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IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains 2021 Preparation Strategy for Philosophy Optional

Updated On -

Mar 22, 2021

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Sudeshna Bhar

Exams Prepmaster

Among the non-technical subjects, Philosophy is one of 25 subjects offered by UPSC. It has the shortest syllabus in comparison to other non-technical subjects in IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains. The syllabus of Philosophy is declared by the conducting body. Check the UPSC philosophy optional syllabus here.

Paper I deals with Indian Philosophy and Western Philosophy and Paper II has 2 sections dealing with Philosophy of religion and Socio-political philosophy. In paper-I, candidates will face 5 out of 8 questions, and in paper-II, there will be 1 question asked from each topic.

In the following article, the topic-wise weightage, previous years’ papers, and booklist as per the topics is discussed.

IAS Weightage

Topic-wise Weightage of IAS (UPSC CSE) Philosophy Optional

Before starting your preparation, topic-wise analysis is important. It will give you a rough idea about the important topics and the weightage of each topic in IAS philosophy optional. This will help you to plan the timetable and make predictions of probable questions.

Topic-wise analysis of Philosophy Optional Paper-I

For better understanding, the philosophy optional paper-I is divided into two parts: Indian Philosophy and contemporary western philosophy.

Indian Philosophy

In the following table, there is a detailed marks division of important topics that have been faced from the Indian Philosophy section.

Topic Analysis of Marks
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Aurobindo 10 15 15 20 15
Schools of Vedanta 50 30 30 15 15
Mimamsa 25 25 20 15 20
Yoga 12 15 20 0 10
Samkhya 22 50 25 10 15
Nyaya Vaisheshika 35 20 30 20 0
Buddhism 0 0 35 25 40
Jainism 10 15 35 45 15
Carvaka 0 10 15 15 0

Contemporary Western Philosophy

In the following table, there is a detailed marks division of important topics which has been faced from Contemporary Western Philosophy.

Topic Analysis of Marks
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Quine and Strawson 0 10 15 20 0
Existentialism 12 20 0 0 0
Phenomenology 0 10 10 0 15
Later Wittgenstein 10 20 0 10 10
Logical Positivism 10 20 0 10 10
Moore, Russell 12 0 0 0 10
Hegel 12 0 0 0 10
Kant 22 10 20 35 40
Empiricism 0 0 10 0 20
Rationalism 12 0 15 15 15
Plato and Aristotle 10 15 10 20 10

Topic-wise Analysis of Philosophy Optional Paper-II

For better understanding, philosophy optional paper II is divided into two parts: Socio-Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion.

Philosophy Paper-II: Socio-Political Philosophy

In the following table, there is a detailed marks division of important topics which has been faced from Socio-Political Philosophy.

Topic Analysis of Marks
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Caste Discrimination 10 25 35 20 10
Gender Discrimination 50 15 30 10 15
Development and Social Progress 0 15 10 0 15
Crime and Punishment 10 50 0 30 0
Humanism, Secularism 10 50 0 20 30
Political Ideologies 0 35 50 10 30
Forms of Government 50 15 35 10 20
Individual and State 10 20 10 0 10
Sovereignty 0 10 10 20 25
Social and Political Ideals 50 15 25 10 15

Philosophy Paper-II: Philosophy of Religion

In the following table, there is a detailed marks division of important topics which has been faced from the Philosophy of Religion:

Topic Analysis of Marks
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Nature of Religious Language 50 20 15 15 20
Religious Pluralism 0 30 0 10 30
Religion and Morality 50 15 15 0 0
Religion without God 0 0 0 15 0
Religious Experience 10 15 25 0 10
Reason, Revelation, and Faith 10 35 35 20 25
Soul 10 35 35 15 45
Problem of Evil 10 20 25 0 35
Proofs for the Existence of God 50 15 45 15 15
Notions of God 10 20 10 20 0
Study Material

Study Material for IAS (UPSC CSE) Philosophy Optional

Candidates can check the table below where the booklist is provided categorized as per the sections of UPSC Philosophy optional syllabus:

Recommended Books for Problems of Philosophy

  • A History of Philosophy - Frank Thilly
  • Survey of Indian Philosophy - C D Sharma
  • Indian Philosophy, A Counter Perspective - Dr. Daya Krishna
  • Indian Philosophy II Volume - Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
  • Indian Philosophy - Dr. Deo Raj
  • The voyage of Discovery - Dr. William F. Lawhead
  • Introduction to Indian Philosophy - Dr. Dutta

Recommended Books for Existentialism

  • Existentialism: A Reconstruction - David Cooper
  • A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy - C Sharma

