The Ultimate Strategy for Philosophy Optional for UPSC

9 minute read
Philosophy Optional for UPSC

UPSC Aspirants are increasingly choosing philosophy optional for UPSC. Out of all the optional subjects provided by the UPSC, philosophy optional for UPSC is reputed to have the shortest syllabus. Furthermore, candidates can choose it and succeed from virtually any background as long as they put in the necessary work. Continue reading to learn more about the philosophy optional for UPSC CSE, including study tips, resources to consult, a curriculum, top scorers, and IAS exam subject performance.

A Closer Look at Philosophy Optional for UPSC

Many candidates choose philosophy as an optional study; typically, between 800 and 1000 candidates choose this optional. Some toppers, most notably Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan, who got second rank in the 2015 UPSC CSE, chose philosophy as their optional subject. Look at the table below to see how many people choose to opt out of philosophy and pass it

Philosophy Optional for UPSC Toppers

Juhi Jalota2017122
Garima Agrawal2017241
Hemant K. Singh2017359
M U Sri Rama Vinay2016410
Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan20152
Jatin Lal201542
Kumar Harsh201543
Sudhanshu Dhama2015115
Sameer Shaikh2015135
Ambarish V L Vemuri2015150
Sanskriti Jain201411
Mihir Patel201427
Amrutesh Aurangabadkar201110

Philosophy Optional for UPSC Success Rate

YearNo. of candidates appearedNo. of candidates clearedSuccess rate (%)

Must Read: Top Ten Documentaries on India for UPSC Preparation 

Is Philosophy Optional for UPSC an Ideal Choice?

The popularity of philosophy optional for upsc can be attributed to its various benefits for applicants. There are a few hazards connected to it as well. We outline the benefits and drawbacks of the optional philosophy in this section. In addition to weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each option, you should assess your advantages and disadvantages if you are having trouble selecting. Following a SWOT analysis, you should choose your optional. Refer to the below table for additional details regarding philosophy optional for upsc.

Philosophy Optional for UPSC ProsPhilosophy Optional for UPSC Cons
Short syllabus, easily completable in two monthsUPSC poses more difficult and evasive questions
A brief and clearly stated syllabusA strong writing foundation required
Material overlaps with other papers (essay, ethics, general studies)
Philosophy material helps in critical thinking and unique perspectives
Can be beneficial for Ethics paper (GS-IV) preparation
Suitable for candidates from diverse academic backgrounds
Doesn’t require prior understanding; broad scope of ideas

Must Read: How to Prepare Current Affairs for UPSC?

Philosophy Optional for UPSC syllabus

Let’s examine the Philosophy syllabus for the UPSC mains exam. The UPSC exam pattern includes two optional papers. The combined score from the two papers is 250, for a total of 500 optional marks.

Syllabus of Philosophy Optional for UPSC Paper – I

Western Philosophy:

  • Plato and Aristotle: Ideas; Substance; Form and Matter; Causation; Actuality and Potentiality.
  • Rationalism (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz); Cartesian Method and Certain Knowledge; Substance; God; Mind-Body Dualism; Determinism and Freedom.
  • Empiricism (Locke, Berkeley, Hume): Theory of Knowledge; Substance and Qualities; Self and God; Scepticism.
  • Kant: Possibility of Synthetic a priori Judgments; Space and Time; Categories; Ideas of Reason; Antinomies; Critique of Proofs for the Existence of God.
  • Hegel: Dialectical Method; Absolute Idealism.
  • Moore, Russell and Early Wittgenstein: Defence of Commonsense; Refutation of Idealism; Logical Atomism; Logical Constructions; Incomplete Symbols; Picture Theory of Meaning; Sying and Showing.
  • Logical Positivism: Verification Theory of Meaning; Rejection of Metaphysics; Linguistic Theory of Necessary Propositions.
  • Later Wittgenstein: Meaning and Use; Language-games; Critique of Private Language.
  • Phenomenology (Husserl): Method; Theory of Essences; Avoidance of Psychologism.
  • Existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sarte, Heidegger): Existence and Essence; Choice, Responsibility and Authentic Existence; Being-in-the-world and Temporality.
  • Quine and Strawson: Critique of Empiricism; Theory of Basic Particulars and Persons.

