The UPSC Mains examination is a formidable challenge for those aspiring to join the prestigious Indian Civil Services. One of the many optional subjects available to candidates is Philosophy, a discipline that delves into the profound questions of human existence, knowledge, and ethics. In this blog series, we embark on a journey through the annals of philosophical thought, focusing on a crucial optional topic that has frequently appeared in UPSC Mains over the past decade – Existentialism. Existentialism, with its roots in the works of thinkers like Søren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Martin Heidegger, is a philosophical movement that grapples with the essence of human existence, individual freedom, and the quest for meaning in an often indifferent and absurd world. By exploring and dissecting the previous year questions in UPSC Mains from 2013 to 2023, we will gain valuable insights into how these influential existentialist philosophers’ ideas continue to be relevant and pivotal in understanding the complexities of the human condition.
Throughout this series, we’ll not only analyze the questions posed by the UPSC but also delve into the philosophies of Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Heidegger. We’ll explore their unique perspectives on topics like authenticity, dread, freedom, and responsibility, all of which have been hot topics in previous examinations. As we journey through their philosophical narratives, we aim to equip you with the knowledge and intellectual tools necessary to tackle these challenging questions and approach the UPSC Mains with confidence. So, let’s embark on a philosophical adventure, unraveling the existentialist musings of these great minds while preparing for success in the UPSC Mains examination.
Existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger) Philosophy – Previous Year Questions (UPSC CSE Mains History Optional)
1. Discuss Heidegger’s concept of authenticity and explain how an in authentic Dasein regains the lost self ?(2017/15)
2. Discuss Sartre’ s notion of ‘Nothingness’.(2016/15)
3. Discuss why Heidegger introduces the concept of Dasein in his meta physics.(2015/15)
4. Bring out the relationship between existence and essence in case of human being. Explain the issues it gives rise to for human beings according to Sartre.(2015/15)
5. Explain Kierkegaard’s concept of choice. How does the concept of choice in meta-ethics differ from normative ethics? Explain.(2014/20)
6. State and evaluate Heidegger’s claim that temporality is the horizon against which the being of any entity is understood. (2014/15)
7. Examine Sartre’s distinction between Being-for-itself and Being-in-itself. (2013/12 ½)
8. Analyse Kierkegaard’s concept of choice. Can there be , in his view ,correct or incorrect choice ? Discuss. (2013/12 ½)
9. Elucidate Existentialism and indicate its strong and weak points in your own words.(2012/15)
10. Soren Kierkegaard clarified that “The function of prayers is not to influence God but rather to change the nature of one who prays.” Comment on this statement.(2012/12)
11. “I am responsible for myself and for everyone else.” Discuss this statement in the light of Sartre’s existentialism. (2011/15)
12. How is the empirical ego and Heidegger different from the transcendent ego in Husserl? (2010/30)
13. Compare the views of Spinoza and Sartre on Freedom. (2009/30)
14. “Existence precedes essence”. Comment. (2009/20)
15. Heidegger’s contention that essence of “Dasein is its existence”. Short notes. (2008/20)
16. Discuss Sartre’s conception of freedom. (2004/60)
17. Existence precedes essence. Short Notes. (2003/20)
FAQs on Existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger)
Q: What is Existentialism, and how do Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Heidegger contribute to this philosophical movement?
A: Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom, choice, and the inherent meaninglessness of life, which individuals must confront. Kierkegaard is considered the precursor to existentialism, emphasizing the individual’s subjective experience and the need for authentic choices. Sartre built upon this by advocating for radical freedom and responsibility, while Heidegger explored the concept of “Being” and our relationship with the world.
Q: What is the role of dread or anxiety in Existentialism, as discussed by these philosophers?
A: Existentialists, particularly Kierkegaard and Sartre, highlight the concept of existential dread or anxiety. For Kierkegaard, it’s a feeling that arises when facing life’s uncertainties, prompting a search for meaning and faith. Sartre, on the other hand, views anxiety as the result of realizing our freedom and the burden of choice, which can be paralyzing.
Q: How does Existentialism address the idea of authenticity?
A: Existentialism places a strong emphasis on authenticity, which involves living in accordance with one’s own values and taking responsibility for one’s choices. Sartre, in particular, emphasizes the importance of being authentic and not falling into “bad faith,” where individuals deny their freedom or evade responsibility.
Q: What is the existentialist perspective on the absurdity of life?
A: Existentialists often contend that life lacks inherent meaning or purpose. Albert Camus, another existentialist philosopher, is known for his work on the absurdity of existence. Existentialists, like Sartre, believe that individuals must create their own meaning in an otherwise indifferent or absurd world.
Q: How do Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Heidegger differ in their views on the concept of “Being”?
A: Kierkegaard’s approach to “Being” focuses on the individual’s subjective experience and relationship with God. Sartre, in contrast, emphasizes radical freedom and the idea of human existence preceding essence. Heidegger introduces the concept of “Dasein,” which explores the idea of human existence as being-in-the-world and the search for authenticity through understanding one’s own existence.
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