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Encyclopedia > John Searle
Western Philosophy
Contemporary philosophy
John Rogers Searle
Name: John Searle
Birth: July 31, 1932
School/tradition: Analytic philosophy
Main interests: Philosophy of language, Intentionality, Philosophy of mind, Artificial intelligence, Social Reality
Notable ideas: Speech acts, Chinese room
Influences: J. L. Austin, G. E. Moore, Gilbert Ryle, P. F. Strawson

John Rogers Searle (born July 31, 1932 in Denver, Colorado) is the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, and is noted for contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and consciousness, on the characteristics of socially constructed versus physical realities, and on practical reason. He was awarded the Jean Nicod Prize in 2000. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1704x2272, 1548 KB) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... July 31 is the 212th day (213th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 153 days remaining. ... Year 1932 (MCMXXXII) was a leap year starting on Friday (the link will take you to a full 1932 calendar). ... Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to prominence during the 20th Century. ... Philosophy of language is the reasoned inquiry into the nature, origins, and usage of language. ... Intentionality, originally a concept from scholastic philosophy, was reintroduced in contemporary philosophy by the philosopher and psychologist Franz Brentano in his work Psychologie vom Empirischen Standpunkte. ... A Phrenological mapping of the brain. ... Hondas humanoid robot AI redirects here. ... The speech act is a concept in linguistics and the philosophy of language. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... John Langshaw Austin (March 28, 1911 - February 8, 1960) was a philosopher of language, who developed much of the current theory of speech acts. ... George Edward Moore George Edward Moore, also known as G.E. Moore, (November 4, 1873 - October 24, 1958) was a distinguished and hugely influential English philosopher who was educated and taught at the University of Cambridge. ... Gilbert Ryle (1900–1976), was a philosopher, and a representative of the generation of British ordinary language philosophers influenced by Wittgensteins insights into language, and is principally known for his critique of Cartesian dualism, for which he coined the phrase the ghost in the machine. He referred to some... Professor Sir Peter Frederick Strawson (November 23, 1919 – 13 February 2006) was an English philosopher. ... July 31 is the 212th day (213th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 153 days remaining. ... Year 1932 (MCMXXXII) was a leap year starting on Friday (the link will take you to a full 1932 calendar). ... Nickname: The Mile-High City Location of Denver in Colorado Coordinates: Country United States State Colorado City-County Denver (coextensive) Founded November 22, 1858 Incorporated November 7, 1861  - Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) Area    - City  154. ... This article is 58 kilobytes or more in size. ... Sather tower (the Campanile) looking out over the San Francisco Bay and Mount Tamalpais. ... Philosophy of language is the reasoned inquiry into the nature, origins, and usage of language. ... A Phrenological mapping of the brain. ... Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and ones environment. ... -- Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut In philosophy, practical reason is the application of reason to real-world decision-making (ie. ... The Jean Nicod Prize is awarded annually in Paris to a leading philosopher of mind or philosophically oriented cognitive scientist. ... This article is about the year 2000. ...

Contents

Biography

Aside from strict academics, Professor Searle was also the first tenured professor to join the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley. He later published a book on the subject, The Campus War: A Sympathetic Look At the University in Agony (1971). The Free Speech Movement was a student protest which began in 1964 - 1965 on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley under the informal leadership of student Mario Savio and others. ...


He frequently comments on philosophical and political topics for the New York Review of Books. A collection of his reviews on the topic of consciousness was collected as The Mystery of Consciousness (1997). The New York Review of Books (or NYRB) is a biweekly magazine on literature, culture, and current affairs published in New York which takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity. ...


Searle was educated at Christ Church, Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He often publishes under the name "J. R. Searle." College name Christ Church Named after Jesus Christ Established 1546 Sister College Trinity College Dean The Very Revd Christopher Andrew Lewis JCR President William Dorsey Undergraduates 426 MCR or GCR President {{{MCR President}}} Graduates 154 Home page Boat Club Christ Church (Latin: Ædes Christi, the temple or house of Christ... The University of Oxford, located in the city of Oxford in England, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. ... This does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...


The landlord and the city government

Some Berkeley residents still call Searle a "notorious slumlord" for his investment in significant amounts of rental housing in the area; however some of Searle's tenants say he is fair and keeps the properties they rent in good repair. A slum lord (also spelled slumlord) is a derogatory term assigned to some landlords, who maximize profit by spending little on property maintenance and conversely charging low rents to tenants, often in deteriorating neighborhoods. ...


In the late 1980s, Searle petitioned the rental board to raise the limits on how much he could charge tenants under the city's 1980 rent stabilization act.[1] The rental board refused to consider Searle's petition and Searle filed suit against the city, charging a violation of due process. In 1990, in what came to be known as the "Searle Decision", the California Supreme Court upheld Searle's rights and Berkeley was forced to rethink its rent control policy, leading to what city government spokespeople referred to as "significantly increased rent levels in Berkeley".[2] Others argue that reducing government regulation has led to a fairer market in housing.


Philosophy

Speech acts and their illocutionary force

Searle's early works built on the efforts of his teachers J. L. Austin and P. F. Strawson. In particular Searle's Speech Acts sets out to develop Austin's analysis of illocutionary acts, acts performed in saying something, as exposed in How To Do Things with Words. In Searle's analysis the sentences (Speech Acts p. 22) John Langshaw Austin (March 28, 1911 - February 8, 1960) was a philosopher of language, who developed much of the current theory of speech acts. ... Professor Sir Peter Frederick Strawson (November 23, 1919 – 13 February 2006) was an English philosopher. ... The speech act is a concept in linguistics and the philosophy of language. ... Illocutionary act is a technical term introduced by John L. Austin in investigations concerning what he calls performative and constative utterances. According to Austins original exposition in How to Do Things With Words, an illocutionary act is an act (1) for the performance of which I must make it... John Langshaw Austin (March 28, 1911 - February 8, 1960) was a philosopher of language, who developed much of the current theory of speech acts. ...

  1. Sam smokes habitually.
  2. Does Sam smoke habitually?
  3. Sam, smoke habitually!
  4. Would that Sam smoked habitually.

each have the same propositional content, Sam smoking, yet they differ in their illocutionary force, respectively a statement, a question, a command and an expression of desire.


Searle originally assumes that the illocutionary forces of a sentence consists in the subjection of this sentence to certain specifiable rules. These rules set out the circumstances under which it is admissible to utter the sentence, and what this uttering counts as. Searle assumes four general categories of such rules: propositional content, preparatory conditions, sincerity condition, and general intent.


In order to provide an account of the illocutionary forces to which sentences are supposed to be subject, he sets out to develop an account of "illocutionary acts" in three steps (see Searle 1969, 54): (a) to provide an analysis of the act type of promising, assuming that it is a prototypical example of such an "illocutionary act"; (b) to test the categories used in this analysis in application to other (supposed) "illocutionary act types"; (c) finally, to define what "illocutionary acts" are supposed to be in terms of those categories which apply to each of these types. It is, however, not easy to see where step 3 is supposed to be executed (see Searle 1969, chapter 3). Furthermore, it can be asked whether there is any hope to proceed along the lines of this program at all; at least, according to Searle's own analysis, hardly one of the categories applied in the analysis of promising does apply to each and every illocutionary act type (see Searle 1969, 64 ff.).


According to Searle's original account in 'Speech Acts', illocutionary acts involve the production of conventional consequences, such as rights, duties, and obligations. In the view he adopts, these conventional consequences are constituted by those rules which make up the meaning of a sentence indicating the performance of the act. Thus, when I state that Napoleon died at Elba by saying "Napoleon died at Elba" then I thereby commit myself to the truth of the proposition that Napoleon died at Elba; and the commitment I undertake is constituted by the meaning of the English sentence "Napoleon died at Elba". One might object that I can make the same statement without using a sentence indicating the performance of the act: against this Searle argues with reference to what he calls the "principle of expressibility", which says that whatever is meant might as well have been said.


