The Civil Services Exam preparation process is largely a race against the clock. Thus, effective time management is essential to success. In terms of General Studies Papers, a candidate has no choice but to thoroughly and fully prepare the curriculum on a regular basis. Nevertheless, one has the freedom to select an Optional Subject of one’s own choosing. But before choosing it, let’s take a closer look at the Philosophy optional syllabus for UPSC.

Philosophy Optional Syllabus for UPSC: Why Choose It?

The Optional Subject has the potential to greatly improve or detract from one’s prospects of becoming an IAS. As a result, in pursuit of a cherished ambition, one must pick the Optional Subject with care and deliberation. In this sense, it deserves special attention because it is the subject that may lead the route to success in more than one manner. It offers numerous advantages as an Optional Subject.

Why Choose Philosophy as Your Optional Subject?

Syllabus is Well-defined and Concise

It has the smallest curriculum of any UPSC Civil Services Exam optional topic, therefore it may be completed in less time. The optional philosophical course can be finished in as short as two months. Applicants from various walks of life will find it appealing and acceptable. With an 8.9 percent success rate, you’re clearly on the right route. There really is no relevant content on the whole curriculum.

A Wide Range of Topics are Covered

This CSE optional course covers essays, ethics, and material on a range of topics. This optional subject permits UPSC civil services test candidates to become familiar with a wide range of thinkers, many of whom will feature in the ethics paper. As a consequence, there is some crossover between the Ethics and Essay papers and this optional subject.

Improves Critical Thinking

It instructs civil service test candidates on how to think rationally and logically. It improves writing abilities, is relevant to all papers, and follows a logical pattern. General concepts are easy to understand. There is no requirement for prior knowledge of this subject, and certain issues may be solved with general knowledge.

Advantages of Choosing Philosophy

Philosophy can be adequately and thoroughly prepared in a very short period of time, once and for all.

Students who choose Philosophy as an Optional Paper do not need any prior knowledge of the subject. This subject is known as the “Parent of all Disciplines,” since it is the source of all other subjects. Thus, it is the most fundamental subject; it is the source of all knowledge systems, and as such, it does not require any prior understanding of the subject.

It may assist students in significantly enhance their thinking and writing skills, which can then be used for their essay assignments. It may provide a positive outlook on life and therefore help an applicant to respond to interview questions more wisely and with significant insights.

Philosophy Syllabus for UPSC

The UPSC Optional Syllabus is as given below:

Paper – I

History and Problems I


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; 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.
Existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger): Existence and Essence; Choice, Responsibility and Authentic Existence; Being–in–the–world and Temporality.
History and Problems II


Quine and Strawson: Critique of Empiricism; Theory of Basic Particulars and Persons.

Cârvâka: Theory of Knowledge; Rejection of Transcendent Entities.
Jainism: Theory of Reality; Saptabhaòginaya; Bondage and Liberation.
Schools of Buddhism: Pratîtyasamutpâda; Ksanikavada, Nairâtmyavâda.
Nyâya- Vaiúesika: Theory of Categories; Theory of Appearance; Theory of Pramâna; Self, Liberation; God; Proofs for the Existence of God; Theory of Causation; Atomistic Theory of Creation.
Sâmkhya: Prakrti; Purusa; Causation; Liberation.
Yoga: Citta; Cittavrtti; Klesas; Samadhi; Kaivalya.
Mimâmsâ: Theory of Knowledge.
Schools of Vedânta: Brahman; Îúvara; Âtman; Jiva; Jagat; Mâyâ; Avidyâ; Adhyâsa; Moksa; Aprthaksiddhi; Pancavidhabheda
Aurobindo: Evolution, Involution; Integral Yoga.
Also Read: Understanding the Different Dimensions and Branches of Ethics: Ethics for UPSC

Paper – II

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.
Gender Discrimination: Female Foeticide, Land and Property Rights; Empowerment.
Caste Discrimination: Gandhi and Ambedkar
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).
The 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 Noncognitive.

How to Prepare for Philosophy Optional in Civil Services Examination?

