UPSC Philosophy Syllabus - Philosophy Optional Syllabus PDF for Paper 1 and 2

by Vajiram & Ravi

The UPSC Philosophy Optional Syllabus is designed to assess aspirants' understanding of various philosophical concepts, theories, and thinkers. If you have a genuine interest in exploring fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, morality, and the nature of reality, Philosophy Optional could be a great fit. It's a subject that allows you to delve deep into abstract concepts and engage in thought-provoking discussions. The UPSC Philosophy Syllabus aims to evaluate your critical thinking, analytical abilities, and depth of philosophical knowledge.

UPSC Philosophy Syllabus

Choosing Philosophy as an optional subject for the UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam can be a unique and intellectually rewarding choice. Philosophy cultivates strong critical thinking and analytical skills. It teaches you to evaluate arguments, dissect complex ideas, and develop logical reasoning, which becomes an asset not just in the UPSC Mains Exam but also in your personal and professional life.

The UPSC Philosophy syllabus covers a wide range of topics, from Western and Indian philosophical traditions to ethics, political philosophy, metaphysics, and more. This diversity allows aspirants to choose areas of personal interest and specialisation.

The Philosophy optional paper consists of two parts: Paper I and Paper II. Here's an introduction to the UPSC Philosophy optional syllabus of both papers in detail.

UPSC Philosophy Syllabus Paper-1

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.
  • 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 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, Sarte, 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; Saptabhanginaya; Bondage and Liberation.
  • Schools of Buddhism: PratItyasamutpada; Ksanikavada, Nairatmyavada.
  • Nyaya—Vaiesesika : 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.
  • Samkhya; Prakrit; Purusa; Causation; Liberation.
  • Yoga; Citta; Cittavrtti; Klesas; Samadhi; Kaivalya.
  • Mimamsa: Theory of Knowledge.
  • Schools of Vedanta: Brahman; Isvara; Atman; Jiva; Jagat; Maya; Avida; Adhyasa; Moksa; Aprthaksiddhi; Pancavidhabheda.
  • Aurobindo: Evolution, Involution; Integral Yoga.

UPSC Philosophy Syllabus Paper-2

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).
  • 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 Non-cognitive.


Books to Study UPSC Philosophy Syllabus

The skills developed in studying UPSC Philosophy Books are transferable to various aspects of life. These skills are relevant not only for exams but also for decision-making, problem-solving, and effective communication.

UPSC Philosophy Optional Paper I

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

UPSC Philosophy Optional Paper II

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

UPSC Philosophy Optional Syllabus, when studied thoroughly and critically, has the potential to yield good scores. The subjectivity involved in evaluating philosophical answers can work to your advantage if you present well-structured and reasoned arguments. By studying Philosophy Optional syllabus, you develop a deeper understanding of human nature, societal values, and ethical dilemmas. This can be an asset not only in exams but also in your personal and professional life. Philosophy is a subject that encourages lifelong learning and personal growth. It equips you with the tools to ponder complex questions and continue exploring philosophical ideas beyond the exam.

FAQs on UPSC Philosophy Syllabus

What is the syllabus of Philosophy for UPSC?

The UPSC Philosophy Optional has two papers - Paper 1 and Paper 2. Paper 1 focuses on the History and Problems of Philosophy. It consists of Western and Indian Philosophers. The Philosophy Paper 2 focuses on Social and Political Philosophy and on Philosophy of Religion. To check the complete UPSC Philosophy Syllabus, you can download the UPSC Philosophy Optional Syllabus PDF from the link here.

How to prepare UPSC Philosophy Optional Syllabus?

To prepare UPSC Philosophy Optional Syllabus for the Mains exam:

  • Familiarise yourself with the syllabus to know what topics are covered.
  • Study from the books recommended above and coaching notes for each topic.
  • Focus on understanding philosophical concepts deeply.
  • Read philosophers' original texts and engage critically with their ideas.
  • Take concise notes to summarise key points and arguments.
  • Regularly practise Philosophy answer writing to develop clear and structured writing or Join a Philosophy Test Series.
  • Practise UPSC previous year question papers and mock tests for time management and familiarity.
  • Periodically review notes and revise them to reinforce learning.