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  1. #1
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Default Typology as a philosophical discipline

    I. Introduction
    At this point, three typological methods are known. The Jungian or those whose typological thought is grounded in Jung’s Psychological Types, such authors tend to see typology as a study of the human mind rather than human behavior. Leonore Thomson is arguably the most clear-cut example of a contemporary author who belongs to this school of thought. The Keirseyans, or those who believe that type is a very precise description of a person’s behavior and a reliable predictor of their future actions. And the last can be regarded as the Neo-Keirseyans who think that type is a rather tentative and not an absolute description of a person’s character and behavior. I argue that all three of these typological methodologies are inadequate. To correct this problem, I redefine typology and establish a new method of inquiry.

    II. Typology askew
    Today, we know of typology as a mere personality inventory and the MBTI test is frequently regarded as an instrument for people to discover who they are. Every so often, I see new members make introductory threads that can be paraphrased as follows. ‘A new ISTP here, or a hello from an ENFJ, I am an INFP and I am so forth and so on.’Clearly, people who make such remarks are under the impression that their MBTI test results constitute a part of their personality. In a thread about personal relationships similar comments are made. For example ‘as an INFJ, I like to talk about feelings or be very intense, how do I as an NF find people to relate to, or are ENFPs flakes? And so on.’

    One may wonder what has inspired such thought and in order to discover our answer, we need not look any further than David Keirsey’s celebrated work. In the very opening pages of Please Understand me, he states that if we know a person’s type we can predict what he or she will do. Consistently throughout the book, Keirsey continues to refer to a person’s type as a definitive feature of his or her personality. For instance, in his ENFP profile, he said claimed something to the effect of how they are natural optimists and happy go lucky people. About ESFJs, he said they like to gossip and as for INTJs that they are mountain-movers. On nearly all type profiles that we read with the exception of the Jungian, a similar reasoning chain is observed. In many cases we see an article heading resembling this; ‘INTJ-Mastermind, INTP-Thinker, ENTJ-Field Marshall.

    III. Why is the methodology above problematic?
    Let us suppose that a person takes an MBTI test at the age of 15 and scores as an ESTJ. His psychotherapist and a typology advisor may wonder why his test results came out the way they did. The most intuitive answer that would come to the specialist’s mind is that the person answered yes to questions that asked if he was outgoing, practical, rational and organized. Suppose that this teenager was subjected to the rigorous discipline of his father who was a priest and due to his father’s influence has was forced to develop outgoing and organized personality qualities. Conceivably, at the age of 25 when this person would have moved out of his father’s house, he may realize that being organized is not his nature hence he may score as an ESTP on his next test. Has his type changed? According to the agenda above, it certainly has because to be a certain type simply means to have certain characteristics.