Indian Philosophy:

  • Carvaka: Theory of Knowlegde; Rejection of Transcendent Entities.
  • Jainism: Theory of Reality; Saptabhanginaya; Bondage and Liberation.
  • Schools of Buddhism: Prat Ityasamutpada; Ksanikavada, Nairatmyavada.
  • Nyaya—Vaiesesika : Theory of Categories; Theory of Appearance; Theory of Pramana; Self, Liberation; God; Proofs for the Existence of God; Theory of Causation; Atomistic Theory of Creation.
  • Samkhya; Prakrit; Purusa; Causation; Liberation.
  • Yoga; Citta; Cittavrtti; Klesas; Samadhi; Kaivalya.
  • Mimamsa: Theory of Knowledge.
  • Schools of Vedanta: Brahman; Isvara; Atman; Jiva; Jagat; Maya; Avida; Adhyasa; Moksa; Aprthaksiddhi; Pancavidhabheda.
  • Aurobindo: Evolution, Involution; Integral Yoga.

Syllabus of Philosophy  Optional for UPSC Paper – II

Socio-Political Philosophy: 

  • Social and Political ideals: Equality, Justice, Liberty. 
  • Sovereignty: Austin, Bodin, Laski, Kautilya. 
  • Individual and State: Rights; Duties and Accountability. 
  • Forms of Government: Monarchy; Theocracy and Democracy.
  • Political Ideologies: Anarchism, Marxism and Socialism.
  • Humanism; Secularism; Multi-culturalism. 
  • Crime and Punishment: Corruption, Mass Violence, Genocide, Capital Punishment.
  • Development and Social Progress. 
  • Gender Discrimination: Female Foeticide, Land and Property Rights; Empowerment.
  • Caste Discrimination: Gandhi and Ambedkar.

Philosophy of Religion:

  • Notions of God: Attributes; Relation to Man and the World. (Indian and Western). 
  • Proofs for the Existence of God and their Critique (Indian and Western).
  • Problem of Evil. 
  • Soul: Immortality; Rebirth and Liberation. 
  • Reason, Revelation, and Faith.
  • Religious Experience: Nature and Object (Indian and Western). 
  • Religion without God.
  • Religion and Morality.
  • Religious Pluralism and the Problem of Absolute Truth.
  • Nature of Religious Language: Analogical and Symbolic; Cognitivist and Non-cognitive.

Tips and Tricks to Ace Philosophy Optional for UPSC 

There are a few things to consider before we talk about the section-by-section technique for philosophy optional. It is very important to have enough exam preparation. This will assist you in managing your time. In addition, it will help you become used to the main exam environment. You’ll be able to determine how long it takes you to select the answers you want to try, the portion you excel in, and other details. So, it would be quite beneficial to join in a reputable exam series for optional. As there is a good chance you may receive repeated questions in a static subject like philosophy, you should also rehearse past years’ question papers. Lastly, a major factor in your performance is revision. Periodically revise to ensure that you

Philosophy Optional for UPSC Paper I Strategy

Philosophy Paper I can be broadly classified into two categories: Western philosophy and Indian philosophy.

Strategy for Indian Philosophy 

First, we provide you with a table that shows the marks given from 2013 to 2017 to the different subtopics in this area.

Schools of Vedanta5030301515
Nyaya Vaisheshika352030200

For this part, you can refer to CD Sharma’s “A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy.” It is an excellent resource for Indian philosophy and does a decent job of covering everything. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy by Datta and Chatterjee is another resource that you might use.

Furthermore, you may consult the two volumes on Indian philosophy written by the former president, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. You will have more points to impress the examiner with as a result.

When responding to inquiries about Indian philosophy, you must to be able to accurately generate and employ Sanskrit philosophical terminology.

In your responses, you should also make an effort to connect ideas from Indian philosophy with those from the West. For instance, you can draw a connection between Bertrand Russell’s negative truth and the idea of Abhava. You can sketch. parallels between the debate on Abhava between Prabhakara and Kumarila Bhatta and the negative fact debate between Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Strategy for Western Philosophy

Firstly, we provide you with a table that lists the marks given to each of the subtopics in this area from 2013 to 2017.

Quine and Strawson01015200
Later Wittgenstein102001010
Logical Positivism102001010
Moore, Russell12.500010
Plato and Aristotle1015102010

You might consult “A History of Philosophy” by Frank Thilly or “A Critical History of Western Philosophy” by Y Masih for this section.

To gain more knowledge on the topic and the different philosophers, you might also read Donald Palmer’s “Introduction to Western Philosophy.” You may also use the internet for these topics because there is a wealth of information there in the shape of videos and articles that will help you comprehend the subject matter.

Since this is the most essential section of the syllabus, a thorough comprehension of the thinkers is necessary.

Philosophy Optional for UPSC Paper II Strategy

In this paper, there are two sections – Socio-Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion.

Strategy for Socio-Political Philosophy

First, we provide you with a table that shows the marks given from 2013 to 2017 to the different subtopics in this area.

Caste Discrimination1025352010
Gender Discrimination5015301015
Development and Social Progress01510015
Social and Political Ideals5015251015
Crime and Punishment10500300
Humanism, Secularism105002030
Political Ideologies035501030
Forms of Government5015351020
Individual and State102010010

You might read “Social and Political Philosophy” by OP Gauba for this section. This is a useful resource that will support you throughout your essay writing.The majority of the subjects in this area are somewhat general and even overlap. When responding to inquiries, make sure you comprehend the question directly before beginning to write your response.An excellent approach to take while responding would be to begin making your response by drawing upon key terms from the question and then connecting them to pertinent thinkers.

Strategy for Philosophy of Religion

First, we provide you with a table that shows the marks given from 2013 to 2017 to the different subtopics in this area.

Nature of Religious Language5020151520
Religious Pluralism03001030
Religion and Morality50151500
Problem of Evil102025035
Proofs for the Existence of God5015451515
Notions of God102010200
Religion without God000150
Religious Experience101525010
Reason, Revelation and Faith1035352025

You might consult “Philosophy of Religion” by John Hick or “Introduction to Religious Philosophy” by Y Masih for this section.

Answer Writing Strategy for Philosophy Optional for UPSC 

Time and space are limited for the mains exam. You have a limited amount of time and space to deliver the solution in the best possible way. So, before writing your responses, it’s helpful to have a plan or framework in mind. You can use the sample framework we’ve provided as a guide to help you prepare your philosophy optional notes. Note that this is a general structure, so make any necessary adjustments.

  • Give a brief overview of the doctrine that is being questioned first. Write a brief explanation of its meaning.
  • Following that, you should go into great detail on every aspect of the theory.
  • Next, you should discuss how this specific doctrine or theory relates to other theories.In this step, write a fair criticism of the theory.
  • Then, you can compare the theory with other theories/philosophers. If possible and applicable, draw a parallel with a Western theory also.
  • In conclusion, you should talk about the significance or utility of the theory.

Below we have provided a demo as to how one should make notes on particular topics of the syllabus so that it becomes easy to replicate such answers in the mains exam.Here in this segment short forms,time saving techniques have been used to compile more an dmore information in crisp format .

Q: Why is Plato called the father of Western Philosophy?

A: Plato is recognised as the first great systematic philosopher of western tradition due to following reasons-

Reconciled his precursors philosophy

  • Heraclitus-Theory of change/flux is sensible world (world of becoming)
  • Parmenides- Theory of eternity/permeneance of ideas( world of being)
  • Atomists(Leucippus and Democritus)-P ideas being indivisible,simple and infinite in no.
  • Pythagoras – Mathematical thought paved way for ideal realism .Pythagorean concept of soul (immortality ,transmigration, reminiscence ,bondage ,liberation similar to Bhagwat Gita concept of soul)
  • Socrates – his teacher, influence remained an abiding element of thought through his dialogues( like Republic, Meno, apology etc ) and doctrine of idea of the good (knowledge as virtue), dialectic

Inspired many philosophers

  • Called “legislator of western philosophy”
  • Direct influence of Aristotle, to emerge as encyclopaedic genius
  • Mysticism regarding liberation of soul –Plotinus
  • Idealism of Plato – Hegel and Marx and dialectics
  • Theory of reminiscence innate ideas – Descartes and Lebnitz and doctrine of apriori elements in knowledge 
  • Standard and moral judgement as against hedonism and sensual pleasures
  • Dualism sense and reason(Emp vs Rat), Good and God(Theology and problem of evil), mind and body

Thus,In words of AN Whitehead “ All Western philosophy is footnotes on Plato’s philosophy”

Who Takes UPSC Interview
How Many Subjects in UPSC Prelims?
How Many Questions in UPSC Prelims?
20+ Questions for UPSC Interview
How Many Questions are there in UPSC Mains?
UPSC Previous Year Question Papers For the Last 10 Years


Is philosophy a good optional for UPSC?

Philosophy optional has a very short syllabus and can be completed in a very short period. However, some students face difficulty in understanding the depth of this subject. So it is good optional for those students who remain very curious regarding questions of life.

Is coaching necessary for philosophy optional?

If you are a completely new student of philosophy and have no prior background then taking coaching at a preliminary stage can prove helpful however later self-study rules the game.

Which optional is easy sociology or philosophy?

The most straightforward subject to consider for the UPSC is sociology. You may have heard that philosophy and public administration are simple subjects. It isn’t, though, as being brief and easy are two whole different things. A topic like mathematics that has a short syllabus could be challenging to understand.

This was all about the “Philosophy Optional for UPSC”.For more such informative blogs, check out our UPSC Exams Section, or you can learn more about us by visiting our  Indian exams page.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *