The direct, lawful, immediate fruit of consciousness is inertia — that is, a conscious sitting with folded arms. […] I repeat, I emphatically repeat: ingenuous people and active figures are all active simply because they are dull and narrow-minded… As a consequence of their narrow-mindedness, they take the most immediate and secondary causes for the primary ones, and thus become convinced more quickly and easily than others that they have found an indisputable basis for their doings, and so they feel at ease; and that, after all, is the main thing. For in order to begin to act, one must first be completely at ease, so that no more doubts remain. Well, and how am I, for example, to set myself at ease? Where are the primary causes on which I can rest, where are my bases? Where am I going to get them? I exercise thinking, and, consequently, for me every primary cause immediately drags with it yet another, still more primary one, and so on ad infinitum…
— Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground
Dostoevsky – or rather, his Underground Man – is wrong here, I think — that anguish, sympathetic as I alas am to it, is something to be overcome, rather than wallowed in. It’s something I’ve learned slowly: there can be action with doubt and with consciousness. Indeed action undertaken in defiance of doubt can be all the more potent; and action undertaken with consciousness, with at least a solemn nod at the doubts that hanker at its heels is what, I think, writing a Ph.D. is all about learning to do. And thus the darned things get written, and some of them, ministering soberly to the swarms of doubts that pursue them to the finish, might even end up being rather good for it.
PS: Notes from the Underground = brilliant