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The importance of values is frequently cited in relation to the global problematique, whether it be in debates in international assemblies, in studies criticizing "value-free" approaches to research, or in discussion of quality of life and individual fulfilment. Values are deemed especially important in questions of cultural development and are central to concern for the preservation of cultural heritage.
(a) Problems and values
Problems tend to be recognized and dealt with as concrete, practical matters. They can be defined in terms which allow them to be the subject of well-managed programmes -- indeed they may be the integrative focus of those programmes, uniting together groups that would otherwise be competing. Even the term "problem" is recognizable in many languages and is an early part of any vocabulary concerned with practical matters. The term is applied to every level of obstacle or hindrance from the most personally intimate to the global level.
The case of human values contrasts sharply with that of world problems. Where it is common and meaningful to ask "do you have a problem", it is unusual and generally unacceptable to ask "do you have a value". The term is not common across languages and is not an early part of any vocabulary. It is far from being an immediate concern in any normal programme of action. And yet there is an intimate relationship between problems and values. Basically no problem is recognizable except in the light of a value. If "justice" is not a recognized "value", then "injustice" cannot be recognized as a problem.
Human values come to the fore as the driving force in many campaigns, where people's commitment is engaged through appeals to "freedom", "equality" and the like. As such they too can unite opposing groups under the same banner but with much less ability to focus on the concrete remedial action required. Much cultural endeavour is associated with articulating the interplay of values. Values are of increasing concern to the marketing of commercial products because of the way in which markets are segmented in terms of the value profiles of consumers. Values are of course an increasingly explicit question in the debate on "green" issues and options.
Problems tend to be explicit, whereas values tend to be implicit. But both are artefacts of the human mind. Despite being treated as concrete, problems as such (like values) cannot be photographed. People interpret certain (photographable) conditions as problematic. But the future will recognize other problems in photographs of conditions today which may now appear problem-free. It may be argued that awareness of a problem-value polarity is borne of exposure to certain conditions that cause some form of suffering. In different ways this suffering engenders learning through which sensitivity to a (new) value allows the suffered conditions to be constellated into a problem.
In summary, whilst problems tend to be concrete, relatively unambiguous, detailed features of normal organized activity, values are much more ambiguously defined and less easily related to specific programmatic steps. Problems provide focus through their concreteness and specificity in dealing with the present through established channels. Values provide focus through their inspirational value and their prescriptive potential in creating a more desirable future irrespective of established views.
By juxtaposing information on world problems with that on human values it becomes possible to explore more systematically the relationships between them. Understanding of any system of values leads to greater understanding of the system of problems. In fact exercises in ordering the system of values may contribute to new ways of ordering the system of problems. Relating them may clarify the nature of the societal learning process through which problem-value polarities come to be recognized. A specific challenge is to identify more clearly the values associated with particular problems and to determine whether there are unrecognized problems following from acknowledgement of certain values.
(b) Human development and values
Human development can be seen as the process of giving more effective expression to human values. Many of the advocated approaches to human development are quite explicit concerning the values in terms of which they are conceived or which they are desired to enhance. The more sophisticated approaches to policy-making and management are quite deliberate in their efforts to identify the values on which any action is to be grounded.
Through some processes of human development, providing access to more subtle modes of awareness, new value insights emerge. In such cases there may be a very intimate relationship between the state of awareness and comprehension of the value. Emerging awareness of certain states may even lead to the articulation of more subtle understanding of commonly identified values. Certain modes of awareness can be understood as the embodiment of specific values or configurations of values.
Perhaps of most importance is the manner in which certain processes of human development integrate together previously disparate insights. Values can easily decay into empty, "bloodless" categories unless they are sustained by appropriate levels of awareness. Human development may thus build a subtle connecting pattern between values. Such integration provides a new foundation from which action may be undertaken in a sustainable manner.
Again it is ironic that there is less and less in modern society that people are prepared to die for, or to allow others to die for. Whole societies can now be held to ransom for a single known hostage. Millions can be spent to maintain a comatose, brain-damaged patient on life-support for decades. Euthanasia is illegal, no matter what the desire of the person concerned. Exposure to risk is progressively designed out of society, to be replaced by vicarious experiences of risk through videos or with the protection of required safety devices. The paradox is that unknown numbers are however sacrificed through carcinogenic products, abortion, structural violence, massacres, gang murders, cult rituals, "snuff" movies and associated perversions, or a failure of food and medical supplies.
