David B. Zilberman

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David B. Zilberman
Born (1938-05-25)May 25, 1938
Odessa, Ukraine
Died July 25, 1977(1977-07-25) (aged 39)
Boston, US
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
Notable ideas Modal methodology · comparative sociology · cultural traditions

David B. Zilberman (Russian: Дави́д Бениами́нович Зильберма́н; May 25, 1938, Odessa – July 25, 1977, Boston) was a Russian-American philosopher and sociologist, scholar of Indian philosophy and culture. Well-versed in the study of language, he knew Russian, Sanskrit, English, French, Slavic languages, German.

Life and work[edit]


David Zilberman was born in Odessa, Ukraine on May 25, 1938, to Benjamin Zilberman, an engineer-economist, and Riva Timaner, a doctor. He graduated high school in 1955. In 1962, Zilberman was awarded an engineering and meteorology degree from The Odessa State College of Meteorology. From 1962 until 1966, Zilberman was employed as a meteorologist at the local airport in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in Central Asia.

Zilberman began his Indological studies in 1962. He met and became friends with the academician Boris Smirnov, a medical doctor, a Sanskritist, and a leading theosopher in Russia. Zilberman studied Sanskrit under Smirnov while pursuing Indological investigations in logic, Indian yoga, and ritual. In Turkmenistan he also studied a number of languages in addition to Sanskrit, including Greek, Latin, basic Romano-Germanic languages, and some Slavic languages, and he began writing philosophical essays.

In 1966 Zilberman returned to Odessa. He continued with his philosophical investigations on his own and participated in the Colloquium for Philosophy & History at Odessa State University (organized by Professor Avenir Ujemov Director of the Department of Philosophy). In 1968 he completed a two-year program at the State Institute of Patent Service. During that period, Zilberman worked at the Odessa State College of Meteorology performing research. And he worked for a time at a Construction & Development firm for the Black Sea Fleet as a Patent Lawyer.

In 1968 Zilberman was introduced to Professor Georgy Schedrovitsky who headed the Moscow School of Methodology. Schedrovitsky recommended Zilberman to one of Russia's leading sociologists, Professor Yuri Levada, for the post-graduate program at the Institute for Concrete Sociological Research (IKSI) in Moscow. Zilberman was also a participating member of the Moscow School of Methodology.

During these years Zilberman translated numerous Hindu and Buddhist texts, poetic abstracts from "The Mahabharata", and part of the Tattva-Cintamani tetralogy from Sanskrit. He wrote articles on Indian philosophy, on sociology and anthropology, and on the sociological theory of tradition, a largely overlooked topic in modern social science.

Zilberman worked closely with Alexander Piatigorsky, writing a number of articles for The Great Soviet Encyclopedia. After leaving the USSR they remained close friends and continued their collaborative research and publication efforts until Zilberman's death in July 1977.

Zilberman's dissertation, A Study of Tradition, became a major project and the focus of his efforts during his final years in the Soviet Union. Completed in 1972, the work was accepted but remained unpublished due to the unexpected and sudden Soviet suppression of sociological and related research (an event described in Zilberman's "Post-Sociological Society"). The IKSI was closed and it essentially disappeared. Its members were forced to operate behind the Iron Curtain in a context of severely limited public visibility and without proper scientific recognition under conditions of heightened Soviet-style repression.

In 1972, as he completed his research and wrote his thesis, Zilberman discovered a new type of methodological-philosophical thinking "unlike the known types" which became his central preoccupation for the rest of his life. He called the new method "Modal Methodology."

In 1972, due to an offer accepted by Zilberman to publish an article about Kabbalah abroad, he reportedly became a target of KGB surveillance. Leaving Moscow, Zilberman returned again to Odessa. To earn a living he undertook numerous translations for the Moscow Patriarchy, translating much of the Oxford Theological Dictionary from English to Russian, as well as the History of French Royal Court from French.

Zilberman translated into Russian the book by D. Ingalls Navya-Nyāya Logic and wrote an introductory section to the work dealing with some epistemological aspects of Indian formal logic. The book was published in 1974 in Moscow but without his name.

United States[edit]

In 1973, David Zilberman and his family emigrated to the United States. In 1973 Zilberman received a position as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Hunter College in New York. In September 1974, Zilberman accepted a position as Post-doctoral Fellow with the Committee on South Asian Studies at the University of Chicago.

For the last two years of his life Zilberman taught at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, first in the Department of Anthropology, and later in the Department of Philosophy and History of Ideas. Zilberman taught a variety of courses in Indian and Western philosophy, and related disciplines.

