Print Friendly, PDF & Email

[Essay Framework]: Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.


Note: This is a mere outline to get you to start thinking about the topic. This is not a synopsis or a model essay. Just brainstorming. We’re eager to read your insightful essays! Please post them in the comments. 


You may start the essay with an anecdote, poem, or a riveting story that illustrates the topic clearly(If you’re writing a story -please try to write an original story that evokes the reader’s interest).

  • Mention how the given quote is attributed to Voltaire and explain the contextin which it was said.
  • Define & elaborate upon your idea of the topic– what is the deeper meaning behind it? Explore different perspectives- there is no right or wrong dimension- let your imagination and creativity take over!
  • What is the main idea of the essay? Introduce the topic of doubt and certainty with definitions. Explain their significance in human thought and decision-making. Also delve into the idea of fear of uncertainty, how they often open the vistas of opportunity
  • There are several types of doubts: Epistemological doubt, Methodological doubt, Faith and doubt, moral doubt, self-doubt, Scientific doubt, etc.
  • Discuss the discomfort of doubt: What-ifs(what-if I fail, take a wrong decision), Uncertainty about outcomes, decision paralysis, overthinking, worried about things not under one’s control, confusion, and insecurity. Explain why doubt can be difficult to deal with and how it affects our mental health: anxiety; doubt challenges our assumptions & beliefs and complicates the decision-making process. Provide examples.


  • Discuss the ridiculousness of certainty: It can lead to overconfidence, complacency, close-mindedness, and a lack of critical thinking. Negative consequences: missing out on new ideas, opportunities, and experiences, missed discoveries, lack of flexibility and adaptability can lead to an overestimation of one’s skills and a lack of effort to improve(Fixed mindset). It may diminish creativity and innovation, as individuals may become too set in their ways and therefore they may be unwilling to try new things. Substantiate with examples.


  • But can being doubtful be advantageous? Doubt encourages us to be more curious, ask more questions and seek more information. It can lead to self-discovery and personal growth, as individuals are encouraged to question their beliefs and values. It can also lead to more effective problem-solving, as individuals are forced to consider multiple perspectives and options.
    • Encourages critical thinking, allows for adaptability and flexibility in new situations, improves decision-making, encourages creativity and innovation, helps avoid overconfidence and complacency, promotes empathy and understanding since it may lead individuals to be more open to different perspectives and ideas, and also helps avoid dogmatism.


  • Advantages of certainty:
    • Provides a sense of security and stability, increases confidence and self-assurance, facilitates planning and goal-setting, increases motivation and drive as it allows individuals to pursue their goals and aspirations with a sense of purpose and direction, it enhances decision-making & personal growth, etc. Please substantiate with examples.
  • Discuss the importance of balancing doubt and certainty: Explain how a balance of the two can lead to more informed and thoughtful decision-making. Provide specific examples of situations where a balance of doubt and certainty is beneficial, such as in scientific research or business strategy. Explain why it is important to find a balance between the two in different aspects of life, as it allows for personal growth, adaptability, and a sense of humility.


  • You may also explore how the ideas of doubt and certainty are related to behavioral psychology:
    • The Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when a person’s lack of knowledge and skills in a certain area causes them to overestimate their own competence. By contrast, this effect also causes those who excel in a given area to think the task is simple for everyone and underestimate their relative abilities as well.


  • Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual experiences feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and a fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite evidence of their competence and success. Individuals who experience impostor syndrome may attribute their successes to luck or external factors, rather than to their own abilities, and may have a hard time internalizing their accomplishments. They may also have difficulty accepting compliments or positive feedback and may fear that others will find out that they are not as capable or competent as they appear.


  • Confirmation bias: It refers to the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them. Doubt and certainty can affect an individual’s susceptibility to confirmation bias.


  • Self-fulfilling prophecy: It refers to the phenomenon where our expectations influence our behavior, leading to the realization of those expectations.


  • Self-esteem
  • Ethical dimension: Apply your learnings from GS-4 wrt to this topic: theories and thinkers.
    • Jain concept of ‘Anekantavada’ — the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently by different people from their own different points of view, and that, therefore, no single perception can constitute the complete truth.


  • Theories related to doubt and certainty by philosophers and thinkers:
    • René Descartes’ theory of methodical doubt: He proposed the method of systematic doubt as a way of arriving at certain knowledge. He argued that by doubting everything, one could arrive at a foundation of certain knowledge upon which all further knowledge could be built.
    • Søren Kierkegaard’s theory of faith and doubt: He argued that faith and doubt were not mutually exclusive, but rather two sides of the same coin.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of perspectivism: He proposed that all knowledge and understanding are perspective-dependent. He argued that certainty is impossible, as all knowledge is filtered through the lens of one’s own perspective.
    • Bertrand Russell’s theory of knowledge: He argued that knowledge is not certain, but rather probable.
  • Explore various dimensions in the succeeding paragraphs and substantiate them with relevant examples: History/Politics/Personalities, Cultural domain, Environment, Education, Health, Society, Infrastructure/Business, Good governance, and best practices, International Relations, Technology, etc.

Please let your creativity flow and explore other dimensions.


  • Quotes:
    • “I have doubted and I have believed. The one gave me a sense of insecurity, the other a sense of peace.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
    • “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Stephen Hawking
    • “Doubt is not a lack of faith; it is one element of faith.” – Paul Tillich
    • “Certainty is a good thing, but the only certainty is that nothing is certain.” – Plato
    • “Certainty is the mother of quiet and repose, and uncertainty the cause of variance and contentions.” – Edward Gibbon
    • “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Daniel J. Boorstin
    • “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” – William James


  • Conclusion: End the essay on a positive, balanced & holistic note. Underscore the importance of acceptance, tolerance, respect for others’ perspectives, self-belief and a growth mindset. While doubt may be uncomfortable, it is necessary for growth and progress, whereas certainty can lead to complacency and blind adherence to beliefs. Thus, one must find a middle path between the two.