Philosophy is the study that questions and makes us think about the knowledge of our own existence, our beliefs, thinking, wisdom, and reality of life, causes and their explanations.
Philosophy deals with:
- The reason behind our existence and core fundamental theories associated with them.
- A particular system or school of thoughts.
- The study of the basis of knowledge upon which philosophical theories are framed.
- Famous philosophical thinkers and their explanations and theories.
- Concepts of behavioral philosophy and related questions.
- A part of religious studies as well.
- Scientific thinking for our beliefs and nature.
Philosophy in UPSC mains exam
- Over the years, students are of the opinion that philosophy comes under the bracket of not-so-tough subjects, though the syllabus is a very detailed one.
- In fact, you could keep a standard set of reference books for your study and stick to it.
- The main aid that will help you clear this exam successfully is to deal with the subject with a lot of interest and keep tremendous patience in the underlying topics.
- Once you start your preparation, you should make it interesting and fruitful for yourself by realizing the logic associated with the topics. Just following the rote method of learning whatever is given in the syllabus will lead you to disinterest in the subject.
- You should be able to explain the understood concepts of philosophy in your own words. It is not a highly technical subject and does not require you to be familiar with expert terminology. You should be able to clearly express your views in your own words about concepts dealt in the core of the subject.
- If you find the syllabus easy, then its time you checked the previous question papers over the years. You will find that the difficulty level of the subject has only risen from year to year. Try to make a list of all those key concepts and fundamentals that need more of your attention.
- For an easy paper, you could also expect stringent rules for correction. Unless you present unique and innovative ideas for answers, your paper becomes a matter of repetition of many other similar answers.
When you compare philosophy with other subjects, you will find that the subject is detailed, yet you have a very good and clear idea of what is to be taken in for preparation. To keep it short, the syllabus is relatively crisp and compact compared to other syllabus. Here comes the catch as well, a good planning strategy to cover the syllabus by taking care of the depth of each topic will give you an upper hand in the subject.
- You could plan out a good time period of say two to two and a half months to prepare for the subject, including revision time.
- You could choose to refer good books and prepare your own notes or you could also attend a coaching centre to get a better grasp of the concepts.
- Once you get a good explanation of philosophical concepts and fundamentals, the rest could be a sweep.
- Many questions appear to be open questions which tend to brainstorm you to build your own ideas and opinions/suggestions regarding a particular theory. That said, the subject is more of a comment based and opinionated type of pattern that will help you conquer your level of understanding and subject expertise.
- General ideas built in mind since your childhood could help you at this stage of exam in this subject. You could easily relate to many topics being relevant to you since ages and many of them that are not found in books.
- When we talk about human behaviour and ethics, etc, there needs to be a level of conceptual understanding from the books. What we understand in general is a very vague idea perceived and that shouldn’t be reflected in the paper. It gives the reader a very dull picture about the student’s opinion. A very formulative answer that is supported by strong theories and backed by comments and references could fetch more marks.
- A student needs to identify the roots of the concepts and how they are related to philosophy.
- This is a subject where you can expect variety in questions. A particular school of philosophy can have numerous ideas which may not be dealt in detail in the prescribed reference book. But on the spot, in the answer paper, you should be smart enough to present a tough part of your views and explain your stand on the thoughts written down.
Tips to remember:
- This is one subject which does not require you to study daily newspapers to keep yourself updated about current events. You could just glance through periodical events if any, related to the subject.
- Spirituality and inner realisations are a part and parcel of the subject. Religious views are different from spiritual knowledge. It would be a costly mistake to post personal religious beliefs and ideologies in the paper in place of spiritual explanations. Readers would definitely not expect one-sided personal views in such papers.
- A lot of neutral and socially relevant topics find a deep connection with philosophy. In fact you will see philosophical insights in most of the essay topics asked in the UPSC exam. It is up to the student to identify relevant connections and put forth those points to emphasize the ideologies of philosophy at relevant places.
- Do not be misguided that this subject is a very easy paper to attempt. There are many others with similar thoughts and attempt the paper with like minded opinion. Prepare a flow for your preparation.
- Do not copy answers directly from your guides or reference books. This exam is trying to assess your knowledge of the subject and not asking for how many parts of the subject you are able to memorize. You should come up with creative and innovative answers and present them clearly in the paper. Just memorising definitions and writing those down on the paper will be a big waste of time.
Books for reference:
- A history of philosophy by Frank Thilly.
- An introduction to Indian philosophy by S.Chatterjee
- An introduction to political theory by O P Gauba.
- Philosophy of religion by John H Hick
- A critical survey of Indian philosophy by C Sharma.
UPSC CSE Mains Philosophy Syllabus – Explain in detail
Paper – I
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; Skepticism.
- 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 Commonsense; 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, Sartre, 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; Saptabhaòginaya; Bondage and Liberation.
- Schools of Buddhism: Pratîtyasamutpada; Ksanikavada, Nairatmyavada
- Nyaya- Vaiúesika: 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: Prakrti; Purusa; Causation; Liberation
- Yoga: Citta; Cittavrtti; Klesas; Samadhi; Kaivalya.
- Mimamsa: Theory of Knowledge
- Schools of Vedanta: Brahman; Îúvara; Atman; Jiva; Jagat; Maya; Avidya; Adhyasa; Moksa; Aprthaksiddhi; Pancavidhabheda
- Aurobindo: Evolution, Involution; Integral Yoga.
Paper – II
- 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 Noncognitive.