The attitude to life has become as immature as that to death. Millions are spent on efforts to maintain youthfulness, whether through cosmetics, cosmetic surgery or attempts to reverse the ageing process. Every other value is sacrificed to save lives in industrialized societies, whilst allowing others to die elsewhere. Individuals in industrialized societies are prosecuted for life-endangering neglect. But these same societies fail to apply the same standards in their policies towards other societies. Reproduction is tacitly encouraged without any provision for the resulting population growth or for the effects on the environment. Society evokes problems to provide solutions for its own irresponsibility -- a control mechanism for the immature lacking the insight for a healthy relationship to cycles.
The challenge of the times would seem to involve a call for personal transformation through which social and conceptual frameworks can be viewed anew. Willingness to sacrifice inherited perspectives is an indication of the dimension of the challenge -- most dramatically illustrated by willingness to risk death. However physical death is not the issue, and may easily be a simplistic, deluded impulse lending itself to manipulation. Destruction of frameworks valued by others is equally suspect. Such dramatics provide rewards within the very frameworks whose nature the individual needs to question, but by which he may need to choose to be constrained.
(c) Value confusion
It could be said that there are various kinds of confusion about human values:
What are values? There are many definitions and innumerable studies. No definition has attracted widespread consensus. One would be hard put to locate a useful definition of values within the international community that is not challenged by some alternative definition that is valued by others. This does not of course prevent frequent reference to the "fundamental importance" of values by major organizations and other authorities. In an important sense it might be concluded that values do not lend themselves to ready definition (for which politicians may be more than thankful). They may even be valued precisely because they readily escape the facile definitions and labels with which they are associated. Indeed important conflicts arise over differing interpretations of values, however defined.
How many values are there? This question raises the issue of whether it is even appropriate to conceive of values as in some way discrete. There are a few checklists of values but they have attracted little attention. The international community has no checklist of values. What tends to happen is that values are buried in texts of declarations and resolutions in such a way that it becomes impossible to register them effectively or to deduce how many values are recognized by UNESCO, for example -- despite the importance attached to values by that body. Some academic studies of prime interest to commercial market research have given rise to a limited number of value clusters. Such clusters are however more descriptive of individual behaviour patterns of consumers than they are of values such as peace, justice, etc. There would indeed be many who would not regret the difficulty in enumerating values.
Values and language: To what extent is the nature of values conditioned by the language used to refer to them? Whether from a deconstructionist or a constructionist persepective, any traditionally straightforward approach to values fails to account for significant advances in understanding over past decades. And what of the plethora of words through which values are labelled -- many of them synonyms or overlapping in connotation to different degrees, with many others carrying nuances which the arts cherish in articulating sensitivity to value variants ?
Consensus on fundamental values: There have been many initiatives over the past decades to identify a core set of universal values on which "everyone should agree". It is safe to say that those constituencies who have been convinced by this perspective have each generated sets of 5 to 10 values that have significantly failed to convince others -- as religious initiatives failed before them in imposing their respective versions of the "Ten Commandments".
Whilst token acknowledgement may be given to such forms of value consensus, initiatives of this kind tend to be based on an extreme form of naivety in expecting that such consensus will be of any operational significance across cultures. The Asian preparatory meeting for the UN Human Rights Conference of 1993 offered a warning signal. It could be argued that this approach has been less than successful in part because of the almost pathological fear of any form of disagreement exhibited by its proponents. As a result any consensus is conceptually simplistic and fails to explore richer patterns of coherence that allow for (and may even depend upon) a high degree of disagreement (Judge, 1992).
Value relativism: There is an increasing need to deal with value relativism and to be able to relate to those holding different values. Value relativism is even advocated as a valuable advance over the constraints of traditional value patterns. For some "anything goes".
