In Aaron James' new book, Surfing with Sartre, he uses the surfboard as a vehicle of enlightenment. It seems, at first glance, like a simple task ... Erudite yet engaging, the book strikes a winning balance between waxing wise and catching waves ...a professor of philosophy and an avid surfer, and his passion is palpable on the page. The book skips around from topic to topic — epistemology, socioeconomics, neurochemistry, ethics, religion — with a playful spryness, all the while drawing parallels between the techniques and mindset of the surfer ...while surfing is his main focus, it's merely a synecdoche for all human pursuits that require our full creative and cognitive presence — or our souls, as James puts up for debate ... tone is conversational, even when it's dense with ideas, and sprinkled with surfer lingo...just the right mix of personal insight and universal scope.
...Surfing With Sartre include not just Jean-Paul but David Hume and Immanuel Kant, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger, Karl Marx and Woody Allen. James butts heads with these gentlemen... James, however, is a bell-clear writer — unlike, say, David Hume — and, here, takes home the gold ... That point? We are squandering our most precious quality/quantity — time — when we could cut our workweek in half. We could dedicate those extra hours to mastering something of greater meaning to us than work ...James is an apostle of adaptive attunement ... James doesn’t shy away from words like rapture and sublime.
...Surfing With Sartre, aims to articulate the distinctive philosophical value of the surfer way of being ...some chapters are more compelling than others ...presents adaptive attunement as a fruitful way to understand how much of the world works, as well as a winning strategy for life ... The rhetorical conceit of James’s book is a debate between him and Sartre. This is not wholly successful as a framing device, in part because many of the discussions have little to do with Sartre ...By showing how a few simple principles for wave sharing can give rise, through a process of adaptive attunement, to the fair and egalitarian allocation of a limited resource, he offers surfing as a model for global cooperation in an age of ecological scarcity ...not surprising his chapters on 'society' and 'work' are particularly strong. Surfers may want to flip straight to his argument for the necessity of a 'more leisurely, surfer-friendly style of capitalism.'