Exam Strategy for Philosophy

Strategy to Prepare Philosophy in Objective Questions

Section A

Philosophy as an optional subject has become very popular in UPSC. Philosophy has very less syllabus so it can be prepared within the least time with reasonable effort. Basically students think that Philosophy is useless subject and it has no practical importance but it is not true meaning of the following subject. Philosophy is very analytical that makes it very interesting and highly scoring.

The syllabus of ‘Preliminary examination has three sections: Section A, B and C. Section A is Problem of philosophy’ Here one is concerned with Indian Philosophy and Western Philosophy. The questions are basically asked on terminology and theories like ‘What is Pratitya Samutpada?’ One must have understanding of terms and theories. As per the Indian Philosophy there are total nine schools. Six schools are orthodox namely Samkhya Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika Mimansa and Vedanta and two are heterodox namely Jainism and Buddhism. One other school is Materialism. UPSC basically asks questions in Indian philosophy on some specialised points like substance, characteristics. In the western philosophy there is no predefined syllabus, basically questions are asked from Thales to even Sartre.

Section B

Deals with Logic. Here we have to read only seven topics from Irwin M. Copi. Plus we have to study Symbolic Logic by Dr. Ashok Verma. Basically 30 − 35 questions are asked from logic in Prelims. 20 questions are just elaborative: They do not require any explanation. 5 − 8 questions are on Quantification which also can be answered at first sight if you have already practised. Remaining 5 − 8 questions are from Deduction which require explanation: This depends upon your practice and even these are not decisive.

Section C

Deals with Ethics. It consists of Indian Ethics and Western Ethics. In Indian Ethics questions are from Charvaka to Vedanta. Dr. Divakar Pathak's book on Indian Ethics is essential for this section. In Western Ethics, questions are from Thales'to Advanced Ethics. Here we have to study Thilly and another book by Dr. V. P. Verma. In this section, questions are basically factual in nature so we have to assimilate some facts and remember them.

Strategy to Prepare Philosophy in Mains

Paper I

Paper I deals with Indian Philosophy and Western Philosophy. Here we have to attempt 5 questions out of 8. Two questions are mandatory which are basically based on the specialised topics. The mandatory question of Indian philosophy is basically on epistemology or it can be a small note. In Western Philosophy the mandatory question is mostly a short note. The first paper is highly scoring because all the questions are predictable. We have to critically examine the questions and give as many comments as possible. The questions are basically direct in nature like refutation of inference given by Charvakay Syatvada and Anekantavada in Jainism, Pratitya Samutpada and Kshan Bhangvada in Early Buddhism, Shunyavada and Vigyanvada in Later Buddhism, Purush prakriti and Theory of Evolution from Samkhya, categories and atomism from Vaisheshika, Brahma and Maya from Sankara, Qualified non-dualism and refutation of Mayaism from Ramayanya. General questions dealing with Indian Philosophy which are basically asked in UPSC. In Western philosophy, theories of ideas of Plato, substance and form of Aristotle, Cogito ergo sum of Descartes, substance or pantheism of Spinoza, monadology of Leibnitz, Esse est percipi of Berkeley, Scepticism of Hume, Synthetic a prior judgement of Kant, Truth is rational and rational is truth of Hegel, appearance and reality of Bradley, Radical empiricism of James, Common sense philosophy and refutation of idealism of Moore, Logical atomism and Theory of Description of Rusell, Eliminaation of metaphysics and verification theory of Ayer, Picture theory and language game of Wittgenstein, Category mistake of Ryle Nothingness of Heidegger, Existence precedes essence and man is condemned to be free of Sartre all the general questions pertaining to Western philosophy.

Paper II

Paper II is comprised of 2 core sections and there are 2 mandatory questions in every sections i.e.. One question from each section. Philosophy of religion and Socio-political philosophy are the 2 sections of Paper II. Philosophy of religion is very short. Overall there are only 7 topics in the entire syllabus and always 1 question from each topic. If certain specialised topics are covered, philosophy of religion can be covered easily. Regarding the portion of socio-political philosophy there are total 11 topics given syllabus. Some specific topics are there which deal with particulars like Sarvodaya, Gandhism, comparison between Marxism and Gandhism and sort notes are always on political ideals namely equality, liberty, sovereignity and justice.