According to Searle, illocutionary acts typically have some specifiable propositional content. For instance, a request that Bill leave the room will have as its content 'that Bill leaves the room'. Some illocutions have no propositional content, e.g. greeting someone.


Certain background conditions are necessary for the success of illocutionary acts, many of which are characteristic for certain types. For instance, to successfully perform a request, it is necessary that the hearer be able to perform the requested action and that the speaker believe that the hearer can perform the action. For a greeting to be successful, the hearer and the speaker will have either just met or just been introduced. Searle called these preparatory conditions.


Illocutionary acts can be insincere. In order, for example, for a statement to be performed sincerely it is necessary that the person performing it believes herself that what she is stating is true; and in order to sincerely ask a question, the speaker has to want the answer. Searle called this the sincerity condition. Sincerity it is not necessary for the mere occurrence of the act, but if insincerity is present the act is "defective".


According to Searle, each illocution can be described in terms of, either what the utterance counts as, or what the speaker is attempting to do in issuing it. So an assertion counts as a commitment to the truth of the content; a question counts as an attempt to elicit some information. Thanking someone counts as an expression of gratitude. This assumed intent of the speaker became a prime focus in Searle’s later work.


Searle's speech-act theory has been challenged by several thinkers, and in a variety of ways. A wide-ranging critique is in F C Doerge Illocutionary Acts[3]. Whole collections of articles referring to Searle's account are: Burkhardt 1990 [4] and Lepore / van Gulick 1991[5]. See also Jacques Derrida 'Limited Inc'[6] and, in (brief) reply, Searle 'The Construction of Social Reality'[7].


Intentionality and the intentional Background

Searle next generalised this rules-based description of illocutionary force, treating it as a specific case of intentionality. (Intentionality is a technical philosophical term meaning aboutness, indicating that someone has attached some meaning to an object, such as a belief about it, possession of it, contempt towards it, and so on. It includes, but is somewhat larger than, the ordinary use of intention). He focuses on a property of intentional phenomena called their direction of fit[8]. For example, when one sees a flower, one's mental state is made to fit with the state of the world. The direction of fit is mind-to-world. But if one raises one's hand to pick the flower, one is aiming to make the world fit with one's mental state. So the direction of fit is world-to-mind. Intentionality, originally a concept from scholastic philosophy, was reintroduced in contemporary philosophy by the philosopher and psychologist Franz Brentano in his work Psychologie vom Empirischen Standpunkte. ... In philosophy of mind, direction of fit is the distinguishing feature between two types of intentional mental states: facta (singular factum) are states with a mind-to-world direction of fit. ...


He also introduces a technical term, [the] Background[9], which has been the source of some philosophical discussion. Roughly speaking it is the context within which an intentional act occurs, and in particular contains all that is presupposed by that act. Importantly, it includes the actor's understanding of the world, including that others can and do participate in intentional activities. (There is a parallel here with Wittgenstein's Private language argument; Searle has also said "the work of the later Wittgenstein is in large part about the Background, especially On Certainty"[10]). The idea of a private language was made famous in philosophy by Ludwig Wittgenstein, who in section 243 of his book Philosophical Investigations explains it thus: ‘The words of this language are to refer to what can be known only to the speaker; to his immediate, private, sensations. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ...


To give an example, two chess players might be engaged in a bitter struggle at the board, but they share all sorts of Background presuppositions: that they will take turns to move, that no-one else will intervene, that they are both playing to the same rules, that the fire alarm won't go off, that the board won't suddenly disintegrate, that their opponent won't magically turn into a grapefruit, and so on indefinitely. As most of these possibilites won't have occured to either player[11], Searle thinks the Background must be unconscious, though elements of it can be called to consciousness (if the fire alarm does go off, say).