    This raises a concern with respect to whether or not type is a logically coherent notion to begin with. The person in question undoubtedly behaves in a very reserved manner in some situations, yet in a very outgoing manner in others, in a very organized in some and in a very unstructured in others. Quite likely, the way he behaves is conditioned by his social environment as evidently his environment does demand that he behaves in a manner that is deemed as socially acceptable. With that in consideration, unless the person in question has an environment which imposes obligations upon him that are not easily altered, he will have a difficult time answering the question accurately. As a result, his type will simply wither away as it will indeed be volatile. An overwhelming majority of students of MBTI can report that they frequently do not know how to answer the test question as they have acted in both ways on some occasions and frequently do act in a manner that warrants both answers. As a result, a contradiction ensues on the account that a person is of a certain type and is not at the same time. This contradiction is resultant of the person answering affirmatively to questions that conduce to the categorization with regard to him or her being a certain type and not being that exact type. For instance, he or she may be compelled to say that they are both outgoing and reserved sometimes they are one and sometimes the other. Thus, by saying that they are reserved and outgoing, they claim that they are at once introverted (reserved) and at the same time extroverted (not introverted) or outgoing. In many cases, the conventional Keirseyan typology entails a direct contradiction or as many may notice, typology breaks down. Some special individuals may argue that they do have a consistent lifestyle and therefore do not exhibit contradictory behaviors most of the time and as a result, their MBTI type is indicative of how they behave in the majority of situations.
    Individuals who have such lifestyles are very rare and even more uncommon are individuals who manage to live in this manner for a long period of time. Even in the case of such people, the aforementioned contradictions do take place at least on occasion and that proves that the ‘blanket statements’ that we observe in Please Understand Me and conventional internet profiles are simply false. On that note, it is not the case that INFJs are exceptionally creative people or ENFPs are happy go lucky. If we conduct a linguistic analysis of the structure of the sentences above, we notice that the statements mean that all INFJs are exceptionally creative and all ENFPs are happy go lucky. If I say Xs are red, I do not by default impose any restrictions upon this statement and it is therefore to be interpreted as all Xs are red. Notably, the statement of some Xs are red merits a different interpretation on the account that in this case, clear-cut restrictions have been imposed upon the statement as the word ‘some’ specifies that the description of Xs does not all apply to all Xs. The second part of the proposition states that INFJs are creative and ENFPs are happy go lucky, the statements are clear and definitive. They are absolutist in nature. Hence, it states that the entities in question are happy go lucky or creative. No limitations have been imposed upon those propositions, therefore they must be interpreted as saying that ENFPs are always happy go lucky and INFJs are always exceptionally creative. The final product that we are left with is that Keirsey’s typology compels us to believe that all ENFPs are always happy go lucky and all INFJs are always exceptionally creative. An ENFP of course, as mentioned in the opening pages of Please Understand me is a person, an INFJ is another person. Hence, to be an ENFP, as aforementioned or to be an INFJ, you need to have certain personality qualities. The qualities that you need to have are as follows. In order to be an ENFP, you need to always be happy and go lucky and in order to be an INFJ, you always need to be exceptionally creative.

    In this context, will one be able to find a person who is a true ENFP or a true INFJ? Is any person always exceptionally creative? Moreover, is any person always happy go lucky? Manifestly, even the most creative people have their slumps as artists are known to go through periods of time when they are unable to produce original work and a writer’s block is a malaise that has been all too common for the majority of people who express their creativity through written word. Furthermore, even the most jovial of individuals find themselves going through periods of time when they are unable to radiate much enthusiasm. It therefore follows that no person fits the description of Keirsey’s type.

    IV. Neo-Keirseyan attempts at reconstruction of typology
    The apologists of MBTI advocate a mitigated interpretation of typology. In effect, they follow a system that is not Keirseyan, but rather Neo-Keirseyan or a reconstructed and a revised version of Keirsey’s system. In a loose sense, one may maintain that they have used the tools of modal logic to make a shift from Keirsey’s absolutist type descriptions to what may be called the occasionalist type descriptions. In other words, they have corrected the statement of Xs are always red by either proclaiming that Xs are frequently red as opposed to always or by maintaining that some Xs are always red. Thus, they say that INFJs are creative only some of the time, but quite frequently so.
    Although this approach certainly rescues the system from an immediate disaster, the underlying conceptual framework remains unclear. If an INFJ is defined as a person who is sometimes exceptionally creative, then the question that follows is how frequently must a person be exceptionally creative in order to be called an INFJ. An ENTJ, in their conceptual framework may be defined as a person who is sometimes exceptionally confident and outspoken, yet a person may be quite adequately described as having both character qualities, thus from these type descriptions alone, it is not possible to determine what the person’s type is. The Neo-Keirseyans may advocate revising their system further by claiming that an INFJ is a person who is first and foremost creative and an ENTJ is first and foremost confident. A person can, quite conceivably be first and foremost creative at one point of the day and first and foremost exceptionally confident at the other time of day. Frequently, he would not be able to decide which he is. For a short period of time, he may be able to, but then again type will describe merely something that he appears to be at the current moment and something that will likely change at some point in the future. Most people, however, under this system cannot be accurately assigned a type because their lifestyles tend not to be consistent enough to yield a clear-cut pattern of behaviors. Although Neo-Keirseyan typology is not incoherent like its ancestor system, it is not useful because most people cannot be accurately typed and with respect to those who can be typed, only malleable information is procured.
    Certain human resources managers have been advised to use typology as an instrument to help them assess the merits of a prospective employee. Counselors and social workers were advised to use typology as an instrument to assist them in devising a strategy with respect to solving mental health related problems that their patients are afflicted with. Doing so is a sinister error on the account that the majority of people will not be typed correctly and the prescriptions for those who have been typed correctly will be useful only for a short period of time.

    V. Reconstruction of typology
    Psychology is the discipline that deals with people as we know them or it deals with entities that we regard as human beings. Such a discipline is known for conducting a careful empirical investigation with respect to the character of the persons examined. As an honest science, the discipline of psychology demands that conjectures are supported by carefully controlled empirical investigations. One should ask why exactly this is done. The reason for this is because psychology or the study of human beings is an inquiry into natural phenomena, or entities that are to be observed in the physical world. This subject is altogether different from that of mathematics where the entities of study are purely abstract and conceptual. When we begin a thought experiment about the nature of a person, our observation of the person in question is in all cases the starting point. If we cease observing the person, our reasoning chain will likely become divorced from reality. Thus, necessarily, very strict standards of empirical observation must be imposed upon all scholars who study human beings. David Keirsey was a psychotherapist who doubtlessly did have experience observing people and his observations served as an inspiration for his thought-experiments. However, he conducted no empirical study that meets the requirements of rigor of the field of psychology. Thus, his method was chiefly conceptual but the subject of his inquiry was one that required more than mere arm-chair reasoning, it also required a genuine scientific account of the natural world phenomena.

    Carl Jung’s method was the same, however, despite the fact that his analysis was concerned with human beings, just like Keirsey, it was much less brazenly so. In other words, Jung made certain reservations with respect to how his statements describe people. For instance, the eminent psychologist frequently discussed the nature of mind and a variety of other phenomena that are not manifested in a person’s behavior such as neurosis, animus projection, psyche and so on. Notably, his type profiles are more concerned with the psychological states of people rather than their behaviors. By implication, a notion of a tendency of thought can be developed. It is precisely this concept that I have expounded upon and selected as the basis of my book on the subject, Principles of Typology.

    VI. Typology as a philosophical enterprise
    Philosophy is the study of the nature of the world that can be informed by empirical investigation, yet is primarily conceptual and abstract. Hence, subjects of metaphysics such as questions regarding free will, the nature of consciousness, the nature of the ultimate reality and the foundations of thought are quite common. What all of these subjects have in common is that although they could be aided by an empirical investigation, they are to be investigated chiefly by virtue of apriori reasoning or rationale rather than experience. Until the beginning of the 20th century, there was no significant distinction between science and philosophy in the academic world. At the time when Jung wrote, his work could be regarded as either philosophical or psychological interchangeably. Today, a scientific endeavor is necessarily informed by a rigorous empirical investigation. Accordingly, psychology by definition must be concerned with entities that are observable in the physical world. Thus, because Keirsey thought he was doing psychology, he assumed that the types of people are to be discovered in the physical, empirically observable world. Accordingly, by his lights, a person of a certain type is one who exhibits certain kinds of behaviors. In this essay, it has been evinced that such a view is incoherent. Hence, if typology cannot be adequately couched in the context of discourse regarding psychology, how can it be adequately couched within philosophical discourse?

