A Preface to Morals

by Walter Lippmann

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Aristotle
Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) was the third of the three great Greek philosophers whose ideas immeasurably influenced Western thought. Aristotle is one of the sages Lippmann regards as a source of ‘‘well-tested truths,’’ the wisdom of which may serve the function once filled by religious doctrine. He mentions Aristotle as one among many sages who have advocated asceticism as essential to happiness. Lippmann later quotes from Aristotle’s Ethics in relating the idea of virtue as a golden mean between extremes of any quality or characteristic in a person. He explains that, in contrast to the commandments of traditional religion, the ideals of human behavior espoused by Aristotle are a matter of the education and discipline of the ‘‘human will.’’

Buddha
The Indian-born teacher Lippmann refers to as Buddha, or Gautama Buddha, lived in the fifth or sixth century B.C. and was the founder of Buddhism, the predominant religion throughout much of Asia. Buddha is one of the sages Lippmann regards as a source of ‘‘well-tested truths,’’ the wisdom of which may serve the function once filled by religious doctrine. Buddha is among the wise men who taught the value of asceticism for the achievement of ‘‘the good life.’’ Further, Lippmann points out that Buddha, among other sages, was concerned with teaching and self-discipline rather than with imposing commandments for human behavior. Lippmann cites Buddha as an example of a sage who did not expect more than a small number of men to live according to the ideals that he taught.

Confucius
Confucius (551–479 B.C.), born in China, became the most revered and influential teacher and philosopher in Eastern Asia. Confucius is one of the sages Lippmann regards as a source of ‘‘well-tested truths,’’ the wisdom of which may serve the function once filled by religious doctrine. Lippmann mentions the wisdom Confucius, which is that, to be happy, one must bring one’s desires in line with reality. He refers to Confucius as among the sages whose wisdom was directed toward the self-discipline of the individual rather than toward the issuing of commandments for human behavior.

Havlock Ellis
Havlock Ellis (1859–1939) was an English essayist and physician known for his open-minded and controversial writings on human sexuality. Lippmann refers to the ideas of Havlock Ellis in his discussion of the effect of readily available contraception on sexual mores in the modern age.

Dr. S. Ferenczi
Sándor Ferenczi (1873–1933) was a Hungarian psychoanalyst closely associated with Sigmund Freud. Lippmann explains the psychological theory of human development from infancy to maturity, according to Dr. S. Ferenczi, as a matter of the child’s process of learning to accept the submission of his own desires to the dictates of reality.

Jesus
Jesus is one of the sages Lippmann regards as a source of ‘‘well-tested truths,’’ the wisdom of which may serve the function once filled by religious doctrine. He mentions Jesus among many sages who have advocated asceticism as essential to happiness. Lippmann, however, distinguishes between Jesus as a teacher of a relatively small following during his lifetime, and Christianity as an organized ‘‘popular religion’’ that arose centuries after the death of Jesus.

Plato
Plato (428–348 B.C.) was the second of the three great Greek philosophers whose ideas immeasurably influenced Western thought. Plato is one of the sages Lippmann regards as a source of ‘‘well-tested truths,’’ the wisdom of which may serve the function once filled by religious doctrine. He mentions Plato among many sages who have advocated asceticism as essential to happiness.

Socrates
Socrates (470–399 B.C.) was the first of the three great Greek philosophers whose ideas immeasurably influenced Western thought. Socrates is one of...

(This entire section contains 769 words.)

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the sages Lippmann regards as a source of ‘‘welltested truths,’’ the wisdom of which may serve the function once filled by religious doctrine. He mentions Socrates among the sages who advocate some form of asceticism as essential to ‘‘the good life.’’ He cites Socrates’Phaedo, which claims that the human body is an impediment to ‘‘a philosopher in search of truth.’’ Lippmann further mentions Socrates as one who advocated self-conscious examination of one’s personal motives.

Spinoza
Spinoza (1632–1677) was a Dutch-Jewish philosopher known for his development of the ideas of seventeenth century rationalism. Spinoza is one of the sages Lippmann regards as a source of ‘‘welltested truths,’’ the wisdom of which may serve the function once filled by religious doctrine. He mentions Spinoza among the sages who advocate some form of asceticism as essential to ‘‘the good life.’’ He refers to Spinoza as among the sages whose wisdom was directed toward the self-discipline of the individual rather than toward the issuing of commandments for human behavior.

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