Welcome to a journey through the depths of philosophical inquiry in the context of the UPSC Mains Question Papers from 2013 to 2023. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is renowned for its rigorous examination process, and the inclusion of philosophy as an optional subject in the Mains examination reflects the significance of philosophical thought in shaping the minds of future administrators and leaders. Over the past decade, the questions posed in the philosophy paper have not only tested the depth of knowledge but also encouraged aspirants to think critically and apply philosophical concepts to real-world issues. In this blog series, we’ll delve into these questions, exploring the fascinating world of philosophy and how it relates to contemporary challenges in society and governance.
Whether you’re a UPSC aspirant aiming to master philosophy as an optional subject or a philosophy enthusiast keen on understanding the practical applications of philosophical ideas, this series promises to unravel the intellectual intricacies and philosophical conundrums presented in the UPSC Mains Question Papers. Together, we will examine the evolution of philosophical thought, the relevance of ancient and modern philosophies, and how these ideas can offer insightful solutions to complex societal issues. So, let’s embark on a philosophical journey that not only prepares you for a competitive exam but also equips you with the wisdom and insight to navigate the intricacies of life itself.
Question Paper Specific Instructions
- Please read each of the following instructions carefully before attempting questions :
- There are EIGHT questions divided in two SECTIONS and printed both in HINDI and in ENGLISH.
- Candidate has to attempt FIVE questions in all.
- Questions no. 1 and 5 are compulsory and out of the remaining, THREE are to be attempted choosing at least ONE from each section.
- The number of marks carried by a question / part is indicated against it.
- Answers must be written in the medium authorized in the Admission Certificate which must be stated clearly on the cover of this Question-cum-Answer (QCA) Booklet in the space provided. No marks will be given for answers written in a medium other than the authorized one.
- Word limit in questions, wherever specified, should be adhered to.
- Illustrate your answers with suitable sketches, maps and diagrams. These shall be drawn in the space provided for answering the question itself.
- Attempts of questions shall be counted in chronological order. Unless struck off, attempt of a question shall be counted even if attempted partly. Any page or portion of the page left blank in the answer book must be clearly struck off.
Philosophy Optional Question Paper-1 (2018)
SECTION – A
1. Write short answers to the following in about 150 words each : 10×5=50 marks
a). Are the two truths-“The Sun will rise tomorrow” and ‘2+2-4′ of the same necessity for Hume? Give reasons in favour of your answer.
b). Is there any place for freedom in Leibniz’s philosophy, when he speaks of “pre-established harmony’? Discuss.
c). How does the notion of ‘family resemblance’ help Wittgenstein to uphold that ‘Language is a game’? Discuss.
d). How does Sartre connect inauthenticity with bad faith? Why does Sartre show that inauthenticity and bad faith lead to alienation? Discuss.
e). How does Strawson explain the concept of person in his philosophy? Discuss.
2. a). What is the reason for the difference in the definitions and classifications of substances made by Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz in spite of the fact that they all belonged to the rationalist school of thought? Discuss.
b). Explain the significance of the Kantian dictum, ‘Understanding makes Nature’. How far do you agree that Hegel’s Absolutism is the culmination of the Kantian Dualism? Discuss. Give reasons in favour of your answer.
c). How does Quine show that the notion of a prior knowledge as discussed by Kant is a metaphysical article of faith’? Give reasons for your answer.
3. a). How does Berkeley establish that Mind and its ideas alone are real? How do Moore and Russell react to Berkeley’s view in this regard? Do you find any difference between Moore’s reaction and Russell’s one? Discuss.
b). How do the logical positivists show that metaphysical sentences are meaningless? Can their verification theory of meaning account for the meaningfulness of all scientific sentences? Discuss.
c). How does Wittgenstein apply the distinction between ‘saying’ and ‘showing’ to point to a single way of apprehending the most decisive problems of philosophy? Is he justified? Give reasons for your answer.
4. a). What is Epoché? How does Heidegger reject this method of phenomenological reduction? Explain Heidegger’s concept of ‘being in the world’ as opposed to the concept of a transcendental ego.
b). Is the relation between the Idea and the World as discussed by Plato logically consistent? Discuss Aristotle’s views regarding this and also give arguments in favour of your answer.
c). How is Russell’s theory of definite description related to his Logical Atomisin? Discuss and give reasons for your answer.
SECTION – B
5. Write short notes on the following: (Each note should not exceed 150 words) 10 × 5 = 50 marks
a). How do the Vaišeșika philosophers explain the difference of the relationships in the Iwo cases-(i) the brown color of the table and (ii) the book on the table? Discuss.
b). How do the Madhyamika Buddhists apply the notion of Pratityasamutpada to establish their doctrine of Sunyata? Discuss.
c). What is the difference between the indescribability (Anirvacaniyatā) of Brahman and the indescribability (Anirvacaniyata) of Māya in the Advaita Vedānta system? Discuss
d). How do the Buddhists and the Nyāya philosophers explain our knowledge of ‘the absence of the jar on the table’? Answer in detail.
e). Is Purusa one or many? Explain the Sámkhya position in this regard and give arguments in support of your answer.
6. a). How do the Naiyāyikas prove the existence of God? Do the Yoga philosophers prove God in the same way? If yes, how? And if not, why? Give reasons for your answer.
b). Is it consistent for the Buddhists to admit the theory of Nairātmyavāda and the doctrine of Nirvana simultaneously? Give reasons in favour of your answer.
c). How do the Jaina philosophers explain ‘bondage’? What, according to them, is the distinction between “liberated soul’ and ‘bound soul’? What do the Jainas think about the condition of the ‘liberated soul’? Discuss.
