Philosophy Optional


Philosophy is an academic discipline that studies behavior, life, relationships, human thought process and society at large. UPSC Philosophy Optional Subject Syllabus is listed below.


  • Well-defined and short syllabus – It has the shortest syllabus among all the optional subjects available for UPSC Civil Services Exam, therefore, can be covered in a lesser period of time. It takes only two months to complete the philosophy optional syllabus.
  • Popular and suitable for candidates from any background.
  • High Success ratio of 8.9%
  • Entire syllabus is static; no current portion involved.
  • Overlaps with essay, ethics, material for various topics- Philosophy optional gives the aspirants opportunity to get familiar with various philosophers, who will again come in ethics paper. Thus, in this way, Philosophy optional subject has some overlapping with Ethics and Essay papers. 
  • Develops critical thinking – It gives the aspirants a rational and logical way of thought process. 
  • Improves writing skills,
  • useful for all papers,
  • logical,   
  • General concepts – easily understandable.
  • No prior knowledge required- In philosophy optional, some questions can be answered on the basis of general awareness also.


  • Go through previous year papers.
  • Study all philosophical concepts thoroughly.
  • Link Indian philosophical concepts with Western Philosophy.
  • Practice answer writing within the time limit; be critical in your approach.
  • Practice repeated questions.


  • Any candidate can opt for philosophy optional regardless of their academic background. The one who is good in expressing his ideas in a logical manner can opt for philosophy optional. But this logical approach comes with regular practice. This practice is imparted regularly in the Vignan IAS Academy Philosophy optional Online Programme.
  • Candidates from technical background opt for Philosophy optional because it is a logical subject. Also, candidates from humanities background opt for philosophy optional because it is highly non-technical.


Philosophy optional is yielding 280+ marks every year to the UPSC-Civil Services Examination toppers. Here are some facts to prove this argument –

Name of the candidateYear of passingRank securedTotal marks (500)Paper I (250 MARKS)Paper II (250 MARKS)
SANSKRITI JAINCSE- 201411299128171
MIHIR PATELCSE-201427327175152
JATIN LALCSE-201542307158149
KUMAR HARSHCSE-201543303153150
JUHI JALOTACSE-2017122283144139

Optional subject marks play an important role in improving your UPSC-CSE all India ranking. Also, if you have not scored well in GS papers, if you can score well in optional papers, you can still find your name in UPSC-CSE final list.


This course has been specially designed for those who are –

  • Interested in opting Philosophy as an optional subject with or without academic background in Philosophy.
  • Facing problems in correlating and connecting theories and concepts.
  • Studied the subject on their own and facing problem in writing standard answers.
  • Facing challenges in unfolding their knowledge to clear basic notions and theories.


  • Brief intro of doctrine.
  • Discuss each aspect of theory.
  • Draw some interconnection between particular theories.
  • Be critical in your answer.
  • Compare a theory with other theories.
  • Discuss the utility of philosophical concepts in real life.



History and Problems of Philosophy

1. Plato and Aristotle: Ideas; Substance; Form and Matter; Causation; Actuality and Potentiality.

2. Rationalism (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz): Cartesian Method and Certain Knowledge; Substance; God; Mind-Body Dualism; Determinism and Freedom.

3. Empiricism (Locke, Berkeley, Hume): Theory of Knowledge; Substance and Qualities; Self and God; Scepticism.

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

5. Hegel: Dialectical Method; Absolute Idealism

6. 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.

7. Logical Positivism: Verification Theory of Meaning; Rejection of Metaphysics; Linguistic Theory of Necessary Propositions.

8. Later Wittgenstein: Meaning and Use; Language-games; Critique of Private Language.

9. Phenomenology (Husserl): Method; Theory of Essences; Avoidance of Psychologism.

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

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

12. Carvaka : Theory of Knowledge; Rejection of Transcendent Entities.

13. Jainism: Theory of Reality; Saptabhan (ginaya; Bondage and Liberation.

14. Schools of Buddhism: Prati-tyasamutpa-da; Ksanikavada, Naira-tmyava-da

15. Nya-ya- Vais’esika: Theory of Categories; Theory of Appearance; Theory of Prama-na; Self, Liberation; God; Proofs for the Existence of God; Theory of Causation; Atomistic Theory of Creation.

16. Samkhya: Prakrti; Purusa; Causation; Liberation

17. Yoga: Citta; Cittavrtti; Klesas; Samadhi; Kaivalya.

18. Mima-msa-: Theory of Knowledge

19. Schools of Veda-nta: Brahman; I-s’vara; A-tman; Jiva; Jagat; Ma-ya-; Avidya-; Adhya-sa; Moksa; Aprthaksiddhi; Pancavidhabheda

20. Aurobindo: Evolution, Involution; Integral Yoga.


Socio-Political Philosophy

1. Social and Political Ideals: Equality, Justice, Liberty.

2. Sovereignty: Austin, Bodin, Laski, Kautilya.

3. Individual and State: Rights; Duties and Accountability

4. Forms of Government: Monarchy; Theocracy and Democracy.

5. Political Ideologies: Anarchism; Marxism and Socialism

6. Humanism; Secularism; Multiculturalism.

7. Crime and Punishment: Corruption, Mass Violence, Genocide, Capital Punishment.

8. Development and Social Progress.

9. Gender Discrimination: Female Foeticide, Land and Property Rights; Empowernment.

10. Caste Discrimination: Gandhi and Ambedkar

Philosophy of Religion:

1. Notions of God: Attributes; Relation to Man and the World. (Indian and Western).

2. Proofs for the Existence of God and their Critique (Indian and Western).

3. Problem of Evil.

4. Soul: Immortality; Rebirth and Liberation.

5. Reason, Revelation and Faith.

6. Religious Experience: Nature and Object (Indian and Western).

7. Religion without God.

8. Religion and Morality.

9. Religious Pluralism and the Problem of Absolute Truth.

10. Nature of Religious Language: Analogical and Symbolic; Cognitivist and Non- cognitive.


Indian Philosophy– VIGNAN ACADEMY NOTES, An Introduction to Indian philosophy by S Chatterjee and A critical survey of Indian philosophy by C Sharma. 

Western Philosophy – Y. Masih for classical western philosophy + VIGNAN ACADEMY Notes, A History of Philosophy by Frank Thilly.  

Philosophy of Religion – Y Masih (Focus mainly on Indian arguments), Philosophy of religion by John H. Hick 

Socio-political Philosophy – OP Gauba, Wikipedia, Google Contemporary thinkers such as Amartya Sen, Alisdair MacIntyre, and debates on Multiculturalism, Communitarianism, etc.