesting response. I wonder, when did it become acceptable on ODN to simply defer to enthusiastically contested arguments offered in the past (without so much as a link, mind you) as a sufficient response to direct and unambiguous questions regarding a claim made?
    Well, at some point it's a semantic debate. Apok basically describes morality as an assignment of moral value; since subjective morality cannot consistently assign moral values, it isn't really a moral system (under Apok's definition).

    But what we name things isn't really material to the discussion of whether such systems have uses, or whether they can reach meaningful/interesting conclusions.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    But for morality, we generally think "The Nazis should have known better. They shouldn't have done what they did." And here's the kicker: even those who subscribe to subjective morality tend to think this. But how are the Nazis to have known better, if there is no objective moral value for them to have known?
    Who says that that would make a difference? Hitler portrayed what he was doing as objectively morally correct and some of his followers probably believed it as well. So a belief that one's moral position is objectively correct can work for (what I would consider) bad morals as well as good morals.

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    If there is only moral taste, then why should they have cared whether it was to our taste?
    Why should they care if we felt our moral position was more than a matter of taste?



    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    And yet, we think that they should have known better. We think that they've done something more than offend our opinion; they've done something genuinely wrong.
    I do think they did something genuinely wrong and the fact that it's my opinion that this is so does not make it any less of a moral condemnation than someone who says it's objectively wrong.


    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    All of which is to say, there's no logical need for morality to be objective. We don't reject subjective morality, or Nazi morality, because of its logic; we reject it because it fails to capture to our sense of moral value (using the royal we).
    Including the moral subjectivists amongst us, of course.


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

    And are you forwarding that if the US somehow portrayed its position on what the Nazis were doing in an morally objective sense, it would have made a difference somehow? The Nazis would say "Oh, it's your OBJECTIVE moral position that genocide is wrong? Well, I guess you're right so we'll stop being bad."
    If you mean the US' sense of moral value, that clearly includes the subjective moralists amongst us.

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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    This is an interesting response. I wonder, when did it become acceptable on ODN to simply defer to enthusiastically contested arguments offered in the past (without so much as a link, mind you) as a sufficient response to direct and unambiguous questions regarding a claim made?

    I see it as a direct response to an indirect response actually. Where was subjective morality argued for? If it wasn't argued for...then I cannot argue against it Dio. All you've said thus far (unless I'm just not seeing it), is "We don't have to accept morality being objective
    ".

    Thus, my response is "Why shouldn't we? Is there a reason not to?"

    Of course...a natural response to that would be "Why should we accept objective morality to be the case?". And of course, the obvious response is to point out the several arguments made in favor of it over the years, that as far as I can tell (as stated previously), are NOT contested. Again, I could be wrong...and this is why I asked for an example of it being the case.

    I've just never seen a sound argument FOR subjective morality. It's why I asked for one...if you knew of one.
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    Well, at some point it's a semantic debate. Apok basically describes morality as an assignment of moral value; since subjective morality cannot consistently assign moral values, it isn't really a moral system (under Apok's definition).
    Well, so too does Sam Harris' description of morality. And Micheal Shermer's. And the advocates of moral realism.

    What gets me about this claim is that when someone proposes what they hope is some objective argument for morality that doesn't include a divine being (or some other nebulous transcendent "thing" floating around on the ether), someone will always object to it on grounds similar to what Apok is arguing here. But when challenged they never go on to show it in a way that isn't really just a God argument, or in a way that's not vulnerable to the same criticisms they themselves offered in the first place.

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    But what we name things isn't really material to the discussion of whether such systems have uses, or whether they can reach meaningful/interesting conclusions.
    Yes, and that's what I'm looking for. Something interesting.

    ---------- Post added at 07:38 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:35 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    I see it as a direct response to an indirect response actually.
    You said "Morality is a prescription of value and duty that applies to all human beings." And I asked "How do you know this? How can you show this? What, besides the unpleasant reality that morality might very well be subjective, necessitates its objectivity?"

    What can possibly be regarded as indirect about these questions?

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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    I was responding to the post above it Dio.

    There's already a discussion about this elsewhere...but please answer this to illustrate my point.

    When is it the case, that it is a good thing, a moral act, for a child to be exploited, abused and manipulated into the sex industry?

    If never, then you are a moral absolutist. How so? Because if never, it means that the moral value is not contingent upon an individual's perspective or beliefs, but rather something else. A moral duty or obligation external to that of man. Kant argued this was the categorical imperative and is also the foundation for deontological ethics.

    If there are circumstances when it is ok to exploit, abuse and manipulate children...then you are a relativist. But again, I've never seen a legitimate argument here at ODN (nor elsewhere) in favor of it, so I see no reason to believe it. You disagree it seems (or perhaps you misunderstand what moral relativism/subjectivness vs absolutism/objectiveness is).

    It is of my position, that people who claim to be moral relativists actually hold objective moral values and only claim otherwise because of their lack of understanding and application of ethics. I'm not beyond admitting being in error...but to my knowledge, not a single individual here at ODN has argued successfully in favor of it. If I've missed it and you are aware of some examples, can you link them?
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    Re: Subjective Morality Is Pointless

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post
    I was responding to the post above it Dio.

    There's already a discussion about this elsewhere...but please answer this to illustrate my point.

    When is it the case, that it is a good thing, a moral act, for a child to be exploited, abused and manipulated into the sex industry?

    If never, then you are a moral absolutist. How so? Because if never, it means that the moral value is not contingent upon an individual's perspective or beliefs, but rather something else.
    I say never, but what's the "something else"? I think that it is always wrong for anyone to exploit a child in the sex industry, but how is that external of me?

 

 
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