    The implication of Jung’s work that a type defines a person’s cognitive tendencies rather than behaviors was clearly on the right track. Jung did not state this matter explicitly however I have elaborated upon his ideas and as a result derived the thesis that type as a cognitive predilection rather than a behavioral propensity. In order to furnish evidence with respect to the claim that the Jungian method is more plausible than the Kierseyan, it is necessary to see if the former’s approach circumvents the charges that could be pressed against the latter’s. The two indictments against Keirseyan and Neo-Keirseyan methodology is that it is incoherent, and that the Neo-Keirseyan, although coherent is not very useful. Is Jung’s typology coherent? In principle, the Jungian typology succumbs to a similar defect as the Keirseyan. It could be found subtly inconsistent on the account that a person’s mental constitution is heavily influenced by his external surroundings and therefore his thoughts, in a manner similar to his actions can be malleable. Thus, a person can be and not be a certain type simultaneously. In Jung’s case, however, the defects are not as obvious because the person’s mind is in tune with the core of his private thoughts which are not as easily influenced by his external surroundings as the behaviors he or she puts on display. In short, although similar contradictions do ensue in Jung’s system they should be less frequent. Jung’s system is also more useful on the account that a climate of person’s interior psychological nature is more indicative of his true, innermost essence than the behaviors he puts on display are. The drawback in this case is that the Jungian type is much more difficult to detect than the Keirseyan type on the account that patterns in one’s thought are much more difficult to detect than patterns in one’s behavior. Altogether, it is more difficult to detect the nature of one’s mental content rather than the nature of one’s behavior.

    How can the Jungian system be rescued from the errors described above? My recommendation is that a type should not be defined as how a person thinks, but rather as how a person tends to think. More clearly, an Extrovert is one who has a distinct tendency to be energized by interaction with the world rather than by contemplation. A person who has a solidified unconscious tendency to be energized by the external world rather than by contemplation can be defined as an extrovert. The definition of type as a solidified unconscious disposition is the thesis of my main work, Principles of Typology. Because Typology is a study of solidified unconscious dispositions, its main questions can be investigated in a primarily conceptual or a philosophical manner rather than psychological or empirical.

    Thereby, I have re-defined by stating that it is no longer the study of people but an analysis of consistent patterns of thought. On that note, what I have accomplished was not a contribution to the already existing academic enterprise of categorization of people that Jung and Keirsey were concerned with, but a founded a new field which may be called analytic typology, or pure typology.

    VII. Implications for philosophical research
    Since typology is merely a study of solidified patterns of thought, it may expand far beyond the Jungian roots. In other words, typology need not be about the cognitive faculties known as Thinking, Feeling, Intuition, Sensation, Extraversion and Introversion, but about all cognitive faculties that behave in a consistent manner. On that note, one may argue that the basic tendency in human nature with regard to avoiding pain and encountering pleasure is also a typological matter. On that note the tendency to fear death or to enjoy strawberry, or even any biological trait that humans have inherited from their ancestors can by all means be regarded as typological. In this sense, typology is hardly more than philosophy of psychology or a mainly conceptual analysis of the human mind. In this sense the discipline that I am working in is far from original as it has existed for a long period of time, however, the truly original notion is that typology should be a part of this discipline. For the sake of further clarity, it is important to define the nature of each type within the Jungian context. Introversion is simply a tendency to be energized primarily by contemplation rather than activity. Vice versa holds true for Extroversion. Perception is defined as purely unconscious activity of the mind. Sensation is the tendency to receive stimulation or positive emotion by engaging the world with one of the five senses. Intuition is the tendency to procure positive emotion by exercising the intellect or assigning mental entities to what has been perceived by the senses. Intuition can also be seen as a tendency to create mental content on the basis of what has been perceived sensually. In a very loose sense, Intuition is the essence of mind or of all thought. A person with of an Intuitive type as a general rule has a tendency to exercise the mind more than the senses. Judging faculties are more conscious than unconscious. Feeling is the faculty of conscious perception itself or the emotive motivator, in a very approximate sense it can be equated with the ego. One way to view feeling is as a connector between the conscious and the unconscious. To clarify the matter further, if feeling did not exist within a person’s psychic economy, he or she would have no conscious awareness of any mind-state as he would not have an ego and therefore any mind-state that takes place in his unconscious is not deemed important enough to be taken note of. Without feeling, a valuation process would be impossible and a person will have no opportunity to distinguish between the desired and the undesired. In fact, since Feeling is the ego itself or the sole motivator for all actions, no activity would be possible without this cognitive faculty. One may retort that some people are quite rational and are not motivated by mere feelings as they are guided by a well thought out rationale. That is true, however, in that case their well reasoned thought-process led them to a mind-state where they were eager to assent to a decision making scheme where a thoughtful action is to be preferred over one that is motivated by a mere sentiment. Thus, the fact that Feeling alone does not serve as a guide for a person’s actions does not show that Feeling is not the primary motivator for a person’s actions. In short, whatever decision a person arrives at, the fact that he is making a decision shows that he has a positive sentiment directed towards such a decision or he has the will, the motivation or in other words a Feeling of desirability towards the elected course of action. By definition of such a mind-state, he or she exercises the Feeling faculty. Introversion and Extroversion apply to all of these processes of cognition. The salient distinction between an Extroverted Intuitive type and an Introverted is that one’s cognitive faculties are most easily stimulated by interaction and the cognitive faculties of the other are most easily stimulated by contemplation.