Strong AI

See also: Strong AI vs. Weak AI

John Searle is very well known for his development of a thought experiment, called the "Chinese room" argument, directed against what he calls "strong AI". He sets out to show that human thought is not simply computation. The point of his argument is that a computational process in itself does not imply an 'understanding' of events and processes. Simply put, Searle tries to show that we can imagine entities that do not 'understand' things like a language, but nevertheless can process such information as, e.g., linguistic signs. In the philosophy of artificial intelligence, Strong AI vs. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Hondas humanoid robot AI redirects here. ...


There has been a great deal of controversy over the examples he uses to demonstrate this. In his "Chinese room argument", Searle describes a scenario in which a person is isolated in a room. The individual receives pieces of paper marked with Chinese characters from under the door. Even though the person does not understand Chinese, if there is a formal sorting process for the characters then they can be filed into a meaningful order. The room is supposed to be an analogy for a computer. Those who argue the point say that the analogy should hold for the entire brain. They maintain that "a person's understanding of Chinese is an emergent property of the brain and not a property possessed by any one part."[12]


The argument should perhaps be viewed as part of a broader positive position on the issue of the relations of mind and body. Searle opposes both dualism and reductionism in favor of a position he calls "biological naturalism." This view characterizes consciousness as an emergent phenomenon of the organism that is an entirely physical property (analogous to the way the pressure of gas in a container is an emergent property of many gas molecules colliding). While there may very well be machine designs that are conscious the way humans are (indeed, he points out that humans are "one such machine"), his point is that this consciousness does not arise per se out of the information interchange within the brain itself. A mechanical device that operated identically to the human brain would not necessarily produce a conscious mind. René Descartes illustration of dualism. ... Descartes held that non-human animals could be reductively explained as automata — De homines 1622. ... Biological Naturalism states that consciousness is a higher level function of the human brains physical capabilities. ...


Intentionality lies at the heart of Searle's Chinese Room argument against artificial intelligence which proposes that since minds have intentionality, but computational processes do not, minds cannot be intentional in virtue of carrying out computations. The whole point of the Chinese Room is to expound on the point that syntax does not imply semantics; in Searle's words: This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Hondas humanoid robot AI redirects here. ...

[i]t's ludicrously simple. Minds are defined by the possession of mental phenomena -- consciousness, intentionality. Computer operations are defined syntactically, in terms of formal symbol manipulation. And that's neither sufficient by itself for, nor constitutive of, consciousness. ... The funny thing is that in all these years nobody's got that point. [2]

Ontological vs epistemic subjectivity

Searle calls factual judgements 'epistemically objective' and value judgements 'epistemically subjective'[13]. In both cases the contrasting qualifier is 'ontological'. The following examples will illustrate this: A value judgment is a judgment of the rightness or wrongness of something based on a particular set of values or on a particular value system. ...

A. "McKinley is higher than Everest"
B. "McKinley looks higher than Everest (to me)"
C. "McKinley looks prettier than Everest (to me)"
D. "McKinley really is prettier than Everest"

B and C should be construed as reporting the speaker's sense data, so they will be true if the speaker is telling the truth about how things seem to them. Hence B might be true even though its propositional content (A) is false, and C might be true even though its propositional content (D) is a value judgement. Denali redirects here. ... The Everest entry redirects here. ... The concept of sense data (singular: sense datum) is very influential and widely used in the philosophy of perception. ...


A scientist can refute A by measuring both mountains, whereas to refute B and C they could at best try administering a lie-detector test or a brain-scan on the speaker. To use Searle's terminology[14], the actual heights of mountains have an objective ontology, but someone's impressions of their heights (or prettiness) have a subjective ontology. So scientific investigation of D may not be possible at all, because D makes an (ontologically) objective claim about an (epistemically) subjective judgement.


Searle thinks his proposed senses of 'objective/subjective' are crucial to neurology: "The fact that many people have back pains, for example, is an objective fact of medical science...but the mode of existence of these pains is subjective"[15]. In a notoriously ill-tempered exchange in the New York Review of Books[16], Searle accused Daniel Dennett[17] of excluding back pains from the data of science because of a mistaken view that science requires (ontologically) objective data, whereas in Searle's view[18] it is merely necessary to analyse data with (epistemic) objectivity. Hence, a science that excludes subjective data will be incomplete. This view is highly controversial. The New York Review of Books (or NYRB) is a biweekly magazine on literature, culture, and current affairs published in New York which takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity. ... Daniel Clement Dennett (b. ...


