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#116495 - 11/25/03 04:56 AM can't see, don't see
Jenet Offline

Registered: 11/22/03
Posts: 81
I've noticed I make a distinction between seeing objects and seeing parts of arguments. If you point out a bird moving round I might say "I can't see it... Oh yes, now I can."

Whereas in arguments, I would say "I don't see" the objection, or point, or connection, or inference, if I thought that perhaps there was one but I was being too glib or obtuse to consider it properly. But if I said "I can't see" it, it's stronger: I rather suspect there isn't any good objection, connection or whatever to be seen.

My question is this. I understand in American usage "don't see" is the normal form for physical seeing, so do users of that form make the same distinction as me in arguments?

(And of course there's habitual uses, which are not relevant here: you don't see them every day, I can't see through microscopes, etc.)

The distinction seems to be clearer in the negative, though it applies in the positive too: "Where's the bird? Oh, I can see it now" v. "I see the problem here" (it's fairly obvious) v. "I can see the problem here" (I've managed to find it).

#116496 - 11/25/03 08:20 AM Re: can't see, don't see
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
Dear Jenet: I do enjoy discussion of such fine points.
"Oh, I see, said the blind man."
"There are those who have eyes and see not."

#116497 - 11/25/03 08:49 AM Re: can't see, don't see
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1027
Loc: Switzerland
By way of example, I would like to say to you: "I don't see it that way" - but actually I do!

#116498 - 11/25/03 09:12 AM Re: can't see, don't see
dxb Offline

Registered: 03/06/02
Posts: 1692
Loc: UK
Hi Jenet! It may be a fine distiction as Dr Bill says, and I can’t speak for USen’s, but I think you are right from a Brit’s perspective.

It seems to me that the difference lies between the observational failure of “I do not see it” (which implies that the possibility exists) and the constitutional failure of “I cannot see it” (which implies that you will never be able to do so). Either way is frequently used in either way, however, with just the context making the meaning clear.

#116499 - 11/25/03 09:15 AM Re: can't see, don't see
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
I would use either "can't" or "don't" see for the unspied bird with little if any distinction. I would also use either for an argument but "don't" would imply a lack of understanding and "can't" an understanding but disagreement as to the validity of the argument. There would probably be other differences, e.g., "I don't see what you're getting at," vs. "I can't see it that way."

As an aside, in my youth I had some contact with a number of blind people. They all pretty much used "see" in the figurative sense. There was no discomfort using the term with them if you understood this.

#116500 - 11/25/03 03:25 PM Re: can't see, don't see
Zed Offline

Registered: 08/27/02
Posts: 2154
Loc: British Columbia, Canada
For the invisible bird I would use either but they do feel different: "I don't see the bird." meaning please point, I haven't found it yet. and "I can't see the bird" meaning It is behind a tree and it isn't physically possible for me to see it.

In an argument I would, like Faldage, use the same distinction. I would also use either for an argument but "don't" would imply a lack of understanding and "can't" an understanding but disagreement as to the validity of the argument.

There is also the difference in vehemence, both for birds and arguments,eg "I don't agree." vs "I can't agree."
cross-thread alert - denotation vs connotation


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