Recommended Books for Western Philosophy

  • A History of Philosophy - Frank Thilly
  • A Critical History of Western Philosophy - Y Masih
  • Contemporary Western Philosophy - Dr. B.K. Lal
  • Western Philosophy - Dr. Y.Masiaha

Recommended Books for Social-Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion

  • An Introduction to Political Theory - O P Gauba
  • Introduction to Religious Philosophy - Y Masih
  • Philosophy of Religion - John H. Hick
  • Introduction to Indian Philosophy - Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
Philosophy Paper I

Preparation Strategy for IAS (UPSC CSE) Philosophy Paper-I

In Paper-I, candidates have to answer 5 questions out of 8 questions. The compulsory questions are generally asked from the epistemology of Indian philosophy. Here are the preparation tips for both Indian philosophy and Western Philosophy:

Preparation Strategy for Indian Philosophy Section

The commonly asked questions are from Refutation of inference, Pratitya Samutpada, and Khan Bhangvada, Shunyavada, and Vigyanvada, Purush Prakriti, and Theory of Evolution categories and atomism from Vaisheshika, Qualified non-dualism and refutation of Mayaism from Ramanuja, etc.

  • ‘A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy’ by CD Sharma is preferable to study the Indian Philosophy section. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy’ by Datta and Chatterjee can also be used as reference material.
  • President Dr. S Radhakrishnan’s two volumes on Indian Philosophy is also helpful to study in-depth.
  • While writing the answers on Indian philosophy, the Sanskrit terms in philosophy can be used to enrich the answer writing.
  • Candidates can make an effort to relate Indian philosophical concepts with western thoughts to write answers.

Preparation Tips for Western Philosophy

The commonly asked questions are from the theories of Plato, substance, and form of Aristotle, Descartes, substance or pantheism of Spinoza, monadology of Leibnitz, Berkeley, Scepticism of Hume, Kant, Hegel, Bradley, Radical empiricism of James, the idealism of Moore, Russel, etc. Here are some tips to follow:

  • For The Contemporary Western Philosophy section ‘A Critical History of Western Philosophy’ by Y Masih or ‘A History of Philosophy’ by Frank Thilly is best to start your preparation with.
  • ‘Introduction to Western Philosophy’ by Donald Palmer is good to develop the understanding of the subject and several philosophers.
  • Western philosophy is considered to be the most crucial part of Paper-I. Therefore, a deep understanding of the thinkers is very important.
Philosophy Paper II

Preparation Strategy for IAS (UPSC CSE) Philosophy Paper-II

Paper-II is divided into two sections as Socio-Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion. Here are the preparation tips for both sections:

  • In the philosophy of religion, there are only 7 topics in the whole syllabus and always 1 question from each topic.
  • On the other hand, there are 11 topics given in the syllabus of Socio-political philosophy.
  • Some topics are invariably asked like Sarvodaya, Gandhism, comparison between Marxism and Gandhism and short notes are always on political ideals (equality, liberty, sovereignty, and justice).
  • For the Socio-Political Philosophy section, ‘Social and Political Philosophy’ by OP Gauba is a good book to start your preparation with.
  • For the Philosophy of Religion, you can refer to ‘Introduction to Religious Philosophy’ by Y Masih or ‘Philosophy of Religion’ by John Hick.
Previous Papers

Previous Years’ Questions Papers of IAS (UPSC CSE) Philosophy Optional

In the following chart, some links are provided through which previous years’ question papers of 2020 to 2014 can easily be downloaded and take a print out if needed.

Year of Exam Paper-I Paper-II
2020 Download Download
2019 Download Download
2018 Download Download
2017 Download Download
2016 Download Download
2015 Download Download
2014 Download Download

Must Read: Mistakes to avoid in IAS (UPSC CSE) Exam

Though the optional has a defined and short syllabus, it is stuffed with technical terms, and it requires an in-depth understanding, as well as the ability to connect one concept with another.

IAS FAQs

FAQs

Ques. Is coaching necessary for philosophy optional of IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains?

Ans. Coaching is highly recommended for philosophy optional. It is difficult to self-study due to the vastness of the syllabus. A lot of self-effort and dedication are required to clear the examination. Begin early and aim to complete the entire syllabus comprehensively.

Ques. What is the highest score of Philosophy optional in IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains?

Ans. Juhi Jalota secured 306 Marks in Philosophy optional in CSE-2017 and secured AIR 122.

Ques. Are 6 months enough for Philosophy optional?

Ans. Though it depends on the candidates’ ability and interest, 6 months is enough to study and cover the philosophy. In the first 3 months, the syllabus is expected to be completed. So use the rest of the period for practice answer writing and revising.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.

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