Value creation: The emergence of a high degree of value relativism, however much it is regretted in some quarters, has favoured educational programmes emphasizing "value creation". By this is meant that individuals should develop whatever values they themselves consider appropriate to their circumstances. Thus Walter Truett Anderson in an analysis of the collapse of belief in the USA notes:
"A home economics book...had the following statement: 'Values are subjective. They vary from person to person. You will be able to understand and get along with other people better if you keep an open mind about the value judgements they make'. Another text said that 'one cannot go to an encyclopedia or a textbook for values,' that they 'come out of the flux of life itself'. A handbook for values clarification activities told teachers that such learning could not even be graded...: 'There are no wrong answezrs, and grading would only serve to stifle trust, honesty and a willingness to self-disclose.'" (Reality Isn't What It Used to Be. San Francisco, Harper, 1990)
Such views are of course strongly opposed by fundamentalists of different persuasions.
This research work on values builds on work undertaken since 1972 in connection with the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, of which a fourth edition will be published in 1994. This long-term programme of the Union of International Associations complements that of its Yearbook of International Organizations. Together these databases cover the networks of some 20,000 internationally active organizations and the networks of 13,000 problems they choose to recognize and with which their members choose to identify.
The first edition of this publication appeared in 1976 under the title Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential. It was produced as an experiment arising from a joint project initiated in 1972 between the Union of International Associations (UIA) and the group Mankind 2000 which was an early catalyst of the international futures research movement.
Work on the second edition was initiated in 1983 and was completed in 1986. This third edition work was initiated in 1988 and completed in December 1990. The second edition was published under the present title. As with the present edition, the publication was jointly funded by the UIA and K G Saur Verlag, current publisher of the UIA's 3-volume Yearbook. The second edition was originally conceived as constituting a fourth volume within the Yearbook series, because of the degree of potential cross-referencing between the four volumes. It was subsequently decided to treat it as a separate publication under the current title rather than tie it to the established annual Yearbook.
Originally founded in Brussels in 1907, partly on the initiative of two Nobel Peace Laureates (Henri La Fontaine, 1913; Auguste Beernaert, 1909), the UIA as an international nongovernmental organization had activities prior to 1939 which illustrate its long-term interest in relation to the Encyclopedia project. These include publication of the Annuaire de la Vie Internationale, Vol I (1908-1909, 1370 pages), Vol II (1910-1911, 2652 pages) which included information on problems with which international organizations were concerned at that time. Also published was a Code des Voeux Internationaux; codification générale des voeux et résolutions des organismes internationaux (1923, 940 pages, under the auspices of the League of Nations). This listed those portions of the texts of international organization resolutions which covered substantive matters, including what are now regarded as world problems. It covered 1216 resolutions adopted at 151 international meetings. The subject index lists some 1200 items.
The work is above all the fruit of continuing collaboration with a considerable number of the 25,000 international governmental and nongovernmental organizations listed in the Yearbook of International Organizations. Such bodies make available a wide range of material on the areas of their concern.
This Encyclopedia is therefore intended for those who question whether they are receiving information from a sufficiently broad range of perspectives. It is for those who believe that much might be learnt from the variety of perspectives on what constitute significant problems and significant responses to them. In particular it is for those who recognize the possible dangers and limitations of attempting to filter this variety down to a handful of "essential" problems which can be appropriately contained by a single policy, strategy or blueprint based on a single conceptual framework guided by a single set of values. The decision that any particular class of information in the Encyclopedia is irrelevant can be seen as raising valuable questions as to the nature of the assumptions on which each such judgement is made.
Of more relevance to the specific work on values, is that most such nonprofit organizations explicitly acknowledge some values as the basis for their initiatives. Furthermore, social conditions can only be conceived as problematic in the light of some value, however implicit. Many aspects of human development, notably those inspired by different spiritual traditions, can be usefully understood both as achieving realization of new qualitative insights and as giving behavioural form to them. It is through the conflicting pursuit of such values, and in the interpretation of rival values as "negative", that the majority of world problems are engendered.
It is for this reason that the Encyclopedia programme includes an extensive exploration of "human values". Currently this is based on some 1,500 "positive" or "constructive" values, and some 1,900 "negative" or "destructive" disvalues. The disvalue set has been developed in conjunction with the set of problems to ensure a reciprocal sharpening of focus. Positive and negative values are interrelated through some 250 value polarities. It is the set of these polarities which is the subject of experiments in classification to determine the nature of one (or more) coherent value sets. Hopefully the dimensions of such sets can be related to those on which so many initiatives towards value coherence have been based.