Western philosophy, Indian philosophy, social-political philosophy and religious philosophy are the four elements of philosophy. Let’s have a look at how to prepare for each of these:

Philosophy in The West and Philosophy in India

Paper-1 of the optional paper covers both of these subjects. You must attempt 5 out of the 8 questions on this exam, as well as 2 required questions from each of these sub-sections. You may learn about Indian philosophy by reading Satish Chandra Chatterjee’s An Introduction to Indian Philosophy and Yakub Masih’s A Critical History of Western Philosophy: Greek, Medieval, and Modern.

Religious Philosophy and social-political Philosophy

These two components make up the core of the optional topic of Paper-II. Read the Hindu editorials as well as pieces from monthly periodicals like Yojana and Kurukshetra for preparing these. Hindu editorials frequently include discussion of major philosophical issues.

Write Some Practise Answers

After you’ve thoroughly prepared for the above-mentioned topics, spend some time composing answers. Use your notes to help you compose responses and get them reviewed by your mentors and experts.

Also Read: 6 Best Optional Subjects in UPSC: Guide to Choose Most Scoring Non-technical Subjects

Refer to the Toppers’ Answer Copies

To obtain a concept of how your replies should be written, look through toppers’ response copies and try writing them.

Take Part in The Test-series

Register in a test series such that your answer copies may be reviewed and you can receive comments from professionals and mentors.

Success Rate

Year  Number of Candidates Number of Passing Candidates Success Rate (%)
2015 847 47 5.5
2014 908 63 7
2013 736 58 7.9
2012 1116 99 8.9
2011 900 74 8.2
2010 1866 80 4.3

Toppers List

Candidate’s Name Year Rank
Juhi Jalota 2017 122
Garima Agrawal 2017 241
Hemant K. Singh 2017 359
M U Sri Rama Vinay 2016 410
Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan 2015 2
Jatin Lal 2015 42
Kumar Harsh 2015 43
Sudhanshu Dhama 2015 115
Sameer Shaikh 2015 135
Ambarish V L Vemuri 2015 150
Sanskriti Jain 2014 11
Mihir Patel 2014 27
Amrutesh Aurangabadkar 2011 10

Philosophy Optional Books for IAS Exam

# 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

Also Read: Best Books for Ethics UPSC: Which Book is Good for Ethics Integrity and Aptitude?

Pros of Philosophy as an Optional Subject

Among all the optional curriculum for the IAS main examination, it has the smallest syllabus. In two months, the whole curriculum may be completed. In addition, the curriculum is well-defined and concise. The curriculum is nearly totally static. There isn’t a single part of current events that need to be updated. Many of the concepts covered in it may be applied to other courses, such as Ethics and Essay writing. Some philosophical themes can also be applied to other general studies publications. You may learn a lot about democracy, humanism, theology, morality, secularism, female equality, and other issues by studying it. Candidates who study this subject will be better prepared to deal with the particular character of the Ethics paper (GS – IV). You can acquire a critical view of life and come up with more creative and insightful ideas.

Cons of Philosophy as an Optional Subject

To compensate for the syllabus’s short duration, the Civil Services Examination asks more indirect and difficult questions in this subject. To do well in this topic, you must have excellent writing abilities.


Candidates’ innovative thinking can be sparked by philosophy. It can also help students enhance their writing abilities, which will help them in all of the IAS mains papers. It is a logical topic as well. Another significant benefit of this subject is that it is open to individuals with virtually any educational background. It is a fundamental subject for which no prior knowledge is required. But, don’t go with us. Always pick your optional subject based on your strength.

Want to level up your UPSC preparations? Visit UPSC Pathshala for daily blogs and courses.

Also Read: Ethics Notes for UPSC IAS Exams: Check-out Here

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Philosophy Optional Syllabus for UPSC: How to Prepare Philosophy for UPSC Optional?
Wondering if Philosophy is the right option for you? If yes, this article is for you. Firstly, you need to check out the Philosophy optional syllabus for UPSC. Click here to learn more.
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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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