Philosophy as an optional subject

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Ever since the beginning of the IAS examination PHILOSOPHY has been one of the most rewarding subject in IAS (main) examination.

It has given many spectacular, wonderful & surprising result. Among the humanities subjects it has the potentiality of giving maximum marks (e.g. 385,381,376,354 , etc. as scored by our students ).


It stands perfect ! In fact it should be the obvious choice now because –

  • It has the shortest syllabus . It can be covered within 60 days very comfortably . Saved time can be invested in GS which now consist of 4 papers ( 1000 marks )
  • It has great scoring potentiality
  • It has immense applicability in essay paper . Topics like democracy, secularism, humanism, women empowerment, multiculturalism, corruption, justice ,religion and morality, etc. are the relevant topics for the essay.
  • GS paper – IV ( Ethics,Integrity and Aptitude ) has strong roots in philosophy
  • It need not to be updated with any current developments as it is required in other subjects .
  • With the fast changing trend of exam where command over the entire subject is required, Philosophy is most competitive because 100% is covered in short span of time.


Anybody , irrespective of their academic background . In fact almost all candidates who opt for philosophy are either engineers , doctors or CA/CS . Even previous results prove this fact.


It has great scoring potentiality. There is always higher output as compared to input e.g.  if you get 300 out of 600 after devoting 4 months then same marks can be secured in philosophy by just devoting 2 months.

Average score is about 320 out of 600 though many students have scored 351 , 376 , 385 , 392 and even 400+ .


Yes , there are many add-on advantages apart from short syllabus & high score potentiality such as –

1)   Immense help in essay paper . a candidate himself can judge just by seeing paper –II syllabus . Moreover , after reading Paper – I candidate will be equipped with new orientation as well as terminologies which can be effectively utilized in essay paper.

2)   GS paper – IV  ( ethics ) has strong roots in philosophy

GS paper – I has political philosophies

3)   In new scheme of examination GS has major portion which will require lot of time . By opting philosophy one can save time to be devoted in GS.

4)  Many revisions can be made before exam . Further one revision itself takes  just 2- 3 days.



Not as such . However, candidate should be able to express his/her ideas or answers logically and coherently.


Generally medium of instruction/coaching should be of same medium in which aspirant will be writing his/her exam.

If teacher does not have good command over the language or medium is different e.g. English medium student sitting in hindi medium class , then they can not develop an art of answer writing or they start feeling lack of appropriate words/technical terms while writing answer .



It varies with individual to individual . coachings are not pre-condition for success . But there is no doubt that good coaching gives right direction and at the same time saves a lot time .

However , they are not substitute for your hard work as it is said “ If you desire heaven , only you have to die .”

As far as philosophy is concerned Paper- I requires guidance since it is very conceptual in nature. However, Paper-II  is manageable on your own .


Philosophy Paper-I  is conceptual i.e. it is thinker based .

Every thinker has a concept as well some objective e.g. some will attempt to explain this world ( of course not scientifically ) while some will aim at removal of sufferings of the world , etc .

Only thing to remember while reading this paper is that “we don’t have put our philosophy !” One has to strictly stick to the main theme of particular philosopher , interlinkages between different thinkers ( if any ).

Since paper-I is conceptual , mugging is not required . Once concept is cleared candidates can write in their own words .

Paper-I has two sections : Western and Indian philosophy

  • Western philosophy has broadly 3 units –

1)   Ancient thinkers : Plato and Aristotle

2)   Modern  :  Rationalism , Empiricism , Kant and Hegel

3)   Contemporary : Moore , Logical Atomism , Wittegenstein , Logical Positivism ,  Quine , Strawson , Existentialism and Phenomenology

  • Indian section has different schools of philosophy such as Samkhya , Yoga , Nyaya , Vedanta , Buddhism , Jainism , etc.

Hence , Paper I is conceptual and there is no as such applied part. It means domain of this paper is fixed . In simple terms candidate is not supposed to write his own philosophy !! e.g.

–     Buddha talked about 4 noble truths . Hence, it will be 4 only

–     Indian philosophy lays down four ultimate goals of our life , final goal being  MOKSHA . Now all thinkers like Buddha , Shankaracharya , Ramanuja , Mahavira Jaina , seeks to lay down various ways and means to achieve that. We will be studying these different paths by respective thinkers.

–     Similarly in western philosophy  we have various thinkers seeking to explain this world e.g. Plato says that this world derives its reality from another world which is more real just as moon derives its light from sun.

  • It is because this only that in this paper questions are direct and often get repeated.
  • This fixed nature of this paper makes it scoring as well as predictable.

Paper-II , on the other hand , is very general and contains topics of common interest . Here approach is not to stick to factual things but trying to catch the “basic” philosophy behind these issues  .

A candidate should understand the basic difference between Political Science & Sociology and Socio-Poltico philosophy .

e.g.    Pol. Science & Sociology deals with “ what is ”

while Socio-Pol philosophy deals with “ what ought to ”

Paper-II has two sections :

1)   Socio-Pol philosophy

2)   Philosophy of Religion

 Exam oriented important facts


  • In English medium its success ratio is very high.
  • Almost all successful candidates did not have any background in philosophy. Most of them were from technical/humanities/commerce background.
  • Since its syllabus is very short, it can be prepared over short period (70-75 days) and revised number of times before exam.
  • There are only 4 standard books to be read.




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 Commonsense; 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. Cārvāka : Theory of Knowledge; Rejection of Transcendent Entities.

13. Jainism: Theory of Reality; Saptabhaňginaya; Bondage and Liberation.

14. Schools of Buddhism: Pratītyasamutpāda; Ksanikavada, Nairātmyavāda

15. Nyāya- Vaiśesika: Theory of Categories; Theory of Appearance; Theory of Pramāna; Self, Liberation; God; Proofs for the Existence of God; Theory of Causation; Atomistic Theory of Creation.

16. Sāmkhya: Prakrti; Purusa; Causation; Liberation

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

18.Mimāmsā: Theory of Knowledge

19. Schools of Vedānta: Brahman; Īśvara; Ātman; Jiva; Jagat; Māyā; Avidyā; Adhyāsa; Moksa; Aprthaksiddhi; Pancavidhabheda

20. Aurobindo: Evolution, Involution; Integral Yoga.




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



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.

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Mitra Sir