Tibetan Buddhist scholar-monks have long engaged in face-to-face public philosophical debates. This original study challenges Orientalist text-based scholarship, which has missed these lived practices of Tibetan dialectics. Kenneth Liberman brings these dynamic disputations to life for the modern reader through a richly detailed, turn-by-turn analysis of the monks' formal philosophical reasoning. He argues that Tibetan Buddhists deliberately organize their debates into formal structures that both empower and constrain thinking, skillfully using logic as an interactional tool to organize their reflections.
During his three years in residence at Tibetan monastic universities, Liberman observed and videotaped the monks' debates. He then transcribed, translated, and analyzed them using multimedia software and ethnomethodological techniques, which enabled him to scrutinize the local methods that Tibetan debaters use to keep their philosophical inquiries alive. His study shows the monks rely on such indigenous dialectical methods as extending an opponent's position to its absurd consequences, "pulling the rug out" from under an opponent, and other lively strategies. This careful investigation of the formal philosophical work of Tibetan scholars is a pathbreaking analysis of an important classical tradition.
The book is packaged with a CD-ROM that offers photographs of debates; a guide to the participants; a grammar of Tibetan debating, which includes sample propositions, responses, and strategies; the ethnomethods employed by debaters; videos of illustrative debates, complete with English translations, all analyzed in detail in the book; and an appendix comprising an interactive debate, glossary, manual, and illustrations.
Dialectical Practice in Tibetan Philosophical Culture: An Ethnomethodological Inquiry into Formal Reasoning, Liberman, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Hardcover + CD, $75.00
Kenneth Liberman is professor of sociology at the University of Oregon.
I. Postcolonial Inquiry into Tibetan Dialectics
- Orientalism and Tibetological Praxis
- Ethnomethodology and the Retrieval of Ordinary Society
- The Organization of Reason in Tibetan Philosophical Debating
II. Philosophical Praxis in the Tibetan Academy
- Organizing the Objectivity of the Discourse: Dialectics and Communication
- Reason as a Public Activity
- Rhymes and Reason: Reason as the In Vivo, Concerted Work of Tibetan Philosophers
- Strategies in Tibetan Philosophical Debates
III. A Sociology of Reasoning
- Using Reasons: Capabilities of Formal Analysis
- Some Formal Analytic Betrayals of Philosophy