    VIII. Implications for Psychological research
    Despite the fact that genuine typological investigation requires a careful empirical inquiry, typology as a philosophical discipline can be of assistance. Making a hypothesis is a significant part of any empirical investigation and certainly is a significant part of psychology. Thus, having a clear conceptual notion of what a type is will allow a psychologist to properly set up the relevant study. How could the relevant study be conducted and what are the plausible questions that need to be asked. In order to understand what the plausible questions are, it is important to have a clear idea with regard to what the unacceptable questions are. Questions that pertain to the entirety of the type are unacceptable. For example, what are the NTs like? It must be noted that people are heavily influenced by their circumstances. Hence, at best, a researcher can examine how NTs are like in the context of their cultural framework, lifestyle, education and past personal history. In that case, type will only be a one contributing factor to the essence of a person’s character rather than a defining feature of his personality as Keirsey may suggest it should be. For instance, if a person is an intuitive type, one of his motivations may be to seek out cognitive or cerebral activities. Notably, this proposition must be viewed as a ‘may be’ notion because his type attests to nothing other then that the person in question merely has a tendency to engage in contemplation. This does not guarantee that he will do so. Whether or not he will have an opportunity to true to his natural tendencies is a question that is contingent on the circumstances of his environment.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member wank's Avatar
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    Jul 2009


    I've thought about this at some length as well and came to some general regard of the same conclusions. This was a pleasant write-up.
    Everyone is a case study.

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    My question is: why does typology work to the extent that it does?
    "Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible." - Mac Anderson

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    Quote Originally Posted by EricHanson View Post
    My question is: why does typology work to the extent that it does?
    Because human behavior (behavioral patterns) is highly predictable. However, I don't think typology in itself is significant enough to be deemed as a "philosophical discipline".

  5. #5


    I like the general thrust of your thinking here, SW.

    The questions that I have are regarding the mechanisms of connecting the philosophical inquiry of typology with the empirical psychological inquiry. IMO, The best science is done when these types of inquiry have a healthy flow of ideas between them.

    To make things more concrete, I believe that Temperament and Interaction Style is easier to see and measure than functions. Nevertheless, I agree with you that taking note of functions (as "solidified unconscious tendenc[ies]") gets closer to a persons true nature.

    It seems to me, that a philosophical inquiry into how functions relate to (or rather generate) temperaments and interaction styles is of paramount importance.

    Temperaments can be cataloged relatively simply in terms of functions:
    • Se in top two=SP
    • Si in top two=SJ
    • Ne+Fi or Ni+Fe in top two = NF
    • Ne+Ti or Ni+Te in top two = NT

    I know you have done some work ranking types as being most or least like a temperament. It would be interesting to look at that again.

    Interaction Styles are relatively harder to relate to functions. If assign points to the position in the canonical order of functions up to the tertiary in the following manner: Primary=3 points, Secondary = 2 points, Tertiary = 3 points, we find:
    • Chart-The-Course : Highest score for Ni (7 points), lowest score for Ne (0 points)
    • In-Charge : Highest score for Te (6 points), lowest score for Fi (0 points)
    • Get-Things-Going : Highest score for Ne (7 points), lowest score for Ni (0 points)
    • Behind-The-Scenes : Highest Score for Fi (6 points), lowest score for Te (0 points)

    Note that despite the numerical approach, this calculation would fall under "philosophical" inquiry. It is also somewhat arbitrary.