Social intentionality

Searle provides a strong theoretical basis for the application of intentionality in a social context (see Intentionality, above). In Collective intentions and actions Searle seeks to explain collective intentions as a distinct form of intentionality. In his previous work he has provided rules-based accounts of language and intentionality. He develops this theme by looking for a set of rules that are essential for collective intentionality. Intentionality, originally a concept from scholastic philosophy, was reintroduced in contemporary philosophy by the philosopher and psychologist Franz Brentano in his work Psychologie vom Empirischen Standpunkte. ...


Searle supports this analysis with five theses. The first three are:

1. Collective intentional behaviour exists, and is not the same as the summation of individual intentional behaviour.
2. Collective intentions cannot be reduced to individual intentions.
3. The preceding two theses are consistent with two constraints:
a. Society consists of nothing but individuals; there is no such thing as group mind or group consciousness.
b. Individual or group intentionality is independent of the truth or falsehood of the beliefs of the individual.

In order to satisfy these theses, Searle develops a notation for collective intentionality that links an individual intention with a collective one, but keeps the two types of intentions distinct. In effect, an individual intention can have as its outcome a collective intention. Forming a collective intention presupposes that one understands that others can participate in the intention. Therefore:

4. Collective intentionality presupposes a Background sense of the other as a social actor – as being able to participate in collective activities.

Together, these theses lead to the claim that:

5. The theory of intentionality, together with the notion of a Background, are able to explain collective intentionality.

Constructing social reality

Searle has more recently applied his analysis of intentionality to social constructs. His interest is in the way in which certain aspects of our world come into being as a result of the combined intentionality of those who make use of them. For example, a five dollar note is a five dollar note only in virtue of collective intentionality. It is only because I think it is worth five dollars and you think it is worth five dollars that it can perform its economic function. This is entirely independent of the supposed role of the government in backing the value of its currency. Imagine a case in which you were attempting to make a purchase from someone who did not recognise the value of the note. Until you can convince them of its value, all you have is a coloured piece of paper. Such socially constructed objects permeate our lives. The language we use, ownership of property and relations with others depend fundamentally on such implicit intentionalities. Searle extends his analysis of social reality to the creation of institutions such as marriage and universities. He claims that the value of the five dollar note and the institution of a university are created by the function of three fundamental primitives: collective intentionality, the assignment of function, and constitutive rules. Intentionality, originally a concept from scholastic philosophy, was reintroduced in contemporary philosophy by the philosopher and psychologist Franz Brentano in his work Psychologie vom Empirischen Standpunkte. ... A social construction, social construct or social concept is an institutionalized entity or artifact in a social system invented or constructed by participants in a particular culture or society that exists because people agree to behave as if it exists, or agree to follow certain conventional rules, or behave as...


Searle’s approach to social construction is quite distinct and divergent from those who would suggest that there is no such thing as a mind-independent reality – that what we call reality is a social construct. Towards the end of The Construction of Social Reality Searle presents an argument for realism. His arguments are not for the social construction of reality but rather construction of social reality. He claims that "all of social reality has a logical structure and that structure is linguistically constituted" in a paper titled Social Reality and Linguistic Representation. Look up realism, realist, realistic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Related topics

In linguistics and semiotics, pragmatics is concerned with bridging the explanatory gap between sentence meaning and speakers meaning. ... -- Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut In philosophy, practical reason is the application of reason to real-world decision-making (ie. ... AI, see Ai. ... In the philosophy of artificial intelligence, Strong AI vs. ... The Jean Nicod Prize is awarded annually in Paris to a leading philosopher of mind or philosophically oriented cognitive scientist. ... Language/Action Perspective (LAP) is based upon the notion as proposed by Terry Winograd that expert behavior requires an exquisite sensitivity to context [1] and that such sensitivity is more in the realm of the human than in that of the artificial. ...

