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Ancient Mediterranean Examples, Christian Regimes Of Philanthropy, Early Modern Refinements, Modern "scientific" Philanthropy

Active in English usage by the seventeenth century, philanthropy has been shown more recently to have a long, complex, and controversial history displaying multiple meanings of the term. Now philanthropy is normally construed as love of mankind, a voluntary, practical benevolence toward others, or an effort to promote the welfare of humanity by gifts without self-benefit. However, philanthropy over the long span of its use in Western civilization has gained and shed a more diverse array of meanings. Historically, the dynamic succession of human ambitions and virtues associated with the term implicate philanthropy in the creation of cosmic and social hierarchies, the politics of city life, the proliferation of faiths, the making of laws, and the governance of states. Philanthropic behavior also helped to form economic systems like capitalism and has accelerated both the pursuit of knowledge and the pace of artistic innovation. To comprehend the significations of philanthropy over time requires a multidimensional perspective attentive to its many spatial, material, cultural, psychological, and ethical impacts over time.

For much of recorded history, charity and philanthropy are indistinguishable and must be analyzed together to understