There is a sentence "I am what I do" by Martin Buber, but is there such a sentence as "I do what I am"?

Do both sentences mean the same or is there a difference?

  • 1
    Both are grammatical, if that's what you mean, but otherwise this is a philosophical question rather than a linguistic one. Nov 25, 2011 at 8:31

1 Answer 1


Those sentences are not the same.

"I am what I do" means that my personality is determined/can be described by my actions. "I do what I am" means that my actions are determined/can be described by my personality.

Technical speaking, the difference is what is a cause and what is an effect (philosophical concept of casuality). In the first sentence "I" is an effect of my action — "I do". In the second my actions "I do" is an effect of what "I am".

And is there such a phrase? Don't think that it exists in exactly those words. Some of our prominent philosophers, Freud among them, do postulate this same principle though.

  • +1. for the enlightenment. So, technical there is no such phrase "I do what I am" because there is no way that my actions be determined by my personality (or there are such person?) Nov 25, 2011 at 8:44
  • More like because none thought of putting it in words. I'm no expert on Freud, but as far as I know he tried to explain our every action as being dictated by our personality (or, to be precise, it's unconscious part).
    – Philoto
    Nov 25, 2011 at 9:46
  • "I do what I am" is not often used because we assume it to be the case by default. The decisions you make are, by definition, what constitutes your personality. As such, your actions stem directly from your personality, hence "I do what I am". The inverse, "I am what I do", is less of an obvious and implicit case, so it is seen to be a philisophical statement about your behaviour.
    – Polynomial
    Nov 25, 2011 at 9:48

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