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Strategy for Philosophy:

UPSC exam site: Civil Services Exam :IAS,IFS,IES Details-UPSC syllabus,ias toppers interview,IAS tips,upsc exam details, upsc exam 2006 PHILOSOPHY - As an Optional Subject for Civil Services Examination

“Knowledge is power (acknowledged adage).
But, knowledge without Wisdom,
Is Power without Perspective.”

- Rajendra Ghuge


Preparing for PHILSOPHY is as much about reading as it is about contemplation, as much about listening to lectures as it is about discussing through an interactive mode, as much about comprehending concepts methodically as about logically developing an argument through authentic reasoning and as much about revising as about reflecting over themes in perspective. Therefore, there is a definite and inseparable connection between standard reading material, competent guidance, active student-teacher interaction, enthusiastic student participation and continuous supervision-cum-evaluation. Much of how all this can be achieved depends on the approach of the teacher and the attitude of the student. If the teacher’s approach is pro-active and the student’s attitude is positive, it is not difficult to match the expectations of the civil services examination in order to ensure excellent performance. It is in this context, that in the case of PHILOSOPHY, the quality of the study material provided by the teacher as well as the knowledge and communication skills of the teacher make all the difference in making the examination preparation effective and keeping the interest of the students alive. This is essentially the secret of success in a competitive examination like the civil services.

The syllabus for PHILOSOPHY is structured in such a manner that it is possible to superimpose the sections of the subject with planned segments in the timeframe available to prepare for the civil services examination. This would be explained methodically during the regular course. The purpose of approaching the subject in this fashion is to enable the candidates to prepare the subject of philosophy without compromising on their preparation for the other subjects, including general studies and the other optional subject. This will ensure a high level of overall preparedness for the civil services examination.

The method of studying and understanding PHILOSOPHY is another crucial aspect of the preparation. Philosophy is not an ambiguous subject, provided it is taught methodically. As importantly, a correct approach in preparing for philosophy also inculcates a systematic thought process – the method of the mind – which is useful in every aspect of the civil services preparation, including, essay writing, answering general studies questions, managing many of the other optional subjects and of course the interview. The philosophical approach is a distinctive competitive advantage. Effectively it implies conceptual clarity, logical interconnectivity, and precise demonstrability or explicability. This is the success mantra. How this can be efficiently achieved is as much a part of teaching philosophy as the subject matter of philosophy itself.

When an aspirant has to consider choosing an optional subject for the civil services examination, there are crucial questions that need to be answered apart from the consideration of what has been a subject at the graduation or post-graduation levels. At times the aspirant’s degree subject may not be the most suitable subject for the civil services examination. The reasons for this observation would be explained subsequently. So what should be the choice of subject when it comes to the civil services examination and what are the parameters that should guide this choice? These are the questions that this article addresses and answers. Further, why is philosophy considered as an apt optional subject for the civil services examination? In a sense all the aforesaid questions are inter-related in that they expect us to justify how we can attain our objective of being selected for the civil services and of course, excel in our performance to be at the top of the merit order of selected candidates.

When it comes to PHILOSOPHY, there is an irrefutable rationale as to why it should be the chosen optional, considering the questions that have been raised above in terms of efficacy and performance criteria. We shall examine this on the basis of the parameters enumerated below:

  • Fascinating subject that stimulates interest;
  • Efficiency in effective preparation;
  • Accuracy of performance in examination;
  • Extraordinary scoring potential;
  • Add-on advantages in Essay & General Studies;
  • Compliments preparation of some optional subjects;
  • Enhances overall impression for interview excellence.

    We shall now take up each of the aforesaid criteria that ought to impel a civil services’ aspirant to opt for philosophy as an optional subject.

    Philosophy is a fascinating subject that stimulates interest.

    The term PHILOSOPHY is derived from a combination of Greek words ‘PHILOS’ meaning love and ‘SOPHIA’ meaning wisdom. In effect the spirit underlying philosophy is the love of wisdom. What else is the civil services selection process seeking as an essential attribute in an aspirant?

