"Stunning . . . a major breakthrough that will be a game-changer in Mesoamerican studies."
—Alan Sandstrom, Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne
"In this comprehensive study, James Maffie offers much more than an introduction to Aztec philosophy. For the reader unfamiliar with the Náhuatl-speaking people of the Central Valley of Mexico, whose capital Tenochtitlan was conquered by Hernán Cortés in 1521, Aztec Philosophy offers a close examination of Nahua life, thought, and culture; for the anthropologist and Mesoamericanist, it offers a philosophical lens through which to examine and evaluate standard interpretations of Aztec life and society; for the student of philosophy, it reconstructs a systematic and coherent worldview and provides enough material to pursue graduate-level research; and for any reader, it is a model of how to bring multiple disciplines to bear on a topic that is beyond the scope of any one discipline."
—Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"For scholars interested in indigenous heritage philosophy of the Americas, this text will delight with its metaphysical playfulness. It is, however, to be taken seriously. For if Maffie is correct in only some of his disagreements with traditionally received views, he has forever changed the weave of the rug! . . . I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about the heritage philosophies of our native soil. And all American philosophers should be familiar with the metaphysics of these philosophies if they hope to have any kind of understanding of their own philosophical influences since coming to the Americas!"
—American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Indigenous Philosophy
"An elaborate, fascinating, and crucially important study of Aztec metaphysics. . . . Maffie sets out to prove that the Aztecs not only had a philosophy, and a radically different one from the Greco-Christian West, but did philosophy as well. His account of this philosophy is fascinating and important, worthy of the best anthropology. Marshaling evidence from a number of sources (textual, graphic, archaeological) and necessarily disputing the claims of some of his scholarly predecessors, he describes a metaphysics so foreign to Western-Christian thinking that it should and must make us pause and consider the ground of Western philosophy and religion."
—Anthropology Review Database
"The originality of this metaphysics shines through."
“Aztec Philosophy not only provokes several debates within Aztec studies but also offers some excellent, new, and innovative interpretations of Aztec cultural traditions such as ball games and the religious practice of sweeping. The book’s rich linguistic, pictographic, historical, anthropological, and archaeological analysis will also serve as a valuable source for scholars and students interested in ancient Mexican culture.”
—Journal of Anthropological Research
"In a brilliant work . . . Maffie attests that the Aztec way of thinking is singularly sophisticated and possesses an internal coherence by analyzing a combination of a considerable amount of data from written sources, iconography, history, and auxiliary sciences, which exemplify the truly systematic nature of this culture. . . . This is why you must read this book."
—Inter-American Journal of Philosophy
—Bulletin of Latin American Research
—New Statesman Books of the Year, 2020
—Philosophy in Review
In Aztec Philosophy, James Maffie shows the Aztecs advanced a highly sophisticated and internally coherent systematic philosophy worthy of consideration alongside other philosophies from around the world. Bringing together the fields of comparative world philosophy and Mesoamerican studies, Maffie excavates the distinctly philosophical aspects of Aztec thought.
Aztec Philosophy focuses on the ways Aztec metaphysics—the Aztecs' understanding of the nature, structure and constitution of reality—underpinned Aztec thinking about wisdom, ethics, politics, and aesthetics, and served as a backdrop for Aztec religious practices as well as everyday activities such as weaving, farming, and warfare. Aztec metaphysicians conceived reality and cosmos as a grand, ongoing process of weaving—theirs was a world in motion. Drawing upon linguistic, ethnohistorical, archaeological, historical, and contemporary ethnographic evidence, Maffie argues that Aztec metaphysics maintained a processive, transformational, and non-hierarchical view of reality, time, and existence along with a pantheistic theology.
Aztec Philosophy will be of great interest to Mesoamericanists, philosophers, religionists, folklorists, and Latin Americanists as well as students of indigenous philosophy, religion, and art of the Americas.