Mains Practice Questions


Total Questions: 11

Write an Essay on the following topic not less than 1000-1200 words
Thinking is like a game, it does not begin unless there is an opposite team (UPSC CSE Mains ESSAY 2023)
*Note: These are model answers only, to give you an idea on how to approach the topic
You can have the following Introduction in your answer with a probable Quote of a famous Personality which would be relevant 
"Change your thoughts and you change your world." - Norman Vincent Peale
Thinking is a fundamental human activity that shapes our perceptions, decisions, and actions. It is a process that encompasses a wide range of cognitive activities, from problem-solving and critical analysis to creative ideation and introspection. Like a game, thinking thrives on opposition, contention, and the interplay of contrasting ideas. This essay explores the idea that thinking, much like a game, is most fruitful when it involves opposing perspectives, conflicting viewpoints, and intellectual challenges. We will delve into the dynamics of this mental game, the importance of opposing teams in shaping our thoughts, and how this concept is reflected in various aspects of human life.
You may incorporate the following into your Essay
"The mind is everything. What you think you become." - Buddha

I. The Nature of Thinking :

Thinking is an intricate cognitive process that involves the manipulation of information, concepts, and ideas within the mind. It is a dynamic activity that serves various purposes, such as problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, and learning. At its core, thinking is a game played within the confines of our own minds, but it gains depth and richness when it encounters opposition.

  1. Intrapersonal Thinking: Before we delve into the role of opposition in thinking, it is important to recognize that thinking often begins as an intrapersonal activity. We ponder our experiences, emotions, memories, and beliefs in solitude. This form of thinking is like practicing alone before joining a team.

  2. Interpersonal Thinking: However, thinking does not remain confined within individual minds. It evolves when we engage in discussions, debates, and dialogues with others. This interpersonal thinking is where opposing teams come into play.

II. The Role of Opposition in Thinking :

Thinking is not a solitary endeavor; it thrives when it encounters opposing ideas, viewpoints, and perspectives. Opposition serves as a catalyst for critical thinking, forcing us to question assumptions, refine our arguments, and consider alternative viewpoints. Here are some key aspects of the role of opposition in thinking:

  1. Critical Thinking: Opposing viewpoints challenge us to engage in critical thinking. When we encounter opposing arguments, we are compelled to evaluate the validity and reliability of our own ideas. This critical examination leads to a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

  2. Divergent Thinking: Divergent thinking, an essential aspect of creativity, flourishes in the presence of opposing ideas. When we encounter opposing viewpoints, it prompts us to think beyond conventional boundaries, fostering creative and innovative solutions.

  3. Conflict and Resolution: Thinking as a game often involves conflict, but this conflict can lead to resolution and progress. Through debate and discussion, opposing teams aim to arrive at a consensus or find a middle ground, which is often a more robust and nuanced perspective.

  4. Broadening Perspectives: Engaging with opposing teams broadens our perspectives. It allows us to see issues from multiple angles, fostering empathy and a deeper appreciation of the complexity of human thought and experience.

III. Thinking and Opposing Teams in Society :

The concept of opposing teams in thinking is not limited to individual cognition; it extends to various aspects of society, where diverse perspectives and ideologies interact and shape collective thought and action.

  1. Democracy: Democracy is a prime example of how opposing teams play a crucial role in shaping governance and policy. Political parties with differing ideologies provide voters with choices, and the ensuing debate and competition lead to well-informed decisions.

  2. Science and Innovation: Scientific progress relies on the clash of opposing hypotheses and theories. The scientific community thrives on peer review, where scientists challenge each other's findings and ideas, leading to more accurate and reliable knowledge.

  3. Education: Education systems that encourage critical thinking and debate create environments where young minds learn to appreciate opposing viewpoints. This prepares students to navigate the complexities of the real world.

  4. Media and Journalism: In the realm of media and journalism, opposing teams represent different perspectives and editorial stances. A diversity of voices allows the public to access a broader spectrum of information and make informed judgments.

IV. Challenges and Benefits of Opposition in Thinking :

While opposing teams are vital for fruitful thinking, they also pose challenges and potential pitfalls. It is essential to strike a balance between constructive opposition and unproductive conflict.

  1. Confirmation Bias: One challenge is confirmation bias, where individuals tend to favor information that supports their existing beliefs. Opposition can sometimes reinforce these biases if not approached with an open mind.

  2. Polarization: In some cases, opposing teams can lead to polarization and extremism, where individuals become entrenched in their positions and unwilling to consider alternative viewpoints.

  3. Constructive Dialogue: Encouraging constructive dialogue and respectful disagreement is key to reaping the benefits of opposition in thinking. It requires effective communication skills, empathy, and a willingness to listen.

  4. Critical Thinking Education: Promoting critical thinking education can help individuals navigate the complexities of opposing teams in thinking. Schools and institutions can teach the art of critical analysis and open-mindedness.

Conclusion has to be balanced which would give a nice impression

Thinking, as the essence of human cognition, is indeed like a game, and it thrives when there is an opposite team. Opposition in thinking challenges our intellect, fosters creativity, and leads to more informed decisions. It is a dynamic interplay of ideas and perspectives that shapes not only our individual thoughts but also the collective consciousness of society.

However, for this intellectual game to be productive, it requires a commitment to open-mindedness, constructive dialogue, and the willingness to entertain opposing viewpoints. As we engage in this mental game of thinking, we must remember that the true victory lies not in defeating the opposing team but in arriving at a deeper understanding of the complex world in which we live.

In the grand theater of human thought, opposing teams are the actors that bring depth and dimension to the drama of our intellectual pursuits. In embracing this concept, we can unlock the full potential of our minds and, collectively, build a more enlightened and progressive society.

"Thinking is difficult, that's why most people judge." - Carl Jung

(essay ) 17-Sep 2023

‘Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither…’

- Benjamin Franklin


Benjamin Franklin, a prominent figure among the Founding Fathers of the United States, left us with a powerful statement that still reverberates in today's society: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither." This timeless quote encapsulates the ongoing struggle faced by societies worldwide as they grapple with the complex task of reconciling individual liberties with the imperative of maintaining public safety in an increasingly interconnected and multifaceted world. In this essay, we will delve into the profound meaning and implications of Franklin's words within the context of contemporary society. Our exploration will revolve around the inherent tensions between personal freedoms and collective security, shedding light on the delicate balance necessary to safeguard both principles.

The evolution of technology, the rise of global terrorism, and the unforeseen challenges posed by pandemics have intensified the dilemmas faced by governments and citizens alike. While the protection of individual liberties remains a cornerstone of democratic societies, the pursuit of temporary safety during times of crisis often prompts the implementation of measures that encroach upon these essential rights. Striking the right equilibrium between freedom and security has become a paramount concern that demands careful analysis and thoughtful discourse.

In order to appreciate the significance of Benjamin Franklin's quote, it is crucial to grasp the concept of essential liberty. Essential liberty encompasses the core rights and freedoms that individuals inherently possess, which are indispensable for the preservation of human dignity and the functioning of democratic societies. These fundamental liberties serve as the bedrock upon which modern democracies are built.

Essential liberty encompasses a wide range of rights that empower individuals to express themselves, pursue their beliefs, and live their lives autonomously. It includes the freedom of speech, enabling individuals to voice their opinions and participate in public discourse without fear of censorship or retribution. Freedom of religion guarantees the right to practice and observe one's chosen faith, protecting individuals from religious persecution or coercion. Additionally, essential liberty encompasses the right to privacy, safeguarding individuals' personal information, spaces, and choices from unwarranted intrusion by the government or other entities.

These liberties are not merely legal constructs but rather embody deeply rooted principles that reflect the values of personal autonomy, individual dignity, and the pursuit of happiness. They recognize that the diversity of beliefs, perspectives, and identities within society enriches the collective fabric and fosters a vibrant and inclusive democratic culture.

Moreover, essential liberty acts as a vital check on the potential abuse of power. By guaranteeing these rights, democratic societies provide individuals with the means to challenge authority, hold governments accountable, and advocate for social change. Essential liberty serves as a shield against the encroachment of authoritarianism, ensuring that the interests and well-being of citizens take precedence over the unchecked authority of the state.

However, it is important to acknowledge that the concept of essential liberty is not absolute and may require reasonable limitations in certain circumstances. Societies must grapple with the complexities of balancing individual freedoms with the needs of collective security. Striking this delicate equilibrium necessitates thoughtful consideration, democratic deliberation, and a keen awareness of the potential trade-offs involved.

The pursuit of temporary safety reflects society's tendency to prioritize public security over individual liberties when faced with perceived threats. During times of crisis, such as natural disasters, pandemics, or terrorist attacks, the desire for security intensifies, compelling governments and societies to implement measures that may encroach upon personal freedoms. These measures can include heightened surveillance, restrictive legislation, or the curtailment of civil liberties.

The quest for temporary safety is rooted in the instinctive human need for protection and stability. When faced with unpredictable and potentially harmful situations, individuals and communities seek reassurance and measures that promise immediate safety and relief. Governments, responsible for the welfare of their citizens, often respond to these demands by implementing policies aimed at enhancing security and minimizing risk.

However, it is essential to recognize that the pursuit of temporary safety can have far-reaching implications for individual liberties and the fabric of democratic societies. In the eagerness to mitigate perceived threats, there is a risk of disproportionately compromising essential freedoms. The erosion of civil liberties, even in the name of security, may undermine the very values and principles that define democratic societies.

The dilemma lies in striking a delicate balance between freedom and security. While the need for security is undeniable, the erosion of essential liberty can have long-term consequences. History has taught us that unchecked infringements upon individual freedoms can pave the way for oppressive regimes and the suppression of dissent. Therefore, it is crucial to approach the issue with caution and ensure that any limitations on liberty are proportionate, temporary, and subject to robust oversight mechanisms.

Balancing freedom and security requires a nuanced understanding of the potential risks, the effectiveness of proposed measures, and the preservation of essential liberties. Governments must navigate this complex terrain by considering the principle of proportionality, ensuring that any restrictions imposed are justified by the magnitude of the threat and are necessary for addressing it. Moreover, measures implemented should be temporary, designed to address the immediate crisis, and subject to regular review to prevent their extension beyond what is required.

A cornerstone of maintaining the delicate balance between freedom and security lies in the existence of robust democratic institutions and mechanisms. Separation of powers, an independent judiciary, and a vigilant civil society act as checks and balances, ensuring that any encroachments on essential liberties are scrutinized and challenged. Open dialogue, public deliberation, and engagement with citizens are vital in fostering a collective understanding of the challenges faced and the measures proposed.

By adopting a measured and thoughtful approach, societies can strive to strike a balance between safeguarding essential liberties and addressing legitimate security concerns. The protection of individual freedoms must be seen as a collective responsibility, recognizing that the preservation of democratic values and principles ultimately enhances the safety and well-being of all members of society.

To further understand the challenges of balancing freedom and security, we will examine two contemporary case studies: counterterrorism measures and privacy concerns in the digital age. These examples highlight the complexities society faces in reconciling the need for public safety with the protection of individual liberties.

In response to terrorist threats, governments often implement stringent security measures to protect their citizens. These measures can include increased surveillance, expanded law enforcement powers, and the introduction of legislation aimed at preventing terrorist activities. While these actions may enhance public safety, they can also infringe upon privacy rights and civil liberties.

For instance, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the United States enacted the USA PATRIOT Act, which expanded surveillance powers and authorized the collection of vast amounts of data. The aim was to detect and prevent terrorist activities, but concerns were raised about the potential for government overreach and violations of privacy. Similarly, other countries have implemented similar counterterrorism measures that have sparked debates about the balance between security and individual freedoms.

The rapid advancement of technology and the proliferation of digital platforms have brought about new challenges regarding privacy rights. Governments and corporations collect and analyze massive amounts of personal data to improve services, personalize advertisements, and detect potential threats. However, this collection and analysis raise concerns about the erosion of privacy and the potential for misuse of data.

In recent years, numerous high-profile incidents, such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, have underscored the need for robust privacy protections. The revelations that personal data had been harvested without consent for political purposes highlighted the vulnerabilities individuals face in the digital age. As governments and corporations continue to amass data, the balance between security and privacy becomes increasingly precarious.

In conclusion,Benjamin Franklin's timeless quote serves as a reminder that the preservation of essential liberty is essential for a thriving and just society. While the pursuit of temporary safety is a natural instinct, it is vital to resist knee-jerk reactions that sacrifice individual freedoms. Achieving a delicate equilibrium between liberty and security requires open dialogue, careful deliberation, and respect for democratic principles. As we navigate an ever-changing world, it is our responsibility to ensure that the quest for safety does not lead to the erosion of the very values we hold dear. Only through thoughtful consideration and a commitment to democratic ideals can we build societies that uphold both essential liberty and collective security.
(essay ) 04-Jul 2023

"Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes"

The Immutable Power of Facts: Resisting Subjectivity and Embracing Objective Reality


Jawaharlal Nehru's quote, "Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes," encapsulates the profound significance of acknowledging objective truths regardless of personal preferences or biases. In a world often shaped by subjective opinions, emotional attachments, and cognitive biases, this quote serves as a reminder of the enduring nature of facts. This essay delves into the implications and relevance of Nehru's quote, highlighting the importance of distinguishing facts from personal beliefs, the role of evidence-based reasoning, and the pursuit of objectivity.

The Power of Facts: 

Facts provide a solid foundation for knowledge because they are reliable and can be tested and corroborated by multiple sources. They serve as the building blocks of scientific inquiry, critical thinking, and rational decision-making. When we rely on facts, we can make informed judgments, formulate accurate explanations, and develop effective solutions to complex problems.

The power of facts lies in their ability to transcend personal opinions and biases. While opinions can vary from person to person, facts provide a common ground for discussion and debate. They help us establish a shared understanding of reality and facilitate constructive dialogue. By grounding our arguments in factual information, we can foster intellectual honesty and strengthen the quality of our discourse.

