Philosophy as an Optional Subject For UPSC

Philosophy is a way of thinking about certain subjects such as ethics, thought, existence, time, meaning and value. Philosophy is considered as the parent of every discipline, since every other subject has originated from it. Philosophy is the fountainhead of every knowledge system and, therefore, it does not presuppose any prior knowledge of the subject.

The UPSC provides aspirants an autonomy to opt for an Optional Subject of one’s own choice. The Philosophy Optional Subject can be prepared with proper planning and schedule. Philosophy is the Subject which can pave the path towards success in more than one way. As an Optional Subject, Philosophy has several points of strength. This optional can help aspirants to score well and secure rank in final list.

Philosophy Exam Pattern: -

In the UPSC CS (Main) Examination, Paper VII and Paper VIII are of Optional subjects. Each of the papers consists of 250 marks. Hence, in total, the optional subject accounts for 500 marks.

Advantages of choosing Philosophy as an Optional: -

  • The Philosophy syllabus is not short and precisely defined.

Ø Philosophy has good relevance and it is overlapping syllabus with other general studies and essay papers.

  • The philosophy syllabus is static in nature, so you do not have to worry about preparing current affairs for this optional subject.
  • Other than that, the syllabus is concise and there are plenty of resources available for the preparation.
  • In a very short time span, Philosophy can be prepared sufficiently & comprehensively.
  • Students do not require any prior background in the subject to opt Philosophy as an Optional Paper.
  • The syllabus of Philosophy is almost one-third to the other Optional Subjects.
  • Philosophy can bring about a remarkable improvement in the thinking and writing of the students, and thereby can extend substantial help to the essay paper.

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.


Possibility of Synthetic a priori Judgments; Space and Time; Categories; Ideas of Reason; Antinomies; Critique of Proofs for the Existence of God


Dialectical Method; Absolute Idealism

Moore, Russell and Early Wittgenstein

Defence 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

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


Theory of Knowledge; Rejection of Transcendent Entities


Theory of Reality; Saptabhaòginaya; Bondage and Liberation

Schools of Buddhism

Pratîtyasamutpada; Ksanikavada, Nairatmyavada

 Nyaya- Vaiúesika

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


Prakrti; Purusa; Causation; Liberation


Citta; Cittavrtti; Klesas; Samadhi; Kaivalya.


Theory of Knowledge

Schools of Vedanta

Brahman; Îúvara; Atman; Jiva; Jagat; Maya; Avidya; Adhyasa; Moksa; Aprthaksiddhi; Pancavidhabheda


Evolution, Involution; Integral Yoga.



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.
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).
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.