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  1. #1
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    The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Divine Command Theory is, generally speaking, the theory that God, being the arbiter of morality, assigns moral value to any given act via his divine "command". Additionally, God is ultimate moral standard; the source of good. That is to say, he is where the quality of "good" comes from. These things, coupled with his ultimate authority, gives any act its intrinsic moral value. For example, the act of rape is morally bad because God says it is bad, not because of the nature of the act of rape itself.

    Adherents of DCT typically maintain that anyone who doesn't believe in a God as an ultimate moral standard is unable to grasp why any given act is really right or wrong; they insist that the non-theist can only defer to might-makes-right, popular opinion or individual feelings. However, we often see deferences to intuition from these same people, who insist that a person would have to be irrational, unreasonable, and/or deranged to think something like torturing babies is morally acceptable (and I would agree, for the record). It is not unusual for the theist and the non-theist agree on the moral status of such acts; the primary difference is that the theist believes they have access to some special insight on the matter that is opaque or unavailable to the non-theist.

    The problem of DCT is this: If a given act is only good/bad on God's say-so, then God could say otherwise and the act would no longer be what is was previously. This is true irrespective of how the status of any given act may suddenly offend one's intuition. For example, rape would become intrinsically good if God changed its status. This is because the status of the ACT doesn't change GOD. GOD changes the status of the ACT. To deny this is to deny God's omnipotence, and to deny his authority.

    Discuss

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  3. #2
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by OP
    It is not unusual for the theist and the non-theist agree on the moral status of such acts; the primary difference is that the theist believes they have access to some special insight on the matter that is opaque or unavailable to the non-theist.
    I don't think it is the case that theist claim to special knowledge. As far as I am aware, the first proof that a theist will point to is specifically the recognition by the atheist that bla bla of children for fun is wrong. Theist appeal to the notion that atheist "know" that it is always wrong, and that there is never a case possible for this to be otherwise.

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    then God could say otherwise and the act would no longer be what is was previously.
    This is not necessarily a plausible case. If God exists necessarily, then that means it is not plausible for him to be other than what he is (nature wise). At least some moral decrees would require God himself to have a different nature . Thus it is not possible for God to have Decreed otherwise.

    Finally, ignoring the above why this would be a "problem" is not really clear. Is it a "problem" that water is defined the way it is?

    --In other words, the problem with "subjectivity" and "Opinion" is that it doesn't have any force on the objective facts. If your opinion on Starburst changed the objective world that everyone else experienced, then we should be very interested in you opinion. As it stands, it does not, and so your opinion is well.. not very relevant.

    Question, have I correctly addressed the problem with subjective opinion? Does it stand to reason that this problem does not apply to God the same way it would apply to men?
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  5. #3
    ODN's Crotchety Old Man

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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    It seems to me to be completely plausible. God's nature is to remain unchanged. God's nature is that he is all-powerful; he is NOT subject to the characteristics of anything that is NOT him. So if he changes the moral status of a given act, that status change doesn't change GOD; it changes the status of the ACT. God's nature isn't subject to the status of acts perpetrated by man; it's the other way around.

  6. #4
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    That does address the first part of my response, but it doesn't address the second.

    Which is, what is the problem with that? All you are doing is pointing out the direction of causality, that doesn't appear to be a problem.

    To your first point however, you are indeed pointing out the direction of causality, but that doesn't make the effect random. To say that it could be anything, is to say that other options are also consistant with his nature, which that does not appear to be the case. While you have pointed to it being consistent with some aspects of his nature, they don't appear to be relevant to his "goodness"
    which is the part of his nature that dictates at least some moral commands.

    Basically you seem to be saying that if a grape vine produces oranges, the oranges would be grapes by definition. ... And that doesn't make any sense and is thus implausible on it's face.

    So, lets apply that. God (Christian here) is defined as not being a liar. So if in order for a particular moral to be changed would require God to be a liar, then that moral is inconsistent with an unchanging God and thus it could never be the case that God would make such a command. So that command would be implausable. Not because the moral changes God, but because such a moral can not possibly come from the unchanging nature of God as it is. Your objection requires God to be himself completly arbitrary in nature.
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  7. #5
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    I think I didn't answer the second part because I don't understand what you're getting at. What, specifically, is the question your asking relative to the argument I'm making?

