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Socrates the Rower 

How Rowing Informs Philosophy 

by John Frohnmayer

This book is a surprisingly practical blend of rowing and philosophy presented in a witty, insightful, and casual dialogue that is typical of the buoyant style of John, the rower. 

Synopsis in John’s words:

The shirtless guy is slapping an aluminum baseball bat in his palm, threatening to brain me because I have a dog in the back of my truck and his sign clearly says that they don't allow no dogs, no how at his fleabag motel. When I say she can stay in the truck, he replies: "She's still a dog, ain't she?" and thereby absolutely nails the essence of ontology. As we peel out to avoid being smacked, my wife flips him a single digit gesture--a perfect example of what the Supreme Court calls "pure speech." Philosophy isn't so hard, after all. 

Philosophy is about everything: how we know what we know, how we define our place in the universe, what we believe and how we judge truth, beauty, and justice. Ethics, in particular is about the good life and how we learn to be happy.  But all of this is just words on a page unless we can actually use it in our lives and that is where rowing comes in. Rowing, and especially competitive rowing, teaches us about teamwork, community, courage, steadfastness, and a host of other qualities that have been the subject of philosophical musing for all of recorded history. What this book does is make philosophy useful by tying it to physical activity. Our minds and our bodies have lessons to teach to each other and the successful athlete as well as the successful scholar learn these lessons through sweat, pain, and ultimately, inspiration. 

Available for purchase at many bookstores and a variety of websites 

 John Frohnmayer is a retired Oregon attorney. Early in his career, he developed expertise in First Amendment and arts law, and in 1989 was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to Chair the National Endowment for the Arts. He served until 1992. 

He earned his undergraduate degree in History from Stanford University, a master's degree in Christian Ethics from the University of Chicago, and a law degree from the University of Oregon. He was a decorated officer in the United States Navy. Through this diverse background and experience in sport and law, John has continually studied the field of philosophy and the differing views of some of the world’s best known philosophers. 

He is a well-known elite masters rower and an active member of the Corvallis Rowing Club. He has won (and continues to do so) many rowing events at regional, national, and international competitions. 

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