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Doubt and Certainty

Since the beginning, the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has raised many questions, reflections and studies in all areas of knowledge. Not for less. We live in a historic and unique moment that has impacted citizens from all over the world; here in Brazil we do not escape the rule. In our case, supported by a fragile political system – from a long time ago – we are experiencing, with some astonishment, the ideological confrontations that arise in times of crisis.

Who has never seen a heated mismatch of opinion in the face of what their defenders believed to be grounded truth and certainty? We do not have the purpose of discussing right and wrong, good and evil. Not judges, rather, it is our job to reflect and ponder.

The weighting without ideologies provides the individual with lucidity and a better ability to reason about their own certainties. “Under what beliefs are my beliefs consolidated? Who or what do they serve? What are your purposes? How do my certainties make me act towards the other when he disagrees with me? ”Such observations should not be mere ramblings and affirmations of your personal convictions, rather, you must be willing to question the motivation of each response.

Our certainties must be accompanied by doubt. We may be wrong in confirming truths that are nothing more than subjective truths. An example of a subjective truth can be found in Dom Casmurro, one of Machado de Assis’ most famous novel. Bentinho nurtured the intense conviction, through personal investigations, that Capitu had betrayed him with his best friend, Escobar, and that his son Ezequiel was actually the result of the forbidden relationship. The excerpt below exemplifies a moment of affirmation to your convictions:

“… but Ezequiel’s sudden entrance, shouting:‘ Mama! Mommy ”it’s time for Mass! ’It restored my awareness to reality. Capitu and I looked at Escobar’s photograph involuntarily, and then at each other. This time her confusion became pure confession … ”(ASSIS, 1994, p. 122).

Bentinho believed that he had reached an indisputable certainty, as he found facts and reasons that guaranteed such an affirmation. There was no longer any doubt for him, however, his mistake was to have reached a subjective certainty, since Capitu had never confessed the betrayal and he never had his proof. It is possible that there is a well-founded certainty about something and that it turns out to be false in the end.

In one of the passages of one of Plato’s most important dialogues – called Teeteto – Sócrates and his interlocutor Teeteto talk about what in fact is the search for knowledge that generates certainty. Socrates says:

“So, young man, our argument rightly censors us and shows that we investigated wrongly. When do we abandon knowledge to investigate false opinion first? Now, it is impossible for anyone to know it before sufficiently understanding what knowledge is ”(PLATO, n.p. p. 54)

We need to be aware of our reality, putting our certainties in doubt, or “in brackets”, insistently seeking the correct understanding of knowledge so that we can coherently place ourselves in a moment where simple disagreement results in relationships undone.

Let us all reflect on whether our certainties are nothing more than an ego caressed by a political ideology – whatever it may be – or a subjectivity that is not proven. Such an exercise is necessary for each of us.


ASSIS, Machado de. Dom Casmurro. Volume 1. Nova Aguilar: Rio de Janeiro, 1994.

PLATÃO. Teeteto – Crátilo. In: Diálogos de Platão. Tradução do grego por Carlos Alberto Nunes. 3a. ed., Belém: Universidade Federal do Pará, 2001

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