“We see and understand things not as they are but as we are.” What are your thoughts on this? When I look at this quote I think of relationship between the external world and the human mind. I need examples to support or contradict this statement. I can just make up a personal one, but I also need it from a variety of sources... any ideas?

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Scientists hundreds of years ago had "proof" that the sun was traveling in circles around the earth. Theories have often been built up to prove what we already believe to be true. This is science in the service of perception, not the other way around, and this would seem to...

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Scientists hundreds of years ago had "proof" that the sun was traveling in circles around the earth. Theories have often been built up to prove what we already believe to be true. This is science in the service of perception, not the other way around, and this would seem to be one way to help prove your point. 

Additionally, we might look to the limits of science in general as proof of the quote in question as well. Though phsycists have conjectured a great deal in quantum theory much of the conjecture is un-testable and beyond our ability to demonstrate, prove, or qualify. For this reason the theory remains entirely "human" and not objective or "substantial". Until the theory can be tested it will remain a brilliant projection of the human mind onto the subatomic world. 

 

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Our interpretation and understanding of events is definitely affected by our background.  We view things through a lens of personality and culture.  There is no single one objective truth.  Everyone has his or her own version of truth.

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Brain science certainly reinforces the truth of this quote.  Without our perceptions, we would have no knowledge of the outside world.  However, the sense we make of those perceptions -- and often even the perceptions themselves -- are deeply influenced by our memories, experience, and particular brain circuitry.

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Take a look at the novel The Kite Runner. There is an instance when the main character, Amir, witnesses the rape of his servant/friend, Hassan. Instead of seeing this as an awful act that victimizes Hassan and causes him great pain, he sees it as something that is hurtful to himself. Amir feels that he is the victim, when in actuality, his neglect to help makes him as guilty as the perpetrator.

Amir saw the situation through his mind, not for what is really was. This caused him to victimize himself.

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This concept, “We see and understand things not as they are but as we are,” is very easy to support in literature.  One example that comes to mind immediately is the scene in “Tom Sawyer” when Tom has to whitewash the fence.  He understands this to be interference in his day’s plans. He turns this “punishment,” into a chance for the other boys in the neighborhood to have some fun as he acts like he is enjoying himself.  Because of the perspective of the other boys, they want to white wash the fence too.  Tom knows from his perspective what is happening, and the boys who end up doing the work see the situation from their perspective. 

Another example is from the novel “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand.  Roark, the protagonist is a self-made man yet he is held down by society because he is deemed too selfish.  From his view he is strong, independent and has great integrity because he won’t bow to altruism, but from others he is ridiculed because he won’t bow to altruism.  Sacrifice of self is held in high esteem in some societies while self reliance is honored in others.

The concept that evil too often triumphs not because most people are villains, but because they choose not to recognize evil. Or they resign themselves to it because they feel too weak to resist. Or they convince themselves that fighting it is someone else's job has been covered over and over in literature.  It is all in how you look at it.

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