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In his new book, Philosophy of the Ancient Maya: Lords of Time, Alexus McLeod (Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut) presents a pioneering study of the philosophical thought of the Maya. Since the early 20th century, anthropologists have distinguished two ways cultures can think about time. On the linear conception of time, everything happens only once, never to be repeated. On the cyclic conception of time, the world is made of a recurring cycle of events. This distinction has come to be a mainstay of categorizing Maya conceptions of time, even in much contemporary scholarship. But Professor McLeod argues that the linear-cyclical distinction is problematic for understanding ancient Maya conceptions of time, that it is a problematic distinction in general, and that a better way of understanding the ancient Maya conception of time is in terms of the ritual connection between “deep time” and “human time.” Ancient Maya rituals concerning time are most accurately thought of, argues McLeod, in terms of the ritual expression and visualization of continual creation, rather than in terms of the cyclical renewal of time. Finally, McLeod argues, the focus on the human time-deep time distinction can help us better understand broader features of Maya metaphysics in areas such as the continuity of persons and objects through time.
Alexus McLeod is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Asian/Asian-American Studies at the University of Connecticut. He works in Comparative Philosophy, primarily the history of Chinese, Mesoamerican, and Indian Philosophies. He aims to contribute to the globalization of the history of philosophy, as well as synthesis of ancient schools of thought in the style of the ancient Chinese text Huainanzi. His most recent book is Philosophy of the Ancient Maya: Lords of Time (Lexington, 2018). Other works include Astronomy in the Ancient World (Springer, 2016), Theories of Truth in Chinese Philosophy (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2015), and Understanding Asian Philosophy (Bloomsbury, 2014).
Philosophy in the Library is co-presented by Brooklyn Public Philosophers and BPL Presents.