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by EricHanson View Post
    My question is: why does typology work to the extent that it does?
    MBTI appears to work for exactly the same reasons astrology seems to work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RaptorWizard View Post
    RaptorWizard's responce to SolitaryWalker's Typology as a philosophical discipline thread:

    We must wonder whether typology is even a logically consistent enough of a system to accurately order people into set psychological categorizations to begin with, let alone adaptable enough to account for the vast diversity of people in the world. Due to external factors and conditioning, perhaps one could act contrary to their true nature, their true personality, and even test as such. After all, people can indeed act differently than their natural personality would dictate, based on adjusting to the environment. Due to this lack of behavioral consistency, one can conclude Keirsey’s typology to be incomplete, which is based solely on behavior. If even a fully self-mastered man were to accomplish qualities stereotypically associated with different types, the foundations would further fissure. Perhaps though, the psychological states of people and the patterns of their reasoning as well as thought dynamics could be greater concepts from which to construct a typology, founded from a philosophical framework. Philosophy could be defined as a primarily conceptual and abstract study of the world, asking such questions as follows:
    1. Is it possible for the mind to divine free will, to control cause and effect?
    2. What is the nature of consciousness, the ways in which we see and perceive things?
    3. What is the ultimate nature of reality, the existential system designing all creation?
    4. What are the foundations of thought, the forge from which the mind constructs?
    These questions all address the mental makeup of an individual, and as such, these things are more difficult to directly detect. Typology is thereby a study of solidified patterns of thought, and one’s natural tendencies, not consistently contingent with environmental circumstances.

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    If mbti, strangely here known as typology, were a philosophical discipline it would be taught in Philosophy Departments, but it's not.

    But the fact is that mbti subjects itself to no discipline whatsoever. For in 75 years mbti has not been disciplined with even on random double blind experiment.

    And this is the charm for those unable to discipline themselves - the undisciplined love the undisciplined mbti. It's a marriage made in heaven.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Jaguar's Avatar
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    Concision was never his strong suit.
    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
    — Mark Twain

  10. #10
    Senior Member Little_Sticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    MBTI appears to work for exactly the same reasons astrology seems to work.
    Astrology is based on the principle of synchronicity. The "influence of the stars" does not exist in a causal sense. There is no causal influence at all. Astrology "works" - if this is the right word - in the way inscribed on the tabula smaragdina:

    What is below is like what is above.
    And what is above is like what is below,
    so that the miracle of the One may be accomplished.

    One could say that the universal is reflected in the specific. It should therefore be possible to draw conclusions regarding earthly events from planetary constellations.

    Liz Greene: The positions of the heavens at a particular moment in time, by reflecting the qualities of that moment, also reflect the qualities of anything born at that moment. [...] One does not cause the other; they are synchronous, and mirror each other.

    This is no doubt an extended notion of synchronicity, because it does not simply refer to an individual and his relationship with his direct environment. In fact, it sees everything in the universe as being interconnected in a meaningful way. This attitude of assuming meaningful connections between phenomena which occur simultaneously is common to astrology and Jung's synchronicity.
    It's interesting then that those who choose not to see meaning, won't find it. Psychology is funny that way, I guess, because once someone releases the power that expectations can have over themself, they are free to see the power that it holds over other people. In a way, it's a way of being that goes against notions of what psychology aims to illuminate because it denies the power of "influence". If we control our minds, psychology can know nothing about them, because we choose our influence and not the external and social world.

    Psychology then kind of downplays our own significance in favor of external ones; this I do not think I can respect very much, as giving people answers that may turn out badly or wrong will not help such people with their problems of existence. But giving someone an understanding of the power their mind has over interpreting the world, gives them the potential freedom to make the best choices about it. And that, in my opinion, is the best anyone could hope for.

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