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Syllabus of Philosophy Paper - I

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 Commonsense; Refutation of Idealism; Logical Atomism; Logical Constructions; Incomplete Symbols; Picture Theory of Meaning; Sying 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, Sarte, 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 Knowlegde; Rejection of Transcendent Entities.
  13. Jainism: Theory of Reality; Saptabhanginaya; Bondage and Liberation.
  14. Schools of Buddhism: Prat Ityasamutpada; Ksanikavada, Nairatmyavada.
  15. 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.
  16. Samkhya; Prakrit; Purusa; Causation; Liberation.
  17. Yoga; Citta; Cittavrtti; Klesas; Samadhi; Kaivalya.
  18. Mimamsa: Theory of Knowledge.
  19. Schools of Vedanta: Brahman; Isvara; Atman; Jiva; Jagat; Maya; Avida; Adhyasa; Moksa; Aprthaksiddhi; Pancavidhabheda.
  20. Aurobindo: Evolution, Involution; Integral Yoga.

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Syllabus of Philosophy Paper - II

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; Multi-culturalism. 
  7. Crime and Punishment: Corruption, Mass Violence, Genocide, Capital Punishment.
  8. Development and Social Progress. 
  9. Gender Discrimination: Female Foeticide, Land and Property Rights; Empowerment.
  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.

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Previous Year UPSC Questions

2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2021 2020 2019 2018



  1. Answer the following:
    a). “There is a red chair.” How would Plato explain this statement with the use of his theory of forms? Examine.
    b). “Potentiality is indefinable” according to Aristotle. Explain the relationship between potentiality and actuality with reference to the above philosophical position by taking the example of a “wooden table”.
    c). “Sensible things are those only which are immediately perceived by sense.” Explain Berkeley's theory of knowledge with reference to the above statement.
    d). Examine the concept of personal identity by Locke.
    e). “The relation between cause and effect is one of constant conjunction”. Examine Hume's “criticism of causation in the light of the above statement.
  2. Answer the following:
    a). Discuss Hegel's Dialectical method. Explain how his dialectical method leads him to the Absolute Idealism.
    b). What according to Logical Positivists are “pseudo statements”? How does one identify "pseudo statements”? Critically discuss with examples.
    c). Explain how Cartesian formulation of ontological argument is criticized by Kant.
  3. Answer the following:
    a). What are the main arguments put forward by Moore in his paper “A Defence of Common Sense” to prove that there are possible propositions about the world that are known to be true with certainty? Do you think Moore's arguments provide a sufficient response to objections presented by the sceptic against the possibility of knowledge? Give reasons in support of your answer.
    b). What according to Strawson are basic particulars? What reasons does Strawson offer to believe that 'material bodies' and 'persons' are basic particulars? Critically discuss.
    c). Critically examine Quine's postulate of empiricism without the dogmas with reference to his 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism'.
  4. Answer the following:
    a). Present a critical exposition of Husserl's criticism of 'natural attitude'. How does Husserl propose to address the problems involved in natural attitude through his phenomenological method?
    b). “I can always choose, but I ought to know that if I do not choose, I am still choosing”. Critically discuss Sartre's conception of choice and responsibility in the light of the above statement.
    c). What does Wittgenstein mean by the statement – “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent?" Critically discuss.


  1. Answer the following:
    a). Does the seed contain the tree? Discuss with reference to Nyāya-Vaišeșika Philosophy.
    b). Explain with reference to Nyāya Philosophy, the nature of sabda as the advice of āpta (a reliable person).
    c). Is 'inseparability' (ayuta-siddhatva) a necessary condition or a sufficient condition for defining characteristics (laksana) of samavaya (inherence)? Explain with reference to Vaiseșika Philosophy.'
    d). Distinguish between pudgala-nairātmyavāda and dharma-nairātmyavāda with reference to Buddhist Philosophy.
    e). Comment on the bearing of Cārvāka epistemology on the rejection of transcendental entities by them.
  2. Answer the following:
    a). Explain with reference to Yoga Philosophy, the nature of klešas. How does the removal of these lead to kaivalya?
    b). Explain the Sānkhya view on three gunas (guņa-traya) and their modifications.
    c). What, according to Mimārsakas, is the ontological status of abhāva (absence) and how does one know it? Explain and examine.
  3. Answer the following:
    a). How do the advocates of (anirvacaniya-khyāti)refute the position of the Naiyāyikas and establish the position of Advaitins regarding the problem of error? Critically discuss.
    b). If everything is momentary then how do the Buddhists explain the problem of memory and personal identity? Critically discuss.
    c). Explain the Jain view of seven-fold (sapta-bhangī) ‘Naya'.
  4. Answer the following:
    a). According to Śri Aurobindo, “the awakening of the psychic being and its gradual prominence over all other parts of the being is the first step in the conscious evolution of man'. Explain and examine.
    b). Compare and contrast the views of Sankara and Rāmānuja regarding the status of the world.
    c). Explain the status of jiva and jagat in the philosophy of Mādhvācārya.



  1. Answer the following:
    a). Discuss critically the distributive theory of justice as propounded by R. Nozick.
    b). How does Rousseau distinguish between natural and artificial inequality? Explain.
    c). Is Austin's theory of sovereignty compatible with democracy? Discuss.
    d). Does monarchy as a form of government leave room for individual freedom? Explain.
    e). How far can land and property rights be effective in empowerment of women? Explain.
  2. Answer the following:
    a). Discuss whether Amartya Sen's idea of justice is an improvement upon Rawl's theory of justice.
    b). Explain the reformative theory of punishment and discuss whether this is in tune with human dignity.
    c). Can humanism be a substitute for religion? Explain and evaluate in the context of the present Indian society.
  3. Answer the following:
    a). Discuss anarchism as a political ideology. Is it possible to dispense with political authority completely? Give reasons for your answer.
    b). Discuss the distinctive features of Gandhian Socialism and its contemporary relevance.
    c). Discuss Kautilya's contribution regarding the concept of sovereignty. Is it applicable in a democratic form of government? Explain.
  4. Answer the following:
    a). Discuss the views of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar regarding caste-discrimination in Indian Society. What are the measures suggested by him for its elimination? Explain.
    b). What are the main causes of female foeticide in India? Is it the result of demonic application of technology only? Discuss.
    c). Evaluate whether the social contract theory adequately addresses the different issues of human rights.


  1. Answer the following:
    a). Discuss the nature of God as propounded in Nyaya philosophy.
    b). Discuss the possibility of Absolute Truth in the context of religious pluralism.
    c). Is religious freedom possible in a multireligious society? Explain.
    d). Is religious life possible without the belief in God? Discuss.
    e). Discuss the paradox of omnipotence of God in the context of the existence of evil.
  2. Answer the following:
    a). Discuss the concept of immortality of soul with special reference to Hindu tradition.
    b). Elucidate the concept of liberation according to Advaita Vedanta. Explain the role of knowledge in the attainment of liberation.
    c). Do you consider that religion and morality are inseparable? Give reasons for your answer.
  3. Answer the following:
    a). Discuss the role of reason and faith in religion. Can reason be a regulative force in the formulation of religious beliefs? Explain.
    b). Give a critical account of moral argument to prove the existence of God.
    c). Explain the concept of religious experience in the light of Vedantic tradition.
  4. Answer the following:
    a). What is the non-cognitive theory of religious language? Explain critically in the light of R.B. Braithwaite's views.
    b). Discuss and evaluate the doctrine of Karma as an essential postulate of Hinduism.
    c). Explain the symbolic nature of religious language with special reference to Paul Tillich.

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