Looking vs. Seeing

“To look at” vs. “To see”:

Directing one’s eyes toward a thing is completely different from focusing one’s vision upon it. To look at a thing is a physical action, a movement of the body and an aiming or orienting of the organs of sight. To see that thing (to focus upon one part of one’s visual field rather than another) is a rational choice, responding to a specific desire, namely the desire to know this rather than that.

To look at, then, is an action without spiritual or intellectual content. We look by reflex, or by accident, or by passive attraction toward a particular direction. To see, by contrast, is an act of rational will.

An infant, an ignoramus, even a blind man, can look. Seeing requires an active soul operating with effort, selectively, for a purpose.

Looking, to summarize, is a physical movement. Seeing is a spiritual movement.

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