John Dunne: Dharmakīrti, Conceptuality, and Antidotes for Distorted Thinking (#96)


For this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Professor John Dunne, acclaimed scholar and teacher in both Indian and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. John’s research focuses on Buddhist philosophy in relationship to contemplative practice, religious studies, and cognitive science. John is presently Distinguished Professor of Contemplative Humanities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and author of several publications, including Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy, published by Wisdom.

In this rich conversation, you’ll hear John take a deep dive into the world of human conceptuality and, specifically, its relationship to human suffering. For John, as well as for the philosophers he studies, the root of our suffering is not human emotion itself but rather our distorted perceptions. You’ll hear John discuss the structures that underlie perception and how they play a role—for better or for worse—in determining how we conceptualize ourselves and our experiences. John also explains how different types of meditation can serve as antidotes to various categories of distorted thinking.

Lastly, you’ll hear John discuss the difference between learning conceptually versus learning experientially. John asserts that conceptual ideas don’t necessarily change our behavior—instead, we need experiential knowledge to catalyze a deeper internal shift in our understanding.

About the Interviewee

John D. Dunne holds the Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, with a co-appointment in the Department of Asian Languages & Cultures. He received a PhD from Harvard University in 1999 and his work focuses on Buddhist philosophy and contemplative practice, especially in dialog with cognitive science and psychology. His publications appear in venues ranging across both the humanities and the sciences, and they include works on Buddhist philosophy, contemplative practice, and their interpretation within scientific contexts. Recent publications include Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy and Ecology, Ethics, and Interdependence: The Dalai Lama in Conversation with Leading Thinkers on Climate Change. He is a series editor for the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism series at Wisdom Publications.

John Dunne speaks in both academic and public contexts, and he occasionally teaches for Buddhist communities. In addition to serving as a faculty member for the Center for Healthy Minds, he is a fellow and former board member of the Mind and Life Institute and serves an academic advisor for the Rangjung Yeshe Institute.

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