    ---------- Post added at 04:10 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:08 PM ----------

    Let me ask you this:

    If God decided to command that rape is morally good, on what basis would you say that he is wrong?

  8. #6
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by dio
    I think I didn't answer the second part because I don't understand what you're getting at. What, specifically, is the question your asking relative to the argument I'm making?
    You claimed there was a problem
    "The problem of DCT is this: If a given act is only good/bad on God's say-so, then God could say otherwise and the act would no longer be what is was previously."

    But it isn't apparent how this is a problem.
    If things were different, they would be different and this is a problem how?
    -The above assumes things could have been different and all the points you are making are valid-

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    Let me ask you this:
    If God decided to command that rape is morally good, on what basis would you say that he is wrong?
    (Direct answer) There is no basis. What higher court do we have?

    (My objection) is to the logically self contradictory nature of the question. IE if God commanded the immoral to be moral what does that even mean? I think it falls into the married bachelor, or "if God were evil" kind of statements.
    We may as well ask, if reality wasn't reality.. what would it be? How would you object to that? I don't think it makes much sense.
    To serve man.

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  10. #7
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Ok, thanks for that.

    It's a problem if one wants to insist that something like rape is immutably wrong. Under SCT, it isn't. There's absolutely nothing prevents God from changing his mind at any given moment about the moral status of rape. In fact, saying that he cannot do so denies his authority and his omnipotence. He could change rape to "good", right now, this moment, and that's what the moral status of rape would be, intrinsically.

    To your second point, EXACTLY. There IS no basis. If God changed his mind about the moral status of rape, you have absolutely no basis on which to declare rape to be immoral. Also, there is no contradiction. God is omniscient; he can command anything he wants. If God says rape is good, who are you to say that he's wrong? Who are you to say that such a command is contrary to his nature? I submit that your objection would be fueled by your moral intuition and nothing more.

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  12. #8
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by MindTrap028 View Post
    IE if God commanded the immoral to be moral what does that even mean?
    Good question. I'm assuming you'd think it's immoral for me to murder my child. But if god commanded me to do it, as he did with Abraham, would I then have a moral duty to perform that action, and is the action then good because god commanded it? Is the action always immoral and only moral when god specifically commands someone to perform that action?

    Also, could you elaborate on your actual position regarding DCT, since you sometimes you refer to morality from god as being simply an inherent part of his divine nature (which doesn't sound like DCT at all), and sometimes refer to it being actual pronouncements of moral positions. Which is it?

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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    Ok, thanks for that.

    It's a problem if one wants to insist that something like rape is immutably wrong. Under SCT, it isn't. There's absolutely nothing prevents God from changing his mind at any given moment about the moral status of rape. In fact, saying that he cannot do so denies his authority and his omniscience. He could change rape to "good", right now, this moment, and that's what the moral status of rape would be, intrinsically.

    To your second point, EXACTLY. There IS no basis. If God changed his mind about the moral status of rape, you have absolutely no basis on which to declare rape to be immoral. Also, there is no contradiction. God is omniscient; he can command anything he wants. If God says rape is good, who are you to say that he's wrong? Who are you to say that such a command is contrary to his nature? I submit that your objection would be fueled by your moral intuition and nothing more.
    Though I believe MT is saying God is incapable (for lack of a better term at the moment) of making such a decision, because God is pure goodness as it's source. The problem is ANY decision regarding morals is totally up to God whether it meets the goodness standard. So if God did change his mind on the subject, there would be NO conflict whatsoever. It would still be good and righteous.

    Did we not see something like this with the Old and New Testaments. Animal sacrifice was good in the Old Testament, and not good in the New Testament. Is this not God changing morals?


    (could someone please PM me how the ritual killing of an innocent animal could absolve me of my sins? How can justice possibly be served by anyone/anything else being punished for my sins?)

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  16. #10
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by Belthazor View Post
    The problem is ANY decision regarding morals is totally up to God whether it meets the goodness standard. So if God did change his mind on the subject, there would be NO conflict whatsoever. It would still be good and righteous.
    EXACTLY. If someone claims that God couldn't change his mind, it's the same as saying that the standard defines God, rather than the other way around.

    If someone commits rape, and God says "Rape is good", God's command doesn't change God; it changes the moral status of rape. Just as God is said to be outside time and not bound by it, he is also outside of our moral intuitions and not bound by them, either.