References

  1. ^ See Searle v. City of Berkeley Rent Stabilization Bd. (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d 1251, 1253 [243 Cal.Rptr. 449]
  2. ^ City of Berkeley, "Housing Element"
  3. ^ Doerge (Friedrich Christoph), Illocutionary Acts - Austin's Account and What Searle Made Out of It Tuebingen University (2006) [1]
  4. ^ Burkhardt, Armin (ed.), Speech Acts, Meaning and Intentions: Critical Approaches to the Philosophy of John R. Searle. Berlin / New York 1990.
  5. ^ Lepore, Ernest / van Gulick, Robert (eds): John Searle and his Critics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1991.
  6. ^ Jacques Derrida. Limited Inc. Evanston, Il.: Northwestern University Press, 1988, 2000.
  7. ^ Searle The Construction of Social Reality (1995) p.157-160
  8. ^ G E M Anscombe, Intention (1959)
  9. ^ Searle, Intentionality (1983), The Rediscovery of the Mind (1992) ch.8
  10. ^ Searle, The Rediscovery of the Mind (1992) p.177
  11. ^ ibid, p.185
  12. ^ about.com biography. (URL accessed 16 March 2006).
  13. ^ Searle, Mind, Language and Society (1999) p.44
  14. ^ Searle, The Mystery of Consciousness (1997) p.113-4
  15. ^ ibid, p.122
  16. ^ ibid, ch.5
  17. ^ Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained (1991)
  18. ^ Searle, The Mystery of Consciousness (1997) p.123

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
John Searle

Image File history File links Wikiquote-logo-en. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online database of information about motion pictures, actors, movie stars, TV shows, TV stars, production crew personnel, movie pictures, cast, crew as well as video games. ... Philosophy Talk is a radio program that is co-hosted by John Perry and Kenneth Taylor, who are Professors at Stanford University. ...

Further reading

By John Searle:

  • Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of language, (1969)
  • The Campus War, (1971)
  • Expression and Meaning, (1979)
  • "Minds, Brains and Programs", The Behavioral and Brain Sciences.3, pp. 417-424. (1980)
  • Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind (1983), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-52127302-1
  • Minds, Brains and Science (1984), Harvard University Press, hardcover: ISBN 0-67457631-4, paperback: ISBN 0-67457633-0
  • "Is the Brain a Digital Computer?" (1990) Presidential Address to the American Philosophical Association
  • "Collective Intentions and Actions".(1990) in Intentions in Communication J. M. P. R. Cohen, & M. and E. Pollack. Cambridge, Mass.: . MIT Press: 401-416.
  • The Rediscovery of the Mind (1992) ISBN 0-262-69154-X
  • The Construction of Social Reality (1995)
  • The Mystery of Consciousness, Granta Books, (1997) hardcover: ISBN 1-86207122-5, New York Review Books paperback: ISBN 0-94032206-4
  • Consciousness Ann. Rev. Neurosci. (2000) 23:557-78. Review.
  • Rationality in Action, MIT Press, (2001) – contains (among other things) Searle's account of akrasia
  • Consciousness and Language (2002), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-52159744-7
  • Mind: A Brief Introduction (2004), Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515733-8
  • The Storm Over the University

  Results from FactBites:
 
The Rediscovery of the Mind, by John R. Searle (5613 words)
John Searle is an analytic philosopher, with some of the same notions as the positivists and behaviorists who rejected consciousness and "lost" the mind in the first place, but he also does not sound like the kind of reductionist who would have joined that crowd.
Searle is content with "the obvious facts of physics," but the fact is that science simply cannot deal with the truths of being and value, of metaphysics and ethics, since an empirical (observational, experimental) method bears with it an externalist bias.
Searle's desire to distinguish spontaneous mental acts from reflective ones can be well taken, but he seems to overlook some of the familiar and common sense reasons why the two got confused in the first place.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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