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Adagio's avatar

"We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are." ~ Anaïs Nin ~Would you agree?

Asked by Adagio (10665 points ) March 3rd, 2010

When I first read these words several years ago they came as an epiphany, striking me as insightful and relevant. Whatever I see and think is coloured by the things that have shaped my life up until that point and it is through those eyes and that mindset that I evaluate everything. In short, the shape of my present experience is fashioned by my past. And my past fashions the person I am today and the person I am becoming. To a greater or lesser extent this shaping can be manipulated e.g. by counselling but so much of what happens to me alters the blueprint of the person I am and the way in which I view things, everything. I also realise that the present shapes the way I see and describe my past.
I’ve thought much about Anaïs Nin’s words over the years and they seem only more relevant as time passes. I am interested to know what others think and whether this is something they have ever contemplated.

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25 Answers

Trillian's avatar

It’s called your “Lens of perception” and it does indeed, color and influence what you see, or perceive.

davidbetterman's avatar

It is true for many, while the rest of us see things as they are.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Absolutely. The world is filtered through both the physical limitations of our senses and the mental limitations of our ability to process that information in a way that makes sense. All we have to do that with is our senses. It’s possible that the world is very different from our perceptions in reality, but it’s impossible to see it or understand it in our current state as a species.

ChaosCross's avatar

In most cases yes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, you know.

Cruiser's avatar

Yes as you get older you become more acquainted with your twisted preconceived ideals and the reality that there is little you can do about any of it.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Reality Tunnel… Robert Anton Wilson

filmfann's avatar

I totally agree. Lurve for quoting Nin.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

If the quotation is accurate, then when I see Schrodinger’s cat, am I alive or dead?

keobooks's avatar

About a week ago, I heard a bit on NPR that there was a sociological research group that discovered that people naturally filter information through their own personal bias.

That’s why when you have a certain political opinion and your friend has the opposite, you can look at the same articles with the same information about topic and still hold to your original opinions. You’ll also both wonder “how can that person hold the wrong opinion when looking at this plethora of evidence that proves I am the one that’s right?”

Symbeline's avatar

If we merely see things as our feeble little minds will allow, then how do we know that what we see isn’t actually what it is, if we haven’t seen what it actually is to begin with?

Cruiser's avatar

@hawaii_jake <<opens the box>>....“Eeeeew”!!

liminal's avatar

I do agree with this, but I don’t think it has to prescribe how we respond to what we see. As I become more and more transparent with myself about my biases in seeing the world the more open I become to other perspectives. While I may always have a gut reaction that is rooted in how I view the world, I also have experiences of purposefully stepping away from my perceptions into the views of others and had my views change.

Of course, capturing the views of others and having my views change simply gives me a multiplicity of views and probably doesn’t bring me that much closer to seeing things as they really are, but it lets me justify being verbose ;-)

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Symbeline from that perspective how do we know the world is real at all… as all that comes in could simply be canvas… ourselves is the limit of what we can know… we extrapolate from our limited senses that the world is real. Further we can extrapolate from our limited view of perfection that our view is blurred (whether literally or not.)

Adagio's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre . It’s possible that the world is very different from our perceptions in reality. Immediately I think of The Matrix….

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Adagio Totally. The real JPS is clawing his way out of his casket to kill me for even thinking it.

ETpro's avatar

@Adagio I am a great admirer of Anaïs Nin. I loved her work, her wit, her intelligence and her sexiness. There is a great deal of truth in her saying, although fortunately it is not beyond human ability to look beyond who you are. All the great thinkers who pushed the envelope of human knowledge did so. I daresay Ms. nin herself accomplished it a time or two.

Symbeline's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre Well no matter how false, if we see something and perceive it, it’s still real isn’t it?

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Symbeline It’s impossible to know, but it’s real enough for us to relate to, so it’ll do!

Adagio's avatar

@Symbeline If we merely see things as our feeble little minds will allow, then how do we know that what we see isn’t actually what it is, if we haven’t seen what it actually is to begin with?
The word actually is problematic, it cannot be accurately defined, pinpointed. If something is real for us, then it is real for us, it is our reality at that particular point in time. It may not be real for us tomorrow, or next week, or next year. It may not be real for others… but what is actually real? and there’s that word again… If our reality is too small or too big or too anything, it will be shaped with every step we take in life, up or down, forwards or backwards, left or right. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t…
Apologies, it’s hard to explain with words what I am trying to say

Symbeline's avatar

I thought my main argument was that whatever something is, even if we see it wrong, it’s still real, and in my first post that stands as such even more, especially if we don’t see what something truly is-it’s even more real for the fact that we think it is. It’s what I’m trying to say too.
I mean even an empty glass still has air in it right?

Adagio's avatar

@Symbeline Oops, guess we are both on the same page then? ;)

Symbeline's avatar

@Adagio I thought so. But yeah it is kinda complicated and hard to explain haha.

josie's avatar

Assuming all senses are intact, we all see things as they are.
It is what we do about it that makes us what we are.

Adagio's avatar

@josie But what does as they are mean exactly? Yes, we all see things as they are, but the way we see those things varies hugely from person to person… I guess when it comes down to it we are the product of our perceptions and the choices we make as a result… kind of circular I guess… while I don’t think anything is set in concrete, my own experience tells me the blueprint that has developed over the past 50 years can be incredibly hard to veer from.

josie's avatar

@Adagio Meaning that your senses are valid. They are your basic way of knowing external reality. It would be a contradiction to say “my senses, which are my means of gaining fundamental information about reality, are not my way of gaining fundamental information about reality”. And there is ample evidence that, absent pathology or injury, everybody is seing the same thing when they look at external reality. If that were not true, then they would have to invent a traffic light or stop sign for each driver on the road. People would disagree about the color of blood, and whether or not they should use a parachute if they jump out of an airplane. We do indeed see things as they are. It is our method of integrating our perceptions into concepts,epistemology that might make us make errors in our evaluation of reality, and it is our actions that ultimately become the basis for our effectiveness as human beings, and the basis for how we are judged.

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