Meanwhile Zilberman started a book dedicated to thorough research and analysis of the Russian Soviet Philosophy (the manuscript titled Moscow School of Methodology was left unfinished).

David Zilberman died on July 1977 in a car-bicycle collision while returning home from his last seminar with his students at Brandeis.

His wife Elena Michnik-Zilberman and the younger daughter Alexandra Curtis live in Florida, the older daughter Natalya Carney lives in Boston. His sister Rachel Zilberman lives in Chicago.


David Zilberman created a distinctive type of methodological-philosophical thinking, which he called "Modal Methodology" or "Modal Metaphysics", and through this practice defined the "Sum of the Metaphysics".

Zilberman attempted to develop the Philosophia Universalis from classical Hindu philosophies and applied it as a new synthesis to Western philosophy.

Some contemporary Russian philosophers consider themselves to be David Zilberman followers.

Zilberman's archive is saved in the Special Collections of the Mugar Memorial Library. Boston University.[1]

  • Piatigorsky A. Preface — in: Zilberman D. “The Birth of Meaning in Hindu Thought” / Robert S. Cohen Piatigorsky(ed.) D.Reidel Publishing Company, 1988. P.xiii-xv.[2]
  • Pandit G.L. Rediscovering Indian philosophy: Review of “The Birth of Meaning in Hindu Thought”.— Delhi, University of Delhi.[2]
  • Hans van Ditmarsch • Rohit Parikh • R. Ramanujam: Logic in India—Editorial Introduction, online Journal of Philosophical Logic.Vol.40 N° 5, Bs. As. Argentina, Universidad de Salamanca Mar del Plata, September 2011.[3]


  • The Kabbalah Mysticism and the Social Situation in Spain at the Close of the 15th Century - In: Jews in the USSR, London 1973.
  • The Jewish Minority in the Soviet Ukraine. - in: Minutes of the Seminar in Ukrainian Studies, Harvard university. 1974, o. 6.
  • A Critical Review of E. Conze's translation of «The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom». - in: The Journal of Asian Studies, November, 1975.
  • A Critical Review of D. Kalupahana's «Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism». - in: The Journal of Asian Studies, May, 1976.
  • Iconic Calculus? – in: General Systems, vol. XXI, 1976, pp. 183–186.
  • Ethnography in Soviet Russia - in: Dialectical Anthropology, vol.1, no.2, Feb. 1976, pp. 135–153.
  • Dissent in the Soviet Union. - In: Liberation, vol. 20, no.6, Fall 1977, pp. 3–8, edited by R.Cohen, Boston University.
  • A Social Portrait of the soviet Intelligentsia. A review. - In: Theory and Society, 5 (1978), pp. 277–282.
  • On Cultural Relativism and 'Radical Doubt'. In: Science, Politics and Social Practice, BSPS, vol. 164, pp. 359–372.
  • The Emergence of Semiotics in India: Some Approaches to Understanding Laksana in Hindu and Buddhist Philosophical Usages. – in: Semiotica vol. 17, n. 3, 1976, pp. 255–265 [2]. (article written together with A.Piatigorsky).
  • Orthodox Ethics and the Matter of Communism. – in: Studies in the Soviet Thought, vol. 17, 1977, pp. 341–419.
  • The Post-Sociological Society. – In: Studies in the Soviet Thought, vol. 18, 1978, pp. 261–328.
  • DET POSTSOSIOLOGISKE SAMFUNN, av professor David B. Zilberman – translation into Norwegian of,[4] in: online Journal Soviet Philosophy [3], Norway, June 2006.
  • Culture-historical reconstruction and mythology in the anthropology of Paul Radin. – In: Dialectical Anthropology, Volume 6, June 1982, Issue 4, pp 275–290.
  • The Birth of Meaning in Hindu Thought.*[4] — Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel Pub.; Norwell: Kluwer Academic, 1988.
  • Semantic Shifts in Epic Composition: On the «Modal» Poetics of the Mahabharata. // Semiosis. — Michigan, 1984.
  • Analogy in Indian and Western Philosophical Thought. — Dordrecht: Springer, 2006.


  1. ^ Helena Gourko [1]Annotated catalog of the David Zilberman archive. — Boston: Boston University, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, 1994.
  2. ^ a b Zilberman, David B. "The Birth of Meaning in Hindu Thought" (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science), 1988.
  3. ^ Zilberman, David B. "Analogy in Indian and Western Philosophical Thought", Dordrecht: Springer, 2006.
  4. ^ Zilberman, David B. “The Post-Sociological Society”, Studies in the Soviet Thought, vol. 18, 1978, pp. 261–328.