The Encyclopedia programme was therefore based on the assumption that it was appropriate to attempt to bring together and interrelate within one framework information on: the problems with which humanity perceives itself to be faced; the organizational, human, and intellectual resources it believes it has at its disposal; the values by which it is believed any change should be guided; and the concepts of human development considered to be either the means or the end of any such social transformation.
Problems, organizations, concepts and human development are usually considered as though they were unrelated. But it is necessary to have a progressively more integrated conceptual structure in society before the interrelationships between the newer problems can be perceived. Both are needed before an attempt can be made to interrelate organizational units to handle the interlinked problems. Individual ability to tolerate and comprehend the complexity and dynamism of these interrelationships is directly related to the individual's own degree of personal development. Furthermore, a general increase in integration in any of these four domains will tend to increase integration in the other three. Equally, progressive fragmentation in any of the domains will provoke disintegrative tendencies in the others.
Even if the constraints make it impossible to achieve a satisfactory result through this particular exercise, it is to be hoped that through the process outlined here it will be possible to learn more about how information from very diverse sources can be concentrated and structured to the critical level required to provide the kind of integrative overview necessary for all to develop a sufficiently complex and strategically sound response to the world problem complex as it is now emerging.
(b) Values programme
The kind of information available on values is so diffuse and unstructured that it is fair to say that there are no lists of values with which the international community identifies, whether partially or completely. There are texts which reflect values, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but these do not identify values as such. There are no guidelines for naming values, and other than obvious values such as "peace", "justice" and "liberty", few appear to have been named.
For this reason the opposite approach was used, namely an effort was made to generate a complete set of potential values by identifying a comprehensive set of value-words which could be assumed to reflect the full range of values. Again the question arises as to whether these value words do effectively indicate distinct values. Here the difficulty is extreme because of the fluidity of language and the variety of connotations associated with any particular word. The procedure used was however designed to make this confusion explicit without attempting to resolve the issues which emerge. The procedure has the merit of not discriminating in favour or against any particular values as a result of emphasis on fashionable values.
The purpose of this programme is to register a complete range of values with which people identify, to which they are attracted or which they reject as abhorrent. The elusive notion of "wisdom" may be useful considered as the art of dealing with value dilemmas.
The programme resulted in the identification of 2,270 value "complexes" for the 1991 edition of the Encyclopedia. This information is divided into four parts: Section VC, Section VD, Section VP, Section VT. Section VC contains 960 constructive value words (e.g. peace, harmony, beauty), whereas Section VD contains 1,040 destructive value words (e.g. conflict, depravity, ugliness). The entries in these two sections are linked by 6,000 cross-references to 225 entries in Section VP. These entries are value-polarities (e.g. agreement-disagreement, freedom-restraint, pleasure-displeasure) derived from the organization of Roget's Thesaurus. These in turn cross-reference 45 entries in Section VT in an attempt to identify major value categories. The section as a whole contains 14,463 cross-references.
None of the entries contain "descriptions" of the value(s) implied. In most cases this would be superfluous. The words in Section VC reflect values which tend to be accepted without questioning. Those in Section VD reflect values which tend to be rejected without questioning. The emphasis is placed on using the cross-references to indicate the range of connotations of particular value words. The entries on value polarities, Section VP, do however list proverbs, aphorisms or quotations selected to illustrate the dynamic counter-intuitive relationship between constructive and destructive values.
They endeavour to draw on popular wisdom or insight to demonstrate the negative consequences and limitations of blind adherence to constructive values or to demonstrate the positive consequences and creative opportunity of judicious action in the light of destructive values. They point to the existence of a more fundamental and challenging dynamic than that implied, for example, by peace-at-all-costs and total rejection of conflict.
The index also includes an index (see Section VX) of 2,549 entries and a bibliography (see Section VY) of 398 items. Comments and explanations on the section are given in a set of Notes (see Section VZ)
Whilst it had been hoped to develop lists of values from documents of international bodies, no adequate lists of values were located, even within the intergovernmental agencies (such as UNESCO) specifically concerned with human values, and despite numerous reports and meetings on "values" in recent years. The values referred to are very seldom named, although the commonest may be cited as examples. The list presented here has therefore been elaborated by the editors as an experiment based on the selection and interrelationship of constructive and destructive value words.
