Have you ever heard someone say, ‘there’s none so blind as those who will not see’? What does this mean, and where does it come from?
‘There’s none so blind as those who will not see’ is a proverb that means that you can’t force understanding on someone who is choosing to be ignorant of a specific truth.
‘There’s none so blind as those who will not see’ is a proverb that means that you won’t ever succeed in making someone accept or understand something if they are too unwilling or stubborn to notice or learn.
The proverb is sometimes written as follows:
“There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.”
A common variation of the phrase is “there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.”
You’ve probably experienced this before, or perhaps you’ve even been guilty of being one of the people that ‘will not see.’
An example of this would be if your best friend were dating someone that treated them terribly. Maybe their significant other was always saying cruel things to them, doing things that were purposefully hurtful, or even physically hurting their friend.
This is obviously a very difficult situation. Maybe you’ve told your friend over and over that they deserve better and should leave, but they won’t. Maybe you can even tell that they know, deep down, that they shouldn’t be in the relationship. Regardless, they refuse to accept the truth of the matter and continue to stay with the person that is harmful to them.
This is an example of someone being blind to something that they are able to see but unwilling to see.
According to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, this proverb can be traced back to John Heywood in 1546, who was an English writer that was best known for his poems, plays, and collection of proverbs.
The original phrasing was as follows:
“Who is so deafe, or so blynde, as is hee, that wilfully will nother heare nor see.”
Heywood actually documented a lot of proverbs that are still popular today and, in some cases, was the first person to put them into print. Some other proverbs he recorded include:
We could go on and on! Heywood recorded countless proverbs that you will still hear in our modern age.
Now, back to ‘there’s none so blind as those who will not see.’ There is quite a bit of resemblance between ‘there’s none so blind as those who will not see’ to a verse in the Bible: Jeremiah 5:21. This verse reads:
“Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.”
In this verse, the idea is not that the people that have eyes and can’t see are actually blind or that the people that have ears and can’t hear are actually deaf, but that they are unwilling to acknowledge the truths of the world. This ends up leaving them morally impaired and ignorant.
It is also similar to Matthew 13:13:
“Therefore I speak to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”
The phrase also resembles the Biblical verse Isaiah 6:9-10:
“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear you indeed, but understand not; and see indeed, but perceive not.
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”
You can also find the phrase in Jonathan Swift’s ‘Polite Conversation’ in 1738 and the ‘Works of Thomas Chalkley’ from 1713.
The phrase is also included in the song Everything Is Beautiful by Ray Stevens, which was released in 1970.
How would you use this proverb in a sentence? Let’s look at some examples.
How else can you communicate a similar meaning as ‘there’s none so blind as those who will not see’? Are there other phrases that have a synonymous message?
Let’s look at some other ways to describe a similar scenario as this proverb:
No one wants to be willfully ignorant, but we all might be guilty of being blind to things that are right in front of our noses from time to time. This phrase nicely sums up the experience of trying to help someone or tell someone something true and obvious that they are unwilling to accept.
Are you looking for more English phrases to add to your vocabulary? Make sure you check out our idioms blog!