David B. Zilberman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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 participated in the organized by Levada Methodological seminar which united supporters of many different scientific areas and was for a long time considered a semi-legal institution. Zilberman was also a participating member of the Moscow School of Methodology. Participants in the Moscow School seminars included: Alexander Zinoviev, Evald Ilyenkov, Georgy Schedrovitsky, Alexander Piatigorsky, Merab Mamardashvili, Lefebvre, Boris Grushin, Oleg Genisaretsky and others. The School was believed by some to be the source of the most important developments in philosophy in the post-War period, rivaling anything done in the Western analytical tradition. The Moscow School of Methodology remains virtually unknown in the West.

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 lives in Florida, the younger daughter Alexandra Curtis lives in New York, 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: David B. Zilberman “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.[3]
  • 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.[4]
  • Hans van Ditmarsch • Rohit Parikh • R. Ramanujam: Logic, University of Sevilla, Camilo José Cela s/n, 41018 Sevilla, Spain, 2015 Logic in India Editorial Introduction [4]



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