I'm looking for a single word or small number of words to convey something like "Life through a _____ filter/lens" where the opposite is 'soft-focus', 'rose-tinted' etc.

Where _____ conveys a sense of gritty realism, critical thinking or getting to the root or 'principle' of things, but not necessarily being "pessimistic".

For example when you take a photo using a "soft focus" technique it blurs out a lot of the details, can hide unfortunate features in the original picture, etc.

I did check this possibly related question and I love the idea of looking at the world through "half-empty glasses"! - but that question is about being pessimistic rather than 'just' realistic or thinking critically etc. I'm not looking through "half-empty glasses"; I'm looking through glasses that don't actually change the view in any way, but realising the nature of what I'm actually looking at.

  • Maybe you want "Unfiltered". An unfiltered look at...
    – Jim
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 21:48
  • How about "scientific"?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 2:47

4 Answers 4


Clear-eyed means:

having a shrewd understanding and no illusions.
"clear-eyed about human nature"

from Google

And a sample sentence from Collins

In the way they approach engineering, they have learnt to put emotions to one side and to look in a clear-eyed way at the evidence.

You could say "clear-eyed lens" if you wanted.


There is hard-boiled (usually applied to eggs) but also used to describe a wordly-wise character with a cynical outlook. Merriam-Webster has

1 of an egg : boiled until both white and yolk have solidified

2 a : devoid of sentimentality: tough
a hard-boiled drill sergeant

2 b : of, relating to, or being a detective story featuring a tough unsentimental protagonist and a matter-of-fact attitude towards violence

3 : hardheaded, practical
hard-boiled business decisions


How about "skeptical" ("sceptical" in the UK)? Looking at "skeptical" in Merriam-Webster, this might work rather well:

skepticism noun skep·​ti·​cism | \ ˈskep-tə-ˌsi-zəm \

Definition of skepticism

1 : an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object

2a : the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain

b : the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics

3 : doubt concerning basic religious principles (such as immortality, providence, and revelation)


An unsentimental appraisal that is unblinking, determined, cool-headed and steely could be described as unflinching.

'Flinch' - To draw back through failure in courage, endurance, or resolve; to shrink from something as dangerous, painful, or difficult (OED).

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