Can someone please explain the meaning of the quotation

"We don't see things as they are – we see them as we are."?

  • It's grammatically garbage, phrased that way purely for the snappy wordplay (which wouldn't be "snappy" if it was more properly expressed as something like "we see them according to what we are"). Feb 19, 2014 at 0:35

4 Answers 4


I believe this is related to the idea that each person who sees a thing will see it filtered through their own perceptions. So none of us really see it objectively. Each person sees it with their own beliefs, preconceptions, interpretation, and attitude.

For example, the Rorschach test is (or used to be, don't know if it still is) used to analyse a person's personality, psychological and emotional characteristics. What a person sees in the ink blots isn't about the ink blots, it's about their perception of the ink blots, and hence about them.

  • Hence all answers to 'What does X mean?' stand to be subjective. As a friend says, "All words are infinitely polysemous." Feb 18, 2014 at 22:46
  • @Edwin especially "polysemous".
    – user63230
    Feb 18, 2014 at 23:21
  • Yes, because of the way our brains actually work. Each of us integrates our present perceptions with our past experiences and future expectations using a uniquely individualized interpretive glue. The Rorschach test was considered a good measure of the integrated thought process because the inkblots had no intrinsic meaning per se.
    – ScotM
    Jun 20, 2015 at 0:45

It means that the way we see things reflects who we are. One example is how we see a problem. If we see the problem as a burden, our perception tells us that we are a negative person. If we see the problem as a way to improve ourselves, that perception tells us that we are a positive person.


Everyone acts in one's own interest, french speakers would say "everyone sees the sun at his door". objectivity versus subjectivity is a false debate. The solution is in the great art of thinking with somebody else's head, that is intersubjectivity, where is the only sole sun.


Attitudes are much more important than facts.

Karl A. Menninger, a US psychiatrist wrote that, and for me ist expresses the same (or 'Einstellungen sind wichtiger als Tatsachen', in my mother language)

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