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Jean-Paul Sartre once declared waterskiing to be “the ideal limit of aquatic sports.” Aaron James, who is both an avid surfer and a professor of philosophy, vigorously disagrees. In these pages, he presents his surfer’s worldview as a foil to Sartre’s, along the way elucidating such philosophical categories as freedom, being, phenomenology, morality, epistemology, and even the emerging values of what he terms “leisure capitalism.”
In developing his unique surfer’s philosophy, he draws from surf culture and lingo—and engages with philosophers from Aristotle to Wittgenstein. In the process, he speaks to those of us in search of personal and social meaning—particularly in our current anxious moment—by way of real, authentic philosophy. In or out of the water.
About the Author
Aaron James holds a PhD from Harvard and is professor of philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Assholes: A Theory, Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump, and Fairness in Practice: A Social Contract for a Global Economy and numerous academic articles. He was awarded a Burkhardt Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and spent the 2009-10 academic year at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He’s a skilled, lifelong surfer and lives in Irvine, California.
“Erudite yet engaging . . . strikes a winning balance between waxing wise and catching waves.” —NPR
“A marvelous analysis.” —The New York Times Book Review
“[James] is a bell-clear writer . . . and, here, takes home the gold.” —San Francisco Chronicle “Illuminating. . . . A clear and well-informed guide.” —The Philosopher
“A beautiful book, essentially a dialogue with Jean-Paul Sartre about work and play. He’s arguing that working less and playing more, especially in the surf, is not only an okay choice but a moral one.” —Jaimal Yogis, Tampa Bay Times
“Incredibly intelligent and compelling. . . . Provocative and pure. . . . Render[s] complicated ideas easily comprehensible by way of a context of surfing attitude.” —The Maine Edge
“Thoughtful and life-affirming. . . . Funny, enthralling and above all wise, Surfing with Sartre offers fresh insights into the human condition that will interest the academic theorist, the casual surfer and everyone in between.” —Shelf Awareness
“Carefully and conscientiously crafted and deeply thoughtful. . . . Addresses major questions in philosophy from his unique perspective as both a philosopher and former surfer.” —Reason and Meaning
“Provocative. . . . Entertaining. . . . [A] nimble set of essays on topics such as work and freedom.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[A] thoughtful meditation on surfing and philosophy. . . . Even for nonsurfers, James convincingly illustrates the ways in which catching a wave can change how people understand the world and try to make meaning from experiences.” —Publishers Weekly
“Intellectually bracing. . . . Philosophy stoked with the adrenaline rush of riding one gnarly wave.” —Booklist
“[James] knows how to make us think deeply in a fun way. . . . The idea of having a University of California, Irvine, philosophy professor explain key concepts like freedom, being, and epistemology from a surfer's perspective is way too cool.” —Library Journal