About the Book

From the bestselling author of Assholes: A Theory, a book that - in the tradition of Shopclass as Soulcraft, Barbarian Days and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - uses the experience and the ethos of surfing to explore key concepts in philosophy.

The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once declared "the ideal limit of aquatic sports . . . is waterskiing." The avid surfer and lavishly credentialed academic philosopher Aaron James vigorously disagrees, and in Surfing with Sartre he intends to expound the thinking surfer's view of the matter, in the process 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-philosophical worldview, he draws from his own experience of surfing and from surf culture and lingo, and includes many relevant details from the lives of the philosophers, from Aristotle to Wittgenstein, with whose thought he engages. In the process, he'll speak to readers in search of personal and social meaning in our current anxious moment, by way of doing real, authentic philosophy.

About the Author

Aaron James

I'm a philosophy professor (details below) who thinks, writes, and teaches in ethics and political philosophy.

I mainly write for academics (in professional journals and in a recent book on fairness in the global economy) . I have plans for a book on social practices and global justice, and grander intellectual ambitions, for the long haul, that run across my research areas of moral theory, political philosophy, and the foundations of ethics.

All of this can be strenuous, so I've also begun to dabble in popular writing, in hopes of contributing to public life in more direct and (if I'm lucky) more entertaining ways. I wrote a book about assholes. I've got ideas for a book about surfing and what it shows about the human condition, how to live, and capitalism. (I've been an avid surfer since my early teens, so a book about surfing and philosophy would join my life's two more central preoccupations.)

Academic details: Ph.D. in Philosophy, Harvard University; Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Irvine; awarded the Burkhardt Fellowship by the American Council of Learned Societies, spending the 2009-10 academic year at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Visiting Professor at NYU for Fall 2013.

Photo credit: James Hammack

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