7. a). Give a comparative cxposition of the concept of Moksa as found in the systems of Višistādvaita, Dvaita, Suddhadvaita and Acintyabhedābheda.
b). How do the Advaita Vedāntins react to the Prakrtiparināmavāda of the Samkhya philosophy? How do the Särhkhyas defend their own position in this regard? Discuss.
c). How does Rāmānuja refute the doctrine of Maya as propounded by Sankara? Why is Māyā needed by both Råmånuja and Sankara to establish their doctrines? Discuss.
8. a). Does the admission of Svayamprakaśavada necessarily lead to the admission of Svatahprāmānyavāda? Discuss after the Naiyayikas, the Mimāmsakas and the Advaita Vedantins.
b). Is Cārvāka rejection of inference acceptable to the other systems of Indian philosophy? If not, why? Do you think the views of other systems to be justified? Give reasons for your answer.
c). What is Evolution according to Sri Aurobindo? Describe the process of triple transformation and the nature of gnostic being in his philosophy.
Philosophy Optional Question Paper-2 (2018)
SECTION – A
1. Answer the following questions in about 150 words each : 10 x 5 = 50 marks
a). What is meant by liberal democracy? Does it require deeper principles for social cohesion to balance its own strong affirmation of individual rights? Give reasons from the Indian context.
b). Do you subscribe to the view that Indian cultural identity needs to integrate the principles of multi-culturalism and respect for the dignity of each person? Justify your answer.
c). It is said that the traditional hold of caste-based groups on Indian social behaviour has survived all attempts to build alternate identities. Discuss in the light of M.K. Gandhi.
d). Discuss Kautilya’s concept of sovereignty in the light of Danda-neeti’.
e). What measures do you suggest to eradicate corruption in Indian democracy?
2. a). How far can liberty and equality be considered as distinctive features of democracy? Discuss.
b). Critically evaluate Laski’s view on sovereignty as a satisfactory position in political theory.
c). Do you subscribe to the political ideology of Anarchists? Justify your answer.
3. a). What do you understand by multi-culturalism? How are globalization and multi-culturalism related? How does their relationship affect cultural changes?
b). । Are Marxian Socialism and individual freedom consistent? Discuss critically.
c). What form of humanism do you approve of as relevant in the present-day context? Discuss in detail.
4. a). “Human rights and human dignity would no longer be the product of a particular culture, rather a common human aspiration for an ideal world.” Discuss.
b). How do you evaluate gender discrimination in the context of female foeticide?
c). Is feminism an ideology for empowerment or for equality? Discuss.
SECTION – B
5. Answer the following questions in about 150 words each : 10 x 5 = 50 marks
a). In what sense is the secular use of language different from the religious use of language? Discuss.
b). How far is it plausible to argue that the anti-theistic religions’ stand on the concept of rebirth is philosophically significant?
c). Can you justify religion without God? Support your answer.
d). Can one claim that there is an inter-relatedness between ‘religiosity’ and ‘immorality’? Discuss.
e). Is Hinduism poly-theistic? Give reasons for your answer.
6. a). Distinguish between Exclusivism, Inclusivism and Pluralism with regard to the conflicting truth-claims of different religions.
b). “Truth is one, yet people perceive differently.” Critically evaluate by considering the present Indian context.
c). Does the concept of God entail the existence of God? Examine from the perspective of ontological argument.
7. a). The terms “Sacred’ and ‘Holy’ have come to serve as generic names for the object of religion. Do you agree that one can have God as the object of religion? Discuss.
b). Critically examine Braithwaite’s non-cognitive theory of religious language.
c). Evaluate the concept of Bhakti (Devotion) as a pathway to attain liberation.
8. a). Compare St. Thomas Aquinas’ five ways of knowing God with the arguments of the Nyāya School of Indian Philosophy for the existence of God.
b). Critically evaluate the Buddhistic arguments against the existence of God as the creator of the world.
c). Explain the significance of religious symbols as transcendent referent that mediates into the cultural, spatial and temporal world.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is the significance of studying philosophy in the UPSC Mains examination?
Answer: Philosophy offers a unique perspective on ethical, moral, and intellectual issues, which is crucial for future administrators. It helps candidates develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, making it relevant for the civil services.
Q: Are the philosophy questions in UPSC Mains focused on historical philosophy or do they cover contemporary topics as well?
Answer: The questions in UPSC Mains philosophy papers often bridge the gap between traditional philosophical concepts and their practical applications in contemporary scenarios. Aspirants are required to understand and analyze both historical and modern philosophical ideas.
Q: How can I prepare for philosophy in the UPSC Mains exam, especially if I have no prior background in philosophy?
Answer: While a background in philosophy can be beneficial, it’s not a prerequisite. Start with the basics, study important philosophers and their ideas, and practice answering previous years’ questions to grasp the pattern and approach required for philosophical questions.
Q: What is the role of philosophy in addressing real-world issues through the UPSC examination?
Answer: Philosophy equips future administrators with the ability to think critically and ethically. The questions in UPSC Mains challenge candidates to apply philosophical concepts to contemporary problems, enabling them to propose well-reasoned solutions.
Q: Can you provide some examples of the type of philosophical questions asked in the UPSC Mains from 2013 to 2023?
Answer: Certainly, the questions cover a wide range of topics. For instance, questions might address ethics, political philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, and more. These questions require candidates to not only understand philosophical concepts but also analyze and apply them to real-life situations.
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