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UPSC / IAS Prep: Philosophy Optional

Dinesh Bishnoi (212 marks optional)

This post on Philosophy optional preparation has been written by Dinesh Bishnoi (212 marks in
Philosophy in cse 2013). I am merely hosting this post. He may be reached on
In this post, not only does he tell us about the subject and topicwise books and strategy, but also
dwells a great length on answer writing and even writes few sample answers. Many thanks to
Words of Dinesh Bishnoi
NOTE- My marks 212 ,first attempt did coaching from Patanjali. The below written article is
based on my experience and the aim is to provide guidance to new students so that they can get
accurate study material.
Philosophy as a optional is one of the most popular optional. One can take philosophy if he has
logical aptitude. The benefit of philosophy is concise syllabus and logical nature and it can be
done in 4 months and very helpful in essay and ethics. But cons is that paper 2 of philosophy has
been awarded poorly by UPSC since last 2 years. Anyway this does not matter and I can say it is
one of safe bet because it provides enough time to prepare GS Papers simultaneously.
The syllabus of philosophy is divided into 4 sections1. Western philosophy
2. Indian philosophy
3. Social-political philosophy
4. Religious philosophy
Books Needed
1.Patanjali class notes(gives you good basic understanding)
2.Dutta and Chatterjee (INDIAN PHILOSOPHY)
7. O.P GAUBA ( selectively)

It is purely conceptual and logical. If you have firm grip on concepts you could score good marks
in paper 1 itself. But it requires good understanding and writing practise.
First of all try to study basic points before starting the syllabus. These are
1. What is Substance
2. Epistemeology
3. Meaning of metaphysics
4. Induction and Deduction methods
5. Sources of knowledge
Indian Philosophy
If you are self study student start with Indian Philosophy(because its syllabus can be easily
covered within 20 days and it is very easy also).Best way is to get Patanjali class notes and
understand basic points from the notes. Once you are thorough with all chapters of Indian
philosophy from Patanjali class notes you should buy 2 books:
1. Dutta and Chatterjee
2. CD Sharma.
One must study Dutta and Chatterjee very well and should add additional points to the classs
notes of Patanjali.C.D Sharma is best for Nyaya Vaishesika and one must read this chapter well
from C.D Sharma.
This is sufficient for Indian Philosophy .
Western Philosophy
Here also Patanjali class notes are the best. Study from Patanjali class notes very well chapter to
chapter. After studying all chapters well from Patanjali class notes go to Y.Masih.For good and
indepth understanding study Donald palmer selectively.
For contemporary western philosophy go to Patanjali printed notes along with class notes.For
value addition use Stanford philosophy Website which is best and provide you very basic
concepts and in depth material.
This will suffice for western philosophy.
Further compulsory solve last 20 years paper +give tests at home by solving last 2 years
paper.This will help in time management ,practise needed to handle exam situation.
Social Political Philosophy

Here INTERNET ,HINDU AND TIMES OF INDIA are the most important sources. For basic
reference do PATANJALI class notes then internet is needed for various topics,example for
women Empowerment go to United Nations Website.For land and property rights various articles
from United Nations are important.
Hindu basically covers current affairs portion.ex- capital punishment like topics are covered
through newspapers. The one question on Minority Rights under democracy are safe or not was
taken from Uttar Pradesh incident. So do current affairs very well.
Solve problems from philosophical view point. Ex- if asked democracy vs monarchy write from
philosophical point of view that democracy is better, here you can quote Leibnitz Monadolgy.
Religious philosophy
Basically it requires deep knowledge of paper1. If you have done paper -1 wellthen religious
philosophy is all about practice. Here also class notes of Patanjali is sufficient +do hick
Paper-2 is all about answer writing. How could easily you can make your answer objective
,marks depend on it.
Answer Writing
In last two years marks in Paper 2 have been difficult to score. There are many reasons for this Unexpectedly long papers
Tough evaluation in paper 2
Students not able to write what is expected by UPSC
First philosophy as a subject in answer writing requires good introduction and conclusion.
Another aspect is comparative analysis of one thinker with another.
Sample Answers
1. Discuss how by refuting different concepts of substance Aristotle establishes his own
theory of substance?
Substance is one of imp matter of discussion in philosophy.Through this concept various
Philosopherstried to explain the diversity and unity of this universe.Now you should write Platos
theory n then refutation of it by Aristotle.
After it one should tell Aristotles concept of Substance,but problem lies here most of people end
it here only, here in 20 words we must write 2 criticism of Aristotle theory of substance that will
make your answer complete, just after criticism write one importance of Aristotles theory.

2. Explain Locke theory of substance.

Here introduction is same but here they had asked Locke theory only but here one must do
comparative analysis with other two empiricist philosophers. This analysis is called as
comparative analysis. Always in critical examination show both merits and demerits and write a
balanced conclusion.
3. Can mystical experiences be regarded as valid source of knowledge?
Mystical experience is related to religious person. Mystical Experience is trans-empirical
phenomena where unity is established between worshipper n worshipped. Spinoza, Bradley,
Tagore has supported mystical experience.
But for being a valid source of knowledge from logical point of view it requires objective
verification. But mystical experience cannot be objectively verified.
Mimansikaschool of philosophy has given various criteria for valid source of knowledge1. It must not arise from defective causes
2. It must be free from contradiction
3. It must be self- consistent
4. It must truly represent the object
On the above criterias mystical experience cannot be accepted as valid source of knowledge.
Again in western philosophy Logical Positivism does not accept it as a valid source of
knowledge. They says only that thing can be accepted as valid source of knowledge which is
analytically or empiricially verified.
But if we look from kierkegaard view he clearly says believe in order to here we
may say for religious person mystical experience can be accepted as valid source of knowledge
because for a religious truth objective proofs doesnt matter.
Basically various philosophers has accepted experience, reason and verbal testimony as valid
sources of knowledge .on the basis of experience it is difficult to explain mystical experience as
valid source of knowledge because subject matter of mystical experience is transcendental. On
the basis of reason and logical arguments we cannot accept it as a valid source of
knowledgebecause logical arguments demands proof and it is very difficult to prove mystical
But on the other hand Rudolf Otto has accepted it as a valid source of knowledge.This view has
been supported by Wittgenstein who says skeptismabout religious matter is senseless.Here
various philosophers has accepted mystic experience as a direct knowledge which one gets
through intuition.Meditation,Prayer,Samadhi are also means of mystic experience.
4. Discuss Nozick theory of justice and its relevance?
Nozick defines justice as a individual we may claim over three things1.Our own body,soul,mind
3.Those natural things which have been modified by an individual using his talent.
Further Nozicks says that entitlement is just or valid if these three conditions are met1. Initial acquisition
2. Voluntary acquisition

3. Rectification
Current relevanceNozick defined justice in the terms of entitlement and its practical significance is relevant in
todays society also because it provides entitlement to traditional owners of land and his theory
can be used to provide security to traditional forest dwellers whose rights are continuously
snatched by govt and multinational companies for their own pecuniary gains.
There are 2 famous Coachings: Mitra and Patanjali. Though I do not know much about Mitra but
since I had done coaching from Patanjali I can give its pros and cons
PROs1. DHARMENDRA sir is very cooperative and ready to help you.
2. Teaches Indian philosophy and western philosophy very well
CONS1. But problem in religious philosophy sir teaches very less and finishes it within a week.
2. Poor test series and evaluation of copies is very poor.