A Preface to Morals
After an eloquent and moving analysis of what he sees as the disillusion of themodern age, Lippmann posits as the central dilemma of liberalism its inability to find an appropriate substitute for the older forms of authority— church, state, class, family, law, custom—that it has denied. Lippmann attempts to find a way out of this chaos through the acceptance of a higher humanism and a way of life inspired by the ideal of "disinterestedness" in all things.
In his new introduction to the Transaction edition, John Patrick Diggins marks A Preface to Morals, originally published in 1929, as a critical turning point in Lippmann's intellectual career. He also provides an excellent discussion of the enduring value of this major twentieth-century work by situating it within the context of other intellectual movements.
"Far and away Walter Lippmann's best book.... [He] has not merely, as other writers have done, shown us the picture of our own confusion, with our ancient sanctions and authorities gone and obliged to stand on our own human feet; he gives us the assurance that we shall be able to do so, that we have begun to do so already."
—Edmund Wilson, New Republic
"To read it is a continuous intellectual excitement. It is the record of a finely endowed mind with not a little first-hand experience of human affairs, trying to think its way through and out of the moral condition of our time. It is full of penetrating analyses and of sound criticisms."
"One of the finest qualities of this 'Preface to Morals' is a certain strain of literary self-conquest, wholly in keeping with the author's idea of asceticism, which saves the book from falling into the slough of cleverness, and gives it a lean literary vigor and sincerity.... This is a soundjand valuable book: honest, unafraid and austere."