Alexus McLeod

Alexus McLeod

Professor, Religious Studies


  • Ph.D., University of Connecticut, 2009
  • MA, University of Oklahoma, 2005
  • BA, University of Maryland, 2002

About Alexus McLeod

My main areas of research are early Chinese Philosophy, Mesoamerican Philosophy, and Global and Comparative Thought more broadly. I take a global approach to philosophical issues, aiming to develop adequate accounts of issues through investigation of multiple global traditions. Much of my recent work focuses on varying application of global philosophical methodologies and the study of systems of global synthesis in early China, Mesoamerica, India, Persia, and West Africa, among others. The aim of all of this is to construct new frameworks for intellectual history and the history of philosophy on the basis of cross-tradition methodology, concerns, and participants (texts, thinkers, artifacts, etc). I also work on philosophical issues in the history of medicine, and the history and philosophy of the traditional Asian martial arts.

I am editor of the journal The Philosophical Forum, as well as President of the International Society for Comparative Studies of Chinese and Western Philosophy, through 2023.


I have published eight books, with another forthcoming and two in progress.

My first book, Understanding Asian Philosophy (Bloomsbury, 2014), is an introduction to ethical traditions in early China and India, covering Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, and Hindu ideas.

Theories of Truth in Chinese Philosophy (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2015) is an investigation of the concept of truth in early Chinese philosophy through the Han Dynasty, in which I argue for the existence of a diverse array of conceptions of truth, culminating with pluralist views in the Han.

Astronomy in the Ancient World (Springer, 2016) gives an account of the astronomy and cosmology of the ancient Americas, Asia, and the West, arguing for the centrality of astronomy in the development of philosophical systems and underlying worldviews in these cultures.

Philosophy of the Ancient Maya (Lexington Books, 2017) develops an account of precolonial Maya Philosophy, using available texts, anthropological work, and analogical comparative frameworks reading the Maya tradition through early Chinese (particularly Daoist) thought.

The Philosophical Thought of Wang Chong (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) is the first full-length English language study of the Eastern Han Dynasty philosopher Wang Chong, covering the central ideas of his thought, collected in the text Lunheng, including his critical philosophical method and its application, naturalism, his theory of allotment (ming), and his pluralist theory of truth.

My first edited volume, The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Early Chinese Ethics and Political Philosophy (Bloomsbury, 2019), collects articles on key thinkers and topics in these areas, with two sections covering historical and comparative approaches.

Transcendence and Non-Naturalism in Early Chinese Thought (Bloomsbury, 2020), co-authored with Joshua R. Brown (Theology, Mount St. Mary’s University), is the first of three planned volumes on non-naturalist views in early China, in which we argue against some of the dominant readings of early Chinese thought that characterize the tradition as a naturalistic alternative to Western thought. In this volume, we demonstrate the existence of numerous conceptions of transcendence and transcendent entities in early Chinese texts, drawing parallels to a number of strikingly similar texts in medieval European philosophy. We argue that naturalistic readings of early China often overlook key features of both Chinese and Western thought.

The Dao of Madness (Oxford University Press, 2021) is an exploration of the concept of kuang (madness) in Confucian, Daoist, syncretist, and medical texts in early China, and the development of this concept from early moralizing discussions to its “medicalization” in the early Han Dynasty.

I have one forthcoming book, An Introduction to Mesoamerican Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2022), and a forthcoming edited collection, The Routledge Companion to Global Philosophy (Routledge, likely 2023/4). I am currently completing a book project, Creating the Dragon, on the link between mythology, narrative, and the construction of identity in the traditional Asian martial arts. I cover the history of the development of martial arts mythology and its purposes, grounding it in construction of narratives of self-conception, national, ethnic, religious, and others, rather than in methods or styles of fighting.

Journal articles & other publications

“Philosophy in Han Dynasty China” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2022

“Wang Chong’s View of Spontaneity and Its Influence on Wang Bi and Guo Xiang,” in Chai, ed. Dao Companion to Neo-Daoism, 2022

“Amadou Bamba—Integrity and the Struggle for Spiritual Cultivation,” in Alston, Carpenter, and Wiseman, eds. Portraits of Integrity, 2020

“Sacrifice: A Maya Conception of a Misunderstood and Underappreciated Component of Well-Being,” Science, Religion, and Culture 6:1, 2019

Itz and the Descent of Kukulkan: Central Mexican Influence on Postclassic Maya Thought,” Parergon 35:2, 2018

“East Asian Martial Arts as Philosophical Practice,” APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies 17:4, 2018

“Xunzi and Mimamsa on the Source and Ground of Ritual: An Analogical Argument,” Philosophy East and West 68:3, 2018


  • Buddhist Philosophy in India
  • Religion, Ethics, and Public Life