The UPSC mains syllabus for Philosophy optional focuses on the civil services examination candidates’ ability to understand the subject and apply what they’ve learned to Indian society. The history and evolution of philosophy, religion, and social systems are among the subjects covered in this subject area.

There are two subjective publications in the Philosophy optional subject (paper I and Paper II). Each paper is worth 250 points, for a total of 500 points.

Many of the topics covered in philosophy can be applied to other subjects, such as Ethics and Essay writing. Some philosophical ideas can also be applied to other general studies publications.

Now, the question is, how is philosophy as one of the optional? Is it good or bad? Well, in this article you will get to know about it in detail but before that, let us go through the syllabus first because that is the first step towards boosting your UPSC preparation.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Philosophy Optional Syllabus

Paper I (History and Problems of 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.

#Hegel: Dialectical Method; Absolute Idealism

#Moore, Russell and Early Wittgenstein: Defense of Common Sense; Refutation of Idealism; Logical Atomism; Logical Constructions; Incomplete Symbols; Picture Theory of Meaning; Saying 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.

Also Read: Philosophy Books for UPSC: Get to Learn from the Best Authors

Second Part

#Existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre, 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.

#Carvaka: Theory of Knowledge; Rejection of Transcendent Entities

#Jainism: Theory of Reality Saptabhangi Naya; Bondage and Liberation.

#Schools of Buddhism: Pratityasamutpada; Ksnikavada, Nairatmyavada

#Nyaya Vaisesika: 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.

#Sa-mkhya: Prakriti; Prurusa; Causation; Liberation

#Yoga: Citta; Cittavrtti; Klesas;Samadhi ; Kaivalya.

#Mima-msa-: Theory of Knowledge Scholars and Sources of Knowledge, Abhihitanavayavada, Anvitabhi Dhanvada Tirupati Pratyaksha Vada and Jnatatavada.

#Schools of Vedanta: Brahman; Isvara;A-tman ;Jiva; Jagat; Ma-ya- ;Adhya-sa;Moksa ; #Aprthaksiddhi; Pancavidhabheda

#Aurobindo: Evolution, Involution; Integral Yoga.

Paper II-A (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; Multiculturalism.

#Crime and Punishment: Corruption, Mass Violence, Genocide, Capital Punishment.

#Development and Social Progress: What is Development? The necessity of Scientific #Temper and its Positive and Negative Outcomes. Features and Conditions of Progress and Its Comparison with Development. Discussion over the question that have we actually done the Progress?

#Gender Discrimination: Female Foeticide, Land and Property Rights; Empowerment.

#Caste Discrimination: Gandhi and Ambedkar

Also Read: How to Study Indian Polity Effectively for the UPSC Exam? Effective Steps to Get Amazing Scores

Paper II-B (Philosophy of Religion)

#Attributes of God; Relationship to Man and the World (Indian and Western)

#Proofs for God’s Existence and Their Criticism (Indian and Western).

#Meaning of God’s Existence, Cosmological Argument, Teleological Argument, Kant’s #Moral Argument, Religious Experiences Argument, Ontological Argument and their #Evaluation, Proofs Against God’s Existence and their Evaluation

#Problem of Evil.

#Immortality, rebirth, and liberation are all aspects of the soul.

#Reason, Revelation, and Faith are the three pillars of Christianity.

#Nature and Objects of Religious Experience (Indian and Western).

#There is no religion without God.

#Morality and Religion

#The Problem of Absolute Truth and Religious Pluralism

#Religious language is divided into two types: analogous and symbolic; cognitive and non-cognitive.

How Good is Philosophy as One of the Optionals?

Well-defined and Brief Syllabus

It has the shortest syllabus of all the UPSC Civil Services Exam optional subjects, so it can be covered in a shorter amount of time. The philosophical optional syllabus can be completed in as little as two months. Popular and appropriate for candidates from all walks of life. With an 8.9% success rate, it’s clear that you’re on the right track. The entire syllabus is static; there is no current content.

A Variety of Themes are Covered

Essays, ethics, and material for a variety of themes are all covered in this optional subject of CSE. The philosophy optional allows UPSC civil services examination aspirants to become acquainted with a variety of philosophers, many of whom will appear in the ethics paper. As a result, there is some overlap between the Philosophy optional subject and the Ethics and Essay papers.

Develops Critical Thinking

It teaches civil service examination aspirants how to think in a sensible and logical manner. Improves writing skills, is applicable to all documents, and is logical. General principles are simple to grasp. There is no need for prior expertise in philosophy, and certain questions can be answered based on general awareness.

Also Read: Will the UPSC Remove the Optionals in CSE 2021? Will there be No Optional Subject Exam for UPSC?

Philosophy Optional Books to Boost Your UPSC Preparation

#A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy by CD Sharma

#An Introduction to Indian Philosophy by Datta and Chatterjee

#A Critical History of Western Philosophy by Y Masih

#A History of Philosophy by Frank Thilly

#Introduction to Western Philosophy by Donald Palmer

#Social and Political Philosophy by OP Gauba

#Introduction to Religious Philosophy by Y Masih

#Philosophy of Religion by John Hick

Tips to Excel in Philosophy Paper in the Upcoming Civil Service Examination

#Examine prior year’s papers.

#All philosophical topics should be carefully studied.

#Connect Indian philosophical ideas to Western philosophical ideas.

#Practice answering questions in a timely manner; be critical in your strategy.

#Practice answering the same questions over and over.

Framework for Writing Answers in Philosophy Optional

There are space and time constraints in the UPSC mains exam. You have a finite amount of space and time to present the answer in the best possible way. As a result, having a structure or framework in mind when writing responses are beneficial. Here is an example framework that you can use to prepare notes for the philosophy optional for the upcoming UPSC.

#Begin by providing an overview of the doctrine in question. Briefly explain what it means.

#Then you could go over each element of the theory in great detail.

#Then you might discuss the relationship between this theory or doctrine and other theories.

#Write a rational critique of the theory in this step.

#The hypothesis can then be compared to other theories and philosophers. Draw a parallel with a western theory if possible and applicable.

#In the end, you can discuss the theory’s importance or usefulness.


If you have an interest in knowing in and out about any topic but with a different perspective then yes philosophy can be a good optional subject for IAS. But please keep in mind that the optional subject which you desire to join should be your favourite subject which can help you upgrade your grades. Just focus on the point that the optional subject which you choose has to be studied by you in detail. Think and then decide which optional subject will be best for you. All the best!

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Is Philosophy a good choice for taking it as an optional in the civil services examination? What is the syllabus? How to prepare for it? Click here to find out.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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