This exploration of values is of special interest in relation to the world problems in Section P of the Encyclopedia. Many problems are named in international debate using a destructive value word (e.g. insufficient, unrealistic, unjust, inappropriate). Problems defined in this way imply the existence of some corresponding value whose expression is infringed by the problem -- a question under systematic investigation for the 1994 edition of the Encyclopedia. Such values may or may not be noted in defining the purposes underlying remedial action in response to the problem, although often they form part of the wording of any rallying slogan in support of some international strategy (Section S, 1986). But the set of constructive and destructive value words does indicate a way of coming to grips with the range of problems which the existing language renders perceivable and nameable. They also indicate possible dimensions of human development. This section is of course limited at this stage by the biases inherent in Roget's Thesaurus and the English language. It does however create a framework which could enable these limitations to be transcended.
(a) Values as "attractors"
To what extent does chaos theory offer new insights through which a richer approach to values can emerge? This should presumably strike a more fruitful balance between the relativism of individual values and a measure of collective constraint in a turbulent society.
One of the key insights of chaos theory is that of strange attractors. Is there a sense in which human values can be usefully understood as strange attractors?
A prime characteristic of a strange attractor is that it is defined as the focus of a pattern of seemingly chaotic behaviour. But it is the pattern that signals the presence of that focus which cannot be identified in any other way. Like strange attractors, human values do not manifest in any tangible manner but rather through interpretations of the way behaviour is governed. But the intangible attractor may indeed be a matter of of direct subjective experience under appropriate conditions of human development -- as practitioners of some spiritual traditions would claim.
There is certainly a sense in which behaviour can be understood as "meandering around" in such a way as to define attractor poles. Whilst there may be extremes, often of the most regrettable kind, behaviour is eventually pulled back into an orbit around one or more attractors. Some forms of behaviour may thus exhibit highly eccentric orbits, but the pull towards the attractor remains fundamental -- even if it may be barely sensed at its most extreme points by those involved.
There is also a sense in which behaviour may be described as trapped by particular attractors. However it may also drift in such a way as to be temporarily captured by another. From this perspective behaviour may be seen as swinging between and around attractors. Chaos theory may offer insights into the laws govering such behaviour.
There are also ways in which behaviour in society appears in some way to be "pulled forward" as a whole by the value complex and away from the disvalue complex. There may however be many doubts as to the nature of such "progress" and whether there is some Omega Point as a kind of psycho-social equivalent to the ultimate reversal of the cosmic Big Bang. Thus for Rupert Sheldrake: "The final unified attractor and the primal unified state of the Big Bang have a symmetrical relationship" (Abraham, et al, p. 11)
(b) "Strangeness" in value-governed behaviour
Maximization of behaviour in response to one value is subject to a well-known phenomenon of reversal -- named in classical Greek drama as enantiodromia (Thompson, 1985). In this sense no particular value is completely satisfactory to an individual or a social group -- especially when experienced in its purest form. Paradoxical attractions to other values emerge quite unexpectedly. Much has been made of this in romantic literature and many have experienced the communication problems between the sexes. Equivalent surprises in socio-political systems are also not lacking.
What in fact makes values valuable? As with dietary variation, it is as though there was a need to vary the pattern of behaviour by which development is nourished -- even to the point of pursuing the illusory greeness of more distant fields. Within this metaphor, there are those who yearn for a single complete foodstuff (a form of mana from heaven or the ultimate food-pill). Others speak in terms of a regular diet of certain basic foodstuffs (carbohydrates, protein, etc) required for human health -- with passionate claims for particular diets. But when it comes to taste, the preferences pursued vary enormously -- irrespective of the value to health. As such, the sociology of diet producers and consumers offers useful insights into the sociology of value producers and consumers. A number of computer studies of complexity are based on the supply of "foodstuffs" in ecosystems of artificial lifeforms. These could be adapted as a basis for studying values.
The current search for a sustainable pattern of "sustainable development" poses many dilemmas concerning the balance to be struck between the attractions of different values -- for many of which there are calls for maximization. For example, the key figure in the Brundtland Commission, responsible for the concept of sustainability, has agreed to reopen whaling from Norway in response to the appeals from local whaling communities whose cultural and economic heritage is endangered. There is an incredible naivety to the assumption that the values embodied in the different chapters of Agenda 21, recently approved by the Earth Summit, can be successfully balanced by treating each in isolation, or as the subject of bi-sectoral horsetrading deals. Any integrative perspective is significantly lacking -- especially after exclusion of the overpopulation issue (Judge, 1992).
Even in the much simpler situations of one-on-one psychotherapy, where integrative perspectives are assumed by both therapist and client, rationally agreed initiatives may prove relatively futile and unproductive. As a result one school of psychotheraphy favours "paradoxical" strategies to trigger more appropriate modes of behaviour. The client may be encouraged to engage in precisely that form of behaviour that is recognized to be dysfunctional and opposed to the values that he purportedly seeks to cultivate.
Many values, which at first sight seem completely positive, can induce behaviour that is recognized as dysfunctional -- to a degree that compensating behaviours based on incompatible or opposing values are called for. This paradoxical feature is well-recognized in oriental cultures, notably Taoist, for which positive qualities contain negative elements, just as negative qualities contain essential positive elements.
(a) Experiential phases and modes
The contents of the core sections of the Encyclopedia might be understood as linked over time in terms of the problems and values encountered under different challenges to human development. There are many concepts of the phases of human development (Section H). The possibility of such an ordering might best be illustrated through one which links such phases to value dilemmas.
It is instructive, for some purposes, to view phases as succeeding each other in time, possibly over a life cycle. It can also be useful to view such phases as being possible at any stage of a life cycle, but with different probabilities. It may therefore be more fruitful to to consider that an individual of any physical age can be at different experiential ages with respect to each value dilemma.
Different people may thus be faced by different dilemmas at the same stage of life cycle, or by the same dilemmas when they are at different stages of a life cycle.
(b) Value crises in a life cycle
In Erik Erikson's scheme (Childhood and Society, 1963), each individual goes through 8 stages in life. In each stage a value crisis is experienced which is crucial for continued development. The stages, with their corresponding crises are as follows:
Note that each value conflict is not resolved once and for all at the time the stage is traversed. It arises again at each subsequent stage of development. In transcending each crisis, it is neither necessary nor desirable to eliminate the negative portion of the value-polarity. The challenge is to ensure the emergence of an appropriate balance or dynamic between the two value extremes at each stage.
Resolution of any value dilemma cannot readily be based on any formula or argument. Whilst there may be logical arguments concerning the nature of the appropriate balance, these will be challenged by subtleties of experience that will highlight the existence of degrees of freedom other than those encompassed by any explicable pattern of concepts.
(c) Moral and ethical dilemmas (virtues and sins)
An effort has been made by Donald Capps (Deadly Sins and Saving Virtues, 1987) to relate the stages in this life-cycle theory to the traditional basic sins and corresponding virtues of the Christian tradition (taking into account reservations concerning male bias noted by critics of Erikson's original theory). This is of interest because of the view that such root sins engender other problems by a sort of "domino effect". Analogous views can be found in other traditions, notably the Buddhist.
To make such an inquiry more topical, such root afflictions, or psycho-social traps, need to be recognized at a group level rather than solely at the individual level. In this way the link to societal problems is more firmly established.
Capps associates a "deadly sin" with each stage. Each such sin is appropriate to the corresponding stage as a prominent factor in the moral or spiritual life of that period, whose basic psychodynamics it reflects. The sins are not rigidly tied to particular stages but are linked to them through their common psychodynamics. Sins may thus emerge earlier or later than the stage with which they are primarily associated. Capps elaborates an 8-fold set of sins in the following sequence corresponding to the above stages: gluttony, anger, greed, envy, pride, lust, apathy, melancholy. There are striking resemblances to the Buddhist equivalents (see Section PZ).
(d) Group sins or afflictions
With increasing reference in the 1980s to "corporate greed", it is interesting to explore the possible collective equivalents to these sins. In the light of Capps analysis, these might run as follows:
(e) Appropriate responses and saving virtuesTraditionally, and as developed by Erikson and Capps, there are characteristic saving virtues through which people can most effectively respond to the above sins. Equivalents are to be found in the Buddhist and other traditions. These too tend to become particularly significant at different stages of the life-cycle. Using the same sequence, they are as follows, again expressed in terms of what might be their collective equivalents:
In the Buddhist tradition, the equivalents might be considered to be the component elements of the Eightfold Noble Path:
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