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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by Belthazor View Post
    God is pure goodness as it's source.
    This doesn't avoid the issue. One need only ask the question: Did god determine his own goodness-nature (ie: could he have chosen to have a different nature and represent goodness in a different divine form)? If yes, then we're back to old arbitrary DCT, where goodness is only good because god chose it as his nature. If no, then goodness is good regardless of a god.

    Quote Originally Posted by Belthazor View Post
    how the ritual killing of an innocent animal could absolve me of my sins? How can justice possibly be served by anyone/anything else being punished for my sins?
    Easy: magic

  18. #12
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by futureboy View Post
    Did god determine his own goodness-nature (ie: could he have chosen to have a different nature and represent goodness in a different divine form)?
    My understanding from Christians (in general) is, yes, God has freewill.

  19. #13
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    It's a problem if one wants to insist that something like rape is immutably wrong. Under SCT, it isn't. There's absolutely nothing prevents God from changing his mind at any given moment about the moral status of rape. In fact, saying that he cannot do so denies his authority and his omniscience. He could change rape to "good", right now, this moment, and that's what the moral status of rape would be, intrinsically.
    First of all, Couldn't God say that rape is wrong immutably? necessitating that he can't change it, and thus defeating your claim? Why not?

    I don't think it is coherent to use the meaning of "intrinsic" and to suppose that a thing would be the same thing while changing something intrinsic to it.
    I mean, how is rape rape, if you strip it of it's intrinsic meanings? (law of identity at play here)

    Also, there is something that prevents God from changing his mind on some things, and that is his character and his goodness. As the bible says from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Gods commands are not arbitrary so your assumption that it could be different is not established. (this falls in the illogical nature of some of the statements.. like God creating a rock so big he couldn't lift, or a married Batchelor).

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    To your second point, EXACTLY. There IS no basis. If God changed his mind about the moral status of rape, you have absolutely no basis on which to declare rape to be immoral. Also, there is no contradiction. God is omniscient; he can command anything he wants. If God says rape is good, who are you to say that he's wrong? Who are you to say that such a command is contrary to his nature? I submit that your objection would be fueled by your moral intuition and nothing more.
    How is my objection relevant? Don't people already object to God and claim he is evil?
    Who cares? What effect does me objecting have on reality? Again, back to the water being wet.. I object an then water is what.. still wet right?

    Also, what moral intuition? If your referring to a God given sense to perceive morality, then I don't think your making much sense.
    --

    Quote Originally Posted by FUTURE
    Good question. I'm assuming you'd think it's immoral for me to murder my child. But if god commanded me to do it, as he did with Abraham, would I then have a moral duty to perform that action, and is the action then good because god commanded it? Is the action always immoral and only moral when god specifically commands someone to perform that action?
    It would not be murder if God commanded it by definition of the words.

    Quote Originally Posted by FUTURE
    Also, could you elaborate on your actual position regarding DCT, since you sometimes you refer to morality from god as being simply an inherent part of his divine nature (which doesn't sound like DCT at all), and sometimes refer to it being actual pronouncements of moral positions. Which is it?
    The way I see it, there seems to be two sorts of moral statements from God.
    There are commands like Adam and Eve being commanded not to eat the fruit. The next day, God could have ordered them to eat the fruit.
    If they disobyed either day they would have sinned and done something immoral. Yet the commands could have been that way. I don't see any inconsistency there.

    The second kind, is actually built into the first. Namely we have a moral duty to obey God. This is much more elemental. This is where Dio's objection really takes root I think, and really runs afoul.
    What does it mean for God to command us to disobey him? Could he even do that consistent with his nature? I don't think so, and thus I think the objection of the op looses it's coherency.


    ---
    Challenges of the op

    1) The OP must establish that an alternative is possible. I think this necessarily means a kind of arbitrary aspect of some elemental command.
    2) The OP must establish that there is a problem.
    3) A relevance to current reality. If there is only a problem IF God changes morality, but he doesn't... what relevance does the problem have?


    Without commenting on the progress on these challenges, do I have these about right?
    To serve man.

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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by MindTrap028 View Post
    First of all, Couldn't God say that rape is wrong immutably?
    Of course God could say that!
    But since, as you say, there is no higher court, he could still change his mind. After all, he decides what is good/right/ought does he not? It could be for the "greater good" and you would not necessarily know would you?

  21. #15
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    MT, how does you claiming that you possess a God-given sense of morality make it so? Simply saying that you possess this doesn't contain any explanatory power, and it certainly does nothing to support the idea that God can't change his mind about the moral status of any given act, nor does it suggest at all that God couldn't simply modify your moral intuition to match the changes in moral status. Why can't God change his mind? God commands what is right or wrong; he is the ultimate authority on the matter. Him changing the moral status of a given act in no way undermines or conflicts with his nature (since the right belongs to him and him alone) in any shape, form, or fashion. God doesn't change his nature; he IS his nature. And his nature IS GOOD; he DECIDES what is good and evil. He can do it however he wants, and any act is then what he SAYS it is. God is unrestricted in every way in what he can say is good or bad.

  22. #16
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by BELTHAZOR
    Of course God could say that!
    But since, as you say, there is no higher court, he could still change his mind. After all, he decides what is good/right/ought does he not? It could be for the "greater good" and you would not necessarily know would you?
    No you misunderstand I think. In line with the OP him saying it isn't something that is passive, but something that becomes so by necessity.
    Point is that not all commands are com-possible. He can't make a man a batchelor and not a bachelor at the same time in the same sense.
    Equally, he can't command that a thing will be immutably so, and then change it. It is just jibberish, supposing it means nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    MT, how does you claiming that you possess a God-given sense of morality make it so?
    ... I am assuming you mean the sense of morality. Here I simply mean that it is a sense like vision. me claiming to have sight doesn't make it so, and neither does claiming to have a moral sense. However, you are appealing to my moral sense, so I don't think you can consistent appeal to it, and then deny it.

    If however you mean, how does me sensing a moral make the moral exist. That is of course not what I am saying. I am saying we sense what is. So if what is changes then our sense of it would change as well. .. or else the sense isn't working. So if morals were as you supposing, like pictures on a T.V. screen.. then we would "see" it.
    You will have to speak consistently with one of those. Iether object to a moral sense and deny it exists, or appeal to it and extrapolate consistently.

    maybe I'm not following properly. sorry.

    Quote Originally Posted by dio
    Simply saying that you possess this doesn't contain any explanatory power, and it certainly does nothing to support the idea that God can't change his mind about the moral status of any given act.
    My reference to a moral sense was not intended that way. I was simply pointing to the direction of causation. The reason we perceive rape as wrong, is because it is that way. If it were different and we do have a moral sense, then the sense would change as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    God commands what is right or wrong; he is the ultimate authority on the matter. Him changing the moral status of a given act in no way undermines or conflicts with his nature (since the right belongs to him and him alone) in any shape, form, or fashion.
    In some instances yes, but in other no. See my post 13 response to future.

    Explain to me the coherence of God commanding people to disobey him, or a married bachelor.
    or how a person can love without being loving.

    Basically, it doesn't make sense to say that the command that loving a person is morally superior to hating that same person in the same instance, can come from the same KIND of person.
    Your saying that the decree can't change God, however it does reveal something about his nature, and that is not consistent with all possible commands.

    I mean, if God decreed that violence is good and moral, and that everyone should kill and eat 10 babies a day. Sure we wouldn't have any grounds to object.. but it is a very different person to say that, than one that says it is better to to suffer wrong then to inflict it. If the statements reveal a different kind of person, then they are not equally possible commands given a single unchanging nature.
    Yes? Or are you saying both statements are consistent with an unchanging nature? I don't see it. Am I being unclear?
    To serve man.

  23. #17
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    MT, this is why I said that denying that God could change his mind denies his omnipotence (corrected from "omniscience" in the OP; my apologies). If God commands what is good or bad, it becomes good or bad intrinsically because its nature was assigned by the only one with the power to assign it. If he can assign moral status, there's no reason to think he can't rescind or re-assign it. There's absolutely no logical contradiction there. To say he is bound by the nature of a given act after he assigns it is to say that God's nature is defined by the act's moral status. It is also to say that God isn't omnipotent. So something has to give, if we want to say God cannot change his mind.

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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    MT, this is why I said that denying that God could change his mind denies his omnipotence (corrected from "omniscience" in the OP; my apologies). If God commands what is good or bad, it becomes good or bad intrinsically because its nature was assigned by the only one with the power to assign it. If he can assign moral status, there's no reason to think he can't rescind or re-assign it. There's absolutely no logical contradiction there. To say he is bound by the nature of a given act after he assigns it is to say that God's nature is defined by the act's moral status. It is also to say that God isn't omnipotent. So something has to give, if we want to say God cannot change his mind.
    You are picking one trait of God "Omnipotence" and ignoring another "his goodness".
    This is like picking omnipotence and ignoring his mind(logic), and saying that God can create a married Bachelor.

    The contradiction is not in the power aspect, it is in his goodness aspect. What God commands to be good, is not done out of his power alone, but also out of his Goodness and logical nature.
    While you have objected to gods nature being defined by his actions, you have not addressed the point that his nature is REVEALED by his actions, and my inconsistency point in that regard.

    I feel I have directly responded to the idea that denying God could change his mind about the aspect of his nature goodness, is not logically coherent. I don't insist that you agree with that point, but I want to make sure I have expressed it clearly.

    As a bit of playing telephone. What I get your point to be is..
    What you are saying is that there is a line of causation to morals it starts with God and flows from there. That flow is not limited by anything because God is omnipotent. So that same source could create any end result morals.
    (correct?)
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  26. #19
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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    MT, I absolutely am not ignoring his goodness. This argument DEPENDS on him being good. There is no conflict here.

    God IS good; so what he says is good, is good. And if a given thing is good because God says so, then THAT'S why it's good. It's not good because it's useful to moral agents. It's not good because people enjoy it. It's not good because people feel like it's good. It's good because God says it's good; end of story.

    There's not a single thing contained in any of that which says God cannot change his mind on the moral status of any act, at any time.

    ---------- Post added at 08:35 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:23 PM ----------

    Let me ask you this:

    Do you think God has reasons for assigning the value of "good" or "evil" to a given act? Do you think God evaluates acts and makes a judgment call based on those considerations? Because if this is what you think, that would mean that acts aren't "good" or "evil" because God says so. It would mean that those acts are "good" or "evil" for those reasons that God discovered during his evaluation. The moral assignment would then be a product of God's reasoning, not a product of his goodness.

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    Re: The Problem with Divine Command Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    MT, I absolutely am not ignoring his goodness. This argument DEPENDS on him being good. There is no conflict here.
    I don't think we are using it in the same sense and to refer to the same thing then.

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    God IS good; so what he says is good, is good.
    That defines Goodness as not having any particular meaning.
    In that, if any statement can be "good" even contradictory ones, then your just saying that God is the source of "good" not that he is goodness itself.

    If he is goodness itself, then it has some unchanging meaning, and that meaning is not consistent with all statements.

    I use the reference to God's goodness in that he is Good, and that Goodness has an objective and unchanging meaning which is revealed in his commands. Things are good because they take from God, borrow from God's goodness. Not because they are arbitrarily assigned the value, because then goodness means nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    Let me ask you this:

    Do you think God has reasons for assigning the value of "good" or "evil" to a given act? Do you think God evaluates acts and makes a judgment call based on those considerations? Because if this is what you think, that would mean that acts aren't "good" or "evil" because God says so. It would mean that those acts are "good" or "evil" for those reasons that God discovered during his evaluation. The moral assignment would then be a product of God's reasoning, not a product of his goodness.
    Some yes, and some no. Like his command to obey him is based in something more essential than his command to not eat a forbidden fruit. For the forbidden fruit, he could have reasoned that it was not a proper time and that later was, while obeying him is necessary. (I think it is in regards to the latter that this discussion is taking place).

    I will say this. If God did not speak to morality at all, gave no commands to men. There would still be Moral Good and Bad.
    Because God is the standard by which we measure Goodness.

    Gods goodness is like the yard stick. Which was an actual stick kept in some kings castle by which all things were held to as a standard.
    http://www.npl.co.uk/educate-explore...ement-(poster)
    It is not thus coherent to say that the comparison can be different without the source necessarily changing. As God is the source, and he doesn't change, thus the comparison can not change.

    Some relevant reading.
    https://warrenapologetics.org/suffic...d-and-goodness
    To serve man.

 

 
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