Philosophy of seeing

Yasin Aziz

By Yasin Aziz:

When we leave our homes and use our visual sense, we use our ability to see to avoid tripping over or bumping into objects; but often our visual mind is somewhere else, maybe preoccupied with anxiety about how to overcome a challenge or accomplish a plan.  We might be going to work or shopping or to find out something: as we get ready to achieve anything, often we see it in our minds even before we step outside our door.

Unless we come across some unexpected obstacles, we are determined to achieve what might be one task or a chain of tasks.  We all have our plans, hopes, ambitions, anxieties, worries; often things or events to look forward to, or something we dread facing. Therefore, we all have our own world of seeing or trying to see how things will work out and what the outcomes might be. There are always priorities, and so one might try first with the most important task, then the next and so on. And what we achieve is affected by how we perceive it.

Emanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) says: ‘If you wear a pair of rose-tinted spectacles they will colour every aspect of your visual experience.  You may forget that you are wearing them, but they will still affect what you see.  The filter is human mind.  It determines how we experience everything and imposes a certain shape or aspect on that experience.’ (1)

The factors behind creating the pair of tinted spectacles might be our level of awareness, our childhood experience, environmental factors – religious, cultural, educational, tribal or political affiliations that shape the framework of our ability to see the world around us and to deal with it – probably without entirely being conscious/aware of this.

Plato says:  ‘Ordinary people have little idea about reality because they are content with looking at what is in front of them rather than thinking deeply about it.  But the appearances are deceptive.  What they see are shadows, not reality.’(2)

Plato believed that only philosophers understand what the world truly like. They discover the nature of reality by thinking rather than relying on their senses.  But what creates their senses is learning and experiencing through seeing.’ (3)  That is how the philosophers and scientists might be able to see the deeper ingredients / contents that lie beneath the physical reality and are not spontaneously possible to see.

‘Wisdom for Socrates was not knowing lots of facts, or knowing how to do something.  It meant understanding the true nature of our existence, including the limits of what we can know.’ (4)

Aristotle refers to knowing facts about life through the nature of seeing and understanding sub-texts and an inner ability to see contents with the power of understanding through a method or methods of learning that may clear the way and signify the boundary of a deeper method of seeing.

About happiness Aristotle says: ‘Happiness is in success not in temporary worldly pleasure. If people think children are happy, they are not, as they haven’t lived long enough yet to see if they are truly happy or not.’(5)

Aristotle doesn’t see true happiness in temporary leisure, or leisure in gaining a material world of wealth.  Wealth, rank, position, power and youth may go, but achievement is abstract and it may not change, decay or perish. That sort of achievement is not like having acres of land, orchards and palaces.  Abstract wealth is a product of the brain and a result of gaining knowledge through the power of working hard which creates the most important goal: perhaps an eternal achievement that may benefit a community, a nation or perhaps the entire humanity – like Einstein, Newton, Addison and many others achieved through esoteric methods of seeing.

Many philosophers and scientists – like Newton, Boyle, Galileo, Albert Einstein and many others – achieved so much through working hard to sharpen their ability of seeing.   Michelangelo’s many masterly works of art were accomplished through accidental discovery, with his unique power of seeing, Many of Leonardo de Vinci’s achievements in art, science came through such seeing and experimenting.   Fleming found antibiotics through an accidental discovery that has saved many millions of lives.  Many people may seek happiness and success in transient leisure and in work that is only to earn a living.  But many philosophers see that way of life as miserable and lifeless.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78AD) says about General Will: ‘Whatever is best for the whole community, the whole state.  When people choose to group together for protection, it seems that they have to give up many of their freedoms.  That is also what Hobbes and John Locke thought too.  As Rousseau says:’ It is hard to see how you can remain genuinely free and yet live with a large group of people – there have to be laws to keep everyone in check and some restrictions on behaviour.  But Rousseau believed as an individual living within a state you can both be free and obey the laws of the state, these ideas of freedom and obedience can combine.(6)

That is how the modern system of democracy works:  accepting and obeying the law of community when a people or a nation decides through free election to choose their representatives to represent them and their wishes.

About General Will, Rousseau says: ’we have to ignore self–interest and focus on the good of the whole society, the common good.  If we can accept that many services, such as the upkeep of roads, need to be paid for from taxation then it is good for the whole community.  (7)

Those scientists, scholars, artists and philosophers who were forerunners of great advances in human evolution throughout history became prophets of change. There were changes such as the Industrial Revolution, the ending of the despotic regime of the Catholic Church, the French revolution which brought down a corrupt monarchy and the overcoming of tribal mentality to build a fairer world for future generations with advanced transport links and economic infrastructure.  Investment in transport and communication links, for example, brought many communities of the world closer than ever before, to communicate faster and interact towards building more humanistic relations, with many inventions in methods of transport, telegrams, telephones, air travel, the system of healthcare and wireless communications.

Andrew Lloyd’s reports in March in the London ‘Times’ (8) about our region’s economic development were so eye-catching, because hardly any good news has been heard about South Kurdistan in the last fifty years.  However, I was left to wonder: are there plans for any transport projects for trains, trams, railways and highways, not only in the big cities but also running the length and breadth of South Kurdistan, so that one could get a return ticket to travel between Zakho, Dahouk and Halabja, Hawraman in a single day?  As has been the case throughout history, transport is at the heart of any development projects.  That was my way of seeing the economic situation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG): by visualising the development of up-to-date methods of communication to sustain growth.


1-7: ‘A Little History of Philosophy’, Nigel Warburton, published in Great Britain, 1962, Pages:  1, 8, 9, 14, 105, 108, 110

8: Anthony Lioyd, The Times, 16th March 2013

Yasin Mahmoud Aziz is from Halabja and lives in the UK.  He is the author of ‘Dum Dum Castle’ and two books in Kurdish and he is planning several more books, including ‘A Few Days Life of Revolution in Halabja’. Email:

Copyright © 2013

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