    In essence PHILOSOPHY is the methodical and systematic exploration of what we know, how we know it and why it is important that we know it. In philosophy the concepts with which we approach the world become the topic of inquiry. Needless to say, knowledge of philosophy enables us to understand the world and equips us to methodically deal with the challenges that we encounter in the pursuit of progress and the quest of excellence. All this not only makes the preparation of philosophy extremely useful but also intensely interesting.

    Efficiency in effective preparation of Philosophy.

    When we think about choosing an optional for the Civil Services Examination, perhaps one of the crucial considerations is the efficiency with which we can prepare for the examination and the prospect of securing scores that would enable us to perform in an outstanding manner and eventually assure us success. PHILOSOPHY meets this requirement very well indeed. Because the subject emphasises on the method of understanding and the coherence of arguments, it is easy to grasp during the preparation stage and as easy to recall during the examination. These are undoubtedly significant parameters that would determine success in a competitive situation as the Civil Services Examination. Whether a candidate has a science or arts or commerce or any other academic background, there is a strong case to opt for philosophy as an optional subject. Those with a science background will find the scientific method and logical derivation in philosophy appealing and rewarding in terms of examination performance. Those with a commerce or arts background will realize that the methodical approach in philosophy assures that a proper preparation would make philosophy a precise subject promising extraordinary scoring potential.

    Accuracy in philosophy for exceptional performance in examination.

    The preceding aspect of ‘efficiency in effective preparation’ in the case of PHILOSOPHY, logically and automatically guarantees ‘accuracy of performance in the Civil Services Examination. A candidate would know for sure what is expected in answering a question and how best to answer the questions. This would also enable a precise calculation of performance in terms of scores. Since philosophy is almost entirely based on a systematic scheme, a well-directed preparation and competent guidance would certainly assure excellence of performance and a definite relative advantage in a competitive examination that the Civil Services selection process is. Another related aspect in accuracy of performance is that the philosophy syllabus is extremely compact and manageable. This makes it possible to accurately focus on each and every aspect as well as evolve an exceptional overall perspective. The overlap areas in various sections of philosophy in the preliminary exam as well as the themes in paper-1 and paper-2 of philosophy in the main examination are substantial. This enables maximising the coverage in minimum time and with optimum effort. It also allows that much extra time and effort that can be directed towards the preparation of the other subjects that need to be thoroughly covered for the examination.

    Extraordinary scoring potential in Philosophy.

    An aspirant must score as well as the aspirant prepares. It would be even better if an optimum preparation ensures outstanding performance. Finally, there should be a definite predictability when it comes to the preparation-performance equation. Quite often in the case of many subjects these criteria defy assurance. However, the nature of the subject that PHILOSOPHY is, these success determinants do exist to a remarkably great extent. That is an immense actual and psychological reinforcement that would positively reflect on the overall confidence and performance as well. The additional merits of philosophy have also been examined subsequently. We need to appreciate the fact that preparation can be termed only as good as the performance, and aspirations are only as satisfying as achievements. If the ultimate objective of an aspirant is to excel in performance and eventually achieve an apex position in the merit list of successful civil services candidates, it would make fine sense to choose philosophy as an optional subject for the Civil Services Examination.

    Add-on advantages of Philosophy in Essay and General Studies Papers.

    An effective strategy in planning, preparing and performing very well in a competitive examination is to evaluate and choose an optional that offers “add-on advantages” in terms of equipping an aspirant to manage the essay and general studies papers and thereby providing the cutting-edge in a competitive scenario. Concepts and themes that are part of the PHILOSOPHY syllabus including political ideas (equality, justice, and liberty), sovereignty, democracy, socialism, humanism, secularism, etc. are absolutely valuable when relevant topics in the essay paper and appropriate questions of general studies (especially related to political aspects, social causes and international relations) have to be addressed.

    Philosophy complements preparation of some optional subjects.

    Issues in PHILOSOPHY can also be of considerable utility in understanding and assimilating concepts and themes pertaining to numerous optional subjects such as sociology, history, political science & international relations. These would include aspects related to ideas, ideologies, thought and theory, political and social philosophy and issues, events and dynamics of international relations, so on and so forth. This is visible at the outset itself when an aspirant undertakes an overview of the syllabi of various subjects at the time of selecting the optional subjects.

    Philosophy enhances overall impression for interview excellence.

    We come to the concluding advantage that PHILOSOPHY offers to Civil Services Examination candidates. At the initial stage of this article itself it has been emphasised that philosophy originates from the notion of “love of wisdom.” Wisdom is exactly what the interview board is exploring and assessing in an aspirant. The scientific temper and reasoning method that philosophy inculcates is an additional benefit that can be a crucial factor in success. The problems and complications of administration can be resolved with wisdom and that is the personality attitude and attribute that the Union Public Service Commission interview attempts to know when it has to decide which candidate deserves to be selected and for what service. Accordingly, marks would be recorded in the interview evaluation and undeniably the interview is quite a decisive forum that decides the future fate and fortune of any aspirant.


  • Blumenau, Ralph. Philosophy and Living.
  • Craig, Edward. Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction.
  • Higgins, Kathleen M. and Solomon, Robert C. A Short History of Philosophy.
  • Russell, Bertrand. The Problems of Philosophy.
  • Sober, E. (2001). Core Questions in Philosophy: A Text with Readings. Upper Saddle River, Prentice Hall.
  • Solomon, Robert C. Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy.
  • Warburton, Nigel. Philosophy: The Basics.
  • Hamilton, Sue. Indian Philosophy: a Very Short Introduction.
  • Nagel, Thomas. What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy.
  • Scruton, Roger. A Short History of Modern Philosophy.
  • Smart, Ninian. World Philosophies.
  • Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View.

    Reference works :

  • The Oxford Companion to Philosophy edited by Ted Honderich
  • The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy by Robert Audi
  • The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by Edward Craig, Luciano Floridi (also available online by subscription); or
  • Routledge History of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by John Marenbon
  • History of Philosophy (9 vols.) by Frederick Copleston
  • A History of Western Philosophy (5 vols.) by W. T. Jones
  • The Columbia History of Western Philosophy by Popkin, R. H. (1999). New York, Columbia University Press.
  • Western Philosophy (and Problems of Philosophy) – Bertrand Russell
  • Think Philosophy, a discussion forum
  • Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Philosophy primer
  • Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Philosophy Forums
  • Glyn Hughes' Squashed Philosophers - condensed and abridged versions of the books which defined the way The West thinks now. EXCELLENT READING

  • Encyclopedic Dictionary of Indian Philosophy
  • Hindu Dharma
  • Hinduism: A Perspective
  • Indian Religion and Philosophy
  • The Six Systems of Hindu Philosophy by Raghavan Iyer
  • Oriental Philosophies by John M. Koller
  • Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies (8 vols.), edited by Karl H. Potter et al
  • Indian Philosophy (2 vols.) by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
  • A History of Indian Philosophy (5 vols.) by Surendranath Dasgupta
  • A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy: Sanskrit Terms Defined in English by John A. Grimes
  • History of Islamic Philosophy edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Oliver Leaman
  • Bunnin, N. et. al.,Ed.(1996) The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy.
  • Philosophy primer
  • Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Internet philosophy guide

  • Philosophy primer
  • Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Internet philosophy guide
  • Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences

  • Comparative Religions by A.C. Bouquet
  • Philosophy of Religion links Massive list, which includes religion, theology, and general philosophy links as well. Maintained by philosophy professor Dale Tuggy.
  • An introduction to the Philosophy of Religion by Paul Newall. {Also covers philosophical debates (Read the rest of this series)}
  • Philosophy of Religion Useful annotated index of religious philosophy topics.
  • Philosophy of Religion .Info Introductory articles on philosophical arguments for and against theism.
  • Encyclopaedia of Religion & Ethics.
  • Comparative Religion – E.O.James.

    Rajendra Ghuge
    Ex-Diplomat & Director, Govt. of India
    (1988 Batch of Civil Services with Outstanding Performance in Philosophy)

    Author of books dealing with philosophical themes and issues.

    Also author of the books:Art, Craft & Science of Communicating; Identity & Image Management
    Co-ordinator & Instructor: IAS Philosophy,Essay & Interview Programme

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