Philosophy Books for UPSC

by Vajiram & Ravi

Philosophy books for UPSC focus on the development of philosophy and its impact on Indian culture. Philosophy is a popular optional subject in the UPSC Mains Exam, leading to a variety of available books. However, not all books are suitable for acing the philosophy optional, so it's important to choose the right ones.

The Philosophy books for UPSC differ for each paper of the philosophy optional subject. The first paper covers the history and problems of philosophy, while the second paper explores socio-political philosophy and the philosophy of religion. We've compiled a list of Philosophy Optional Books that comprehensively cover these topics.

UPSC Philosophy Books for Paper 1

Philosophy optional paper 1 focuses on the history and problems of philosophy. It consists of two sections: Western philosophy and Indian philosophy. The Western philosophy section covers the major philosophical schools and thinkers from ancient to contemporary times, such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Sartre. The Indian philosophy section covers the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy, such as Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, and Vedanta, as well as the heterodox schools, such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Charvaka. The paper also includes topics such as logic, ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of language.

Paper I:

  1. W. T. Stace: A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (Plato and Aristotle).
  2. Copleston: A History of Philosophy (Relevant Chapters from volume I, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX & XI).
  3. Anthony Kenny: A New History of Western Philosophy. OUP Oxford.
  4. Datta & Chatterjee: An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. Rupa Publishing.
  5. C. D. Sharma: A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. MLBD.
  6. Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.
  7. Bertrand Russell: A History Of Western Philosophy

Philosophy Optional Books for Paper 2

Philosophy optional paper 2 consists of two sections: socio-political philosophy and philosophy of religion. The socio-political philosophy section covers the concepts and theories of social and political philosophy, such as justice, equality, rights, liberty, democracy, secularism, nationalism, feminism, and multiculturalism. The philosophy of religion section covers the arguments for and against the existence of God, the problem of evil, the nature and attributes of God, the relationship between faith and reason, the concepts of soul, liberation, and rebirth, and the comparative study of the major religions of the world.

  1. John Hick: Philosophy of Religion.
  2. Michael B. Wilkinson: Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction.
  3. O. P. Gauba: Social & Political Philosophy.
  4. Political Theory, An Introduction. Edited By Rajeev Bhargava & Ashok Acharya.
  5. Oxford Dictionary of Politics.

How to cover Philosophy Books for UPSC?

In subjects like philosophy, it's crucial for candidates to plan well to score high. Choosing the right Philosophy Books for UPSC is a smart addition to their preparation. However, covering all the books in a limited time is challenging, so candidates must be strategic.

  • Candidates should review the Philosophy optional syllabus to understand the topics they need to cover and select UPSC Books based on their comfort and understanding.
  • Start with basic books to strengthen fundamentals before moving on to advanced-level books for easier preparation.
  • Avoid reading the same topic from multiple books, but gathering more information on a specific topic is a good idea.
  • Consider joining Philosophy Optional Coaching for expert guidance and help to prepare for the exam.
  • Make short notes while going through UPSC philosophy books to simplify revision.


Which book is best for UPSC Philosophy Optional?

The best books for UPSC Philosophy Optional are:

  1.  "A Critical History of Western Philosophy" by Y. Masih,
  2. "Indian Philosophy" by Radhakrishnan
  3.  "Political Theory" by O.P. Gauba.

How to read Philosophy for UPSC?

To read philosophy for UPSC:

  • Understand the Syllabus:
    • Familiarize yourself with the UPSC philosophy optional syllabus.
  • Select Key Books:
    • Choose standard philosophy books like "A Critical History of Western Philosophy" and "Indian Philosophy."
  • Start with Basics:
    • Begin with fundamental texts to build a strong foundation.
  • Make Concise Notes:
    • Create short notes while reading to aid in revision.
  • Practice Answer Writing:
    • Regularly practice writing answers to enhance understanding.
  • Diversify Sources:
    • Refer to multiple sources, including online materials, to gain diverse perspectives.
  • Join Coaching
    • Joining a Coaching will give you access to expert guidance.
  • Stay Consistent:
    • Maintain a consistent study routine to cover the syllabus effectively.