Furthermore, facts serve as a check against misinformation and falsehoods. In an era where misinformation spreads rapidly through social media and other platforms, the reliance on verifiable facts becomes even more crucial. Facts help us distinguish between reliable information and baseless claims, enabling us to make informed choices and avoid being misled.

Challenging Confirmation Bias: Overcoming Personal Preferences

Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that influences our perceptions and decision-making processes by favoring information that confirms our preexisting beliefs or preferences. It is a natural human tendency, but it can hinder our ability to critically evaluate information and inhibit intellectual growth. Challenging confirmation bias is essential for overcoming personal preferences and promoting a more objective and open-minded approach to knowledge.

One way to overcome confirmation bias is by actively seeking out diverse perspectives and contradictory evidence. By exposing ourselves to a range of opinions and information, we can broaden our understanding and challenge our preconceived notions. This can be done through reading articles or books from different viewpoints, engaging in respectful debates with others, or participating in diverse communities or forums.

Another effective strategy is developing critical thinking skills. This involves questioning our own assumptions, evaluating the reliability and credibility of sources, and examining the evidence supporting different perspectives. Critical thinking allows us to approach information with a more discerning mindset and helps us overcome the tendency to selectively accept information that aligns with our preferences.

Being aware of our own biases is also crucial. Recognizing that we all have inherent biases and acknowledging their potential impact on our thinking can help us become more self-reflective and open to alternative viewpoints. Actively reflecting on our own thoughts, emotions, and motivations can help us identify when confirmation bias may be influencing our judgments.

Engaging in constructive dialogue with others who hold different opinions is another valuable approach. By actively listening and seeking to understand differing viewpoints, we can challenge our own assumptions and broaden our perspective. Respectful and empathetic conversations can foster mutual learning and provide opportunities for personal growth.

The Objective Lens: Striving for Rationality

Striving for rationality means recognizing and consciously working to mitigate the impact of personal biases on our thinking and decision-making processes. It involves valuing evidence, logic, and critical thinking over emotional attachment or personal preferences.

Approaching information objectively requires actively seeking out diverse perspectives and considering different viewpoints, even if they challenge our preexisting beliefs. It involves being open to new information and being willing to revise our opinions based on evidence.

Rationality also entails examining the quality and reliability of sources, evaluating the credibility of information, and being cautious of misinformation or unsupported claims. It means prioritizing verifiable facts and empirical evidence over anecdotes or unfounded assertions.

Furthermore, rationality encourages respectful and constructive discourse. It involves listening to others, engaging in thoughtful dialogue, and being open to changing our minds when presented with compelling arguments and evidence. It means focusing on the substance of an argument rather than personal attacks or emotional responses.

While complete objectivity may be elusive, striving for rationality allows us to make more informed and reasoned judgments. It helps us navigate complex issues, solve problems, and contribute to a society that values critical thinking and evidence-based decision-making.

Contextualizing Facts: Understanding Interpretation

Contextualizing facts means recognizing that they are influenced by the circumstances in which they are observed or presented. Facts do not exist in isolation but are embedded within a larger context that can shape their meaning and interpretation.

Different individuals or groups may interpret the same set of facts differently based on their perspectives, experiences, or cultural backgrounds. These interpretations may be influenced by personal biases, political ideologies, or social norms. However, it is important to note that subjective interpretations do not negate the objective reality of the facts themselves.

Understanding the contextual nature of facts requires a commitment to critical thinking and a willingness to consider multiple viewpoints. It involves examining the sources of information, evaluating the reliability of data, and analyzing the underlying assumptions and biases that may influence interpretations.

While interpretations may vary, there are often objective truths that can be derived from the facts themselves. By critically analyzing the evidence and seeking a deeper understanding of the underlying reality, we can approach a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of the world.

The Role of Facts in Societal Progress

Facts play a crucial role in driving societal progress. They serve as a basis for evidence-based policies, scientific advancements, and informed decision-making. Nehru's quote underscores the importance of embracing facts to overcome personal biases and shape a more inclusive and enlightened society. By valuing facts over personal preferences, we can foster open dialogue, bridge ideological divides, and collectively address the complex challenges of our time.


Jawaharlal Nehru's quote, "Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes," reminds us of the unwavering nature of objective truths. By recognizing the power of facts and resisting the influence of personal biases, we can strive for a more rational and enlightened society. Embracing evidence-based reasoning, critical thinking, and open-mindedness allows us to transcend confirmation bias and engage in productive discussions based on shared understanding. The pursuit of objectivity is not an abandonment of personal preferences but rather a recognition of the enduring nature of facts and their essential role in shaping our collective knowledge. In an era where subjective opinions can hold sway, Nehru's quote serves as a beacon, reminding us to embrace facts as the foundation for progress and intellectual growth.
(essay ) 19-Jun 2023