Philosophy Optional Booklist for UPSC IAS Mains

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle, Philosopher

Your optional comprises a major portion (500 marks) in mains examination. Therefore, it is crucial to choose an optional which not only interests you, but will also help you to score maximum marks, so that your total marks remain far away from the cut-off margin.

Philosophy Optional Books & Book list for Philosophy Optional

Paper I Best Philosophy books

  1. W. T. Stace: A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (Plato and Aristotle).
  2. Copleston: A History of Philosophy (Relevant Chapters from volume I, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX & XI).
  3. Anthony Kenny: A New History of Western Philosophy. OUP Oxford.
  4. Datta & Chatterjee: An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. Rupa Publishing.
  5. C. D. Sharma: A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. MLBD.
  6. Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.

Paper II Best Philosophy books

  1. John Hick: Philosophy of Religion.
  2. Michael B. Wilkinson: Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction.
  3. O. P. Gauba: Social & Political Philosophy.
  4. Political Theory, An Introduction. Edited By Rajeev Bhargava & Ashok Acharya.
  5. Oxford Dictionary of Politics.


What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is an academic discipline that studies behavior, life, relationships, human thought process and society at large.


  • Well-defined and short syllabus – It has the shortest syllabus among all the optional subjects available for UPSC Civil Services Exam, therefore, can be covered in a lesser period of time. It takes only two months to complete the philosophy optional syllabus.
  • Popular and suitable for candidates from any background.
  • High Success ratio of 8.9%
  • Entire syllabus is static; no current portion involved.
  • Overlaps with essay, ethics, material for various topics- Philosophy optional gives the aspirants opportunity to get familiar with various philosophers, who will again come in ethics paper. Thus, in this way, Philosophy optional subject has some overlapping with Ethics and Essay papers.
  • Develops critical thinking – It gives the aspirants a rational and logical way of thought process.
  • Improves writing skills,
  • useful for all papers,
  • logical,
  • General concepts – easily understandable.
  • No prior knowledge required- In philosophy optional, some questions can be answered on the basis of general awareness also.


  • Go through previous year papers.
  • Study all philosophical concepts thoroughly.
  • Link Indian philosophical concepts with Western Philosophy.
  • Practice answer writing within the time limit; be critical in your approach.
  • Practice repeated questions.


  • Any candidate can opt for philosophy optional regardless of their academic background. The one who is good in expressing his ideas in a logical manner can opt for philosophy optional. But this logical approach comes with regular practice. This practice is imparted regularly in the Chahal Academy Philosophy optional Online Programme.
  • Candidates from technical background opt for Philosophy optional because it is a logical subject. Also, candidates from humanities background opt for philosophy optional because it is highly non-technical.


Philosophy optional is yielding 280+ marks every year to the UPSC-Civil Services Examination toppers. Here are some facts to prove this argument –

Name of the candidate Year of passing Rank secured Total marks (500) Paper I (250 MARKS) Paper II (250 MARKS)
SANSKRITI JAIN CSE- 2014 11 299 128 171
MIHIR PATEL CSE-2014 27 327 175 152
JATIN LAL CSE-2015 42 307 158 149
KUMAR HARSH CSE-2015 43 303 153 150
JUHI JALOTA CSE-2017 122 283 144 139

Optional subject marks play an important role in improving your UPSC-CSE all India ranking. Also, if you have not scored well in GS papers, if you can score well in optional papers, you can still find your name in UPSC-CSE final list.

Why One Should Choose PHILOSOPHY for UPSC preparation?

  1. Detailed coverage of both political science paper I & II for UPSC mains exam
  2. Current Affairs updated teaching for dynamic sections of PHILOSOPHY.
  3. Explanation of the interlinks between PHILOSOPHY and GS papers
  4. Availability of topic-wise module with coverage of each topic
  5. Special lecture series on answer writing practice
  6. Access to the best lecturers anytime and anywhere
  7. 150+ hours of Offline/online lectures by Delhi based faculty members

You should read below given links that may be beneficial to help in Choosing a good optional for your preparation:

How to Choose Optional for Mains?

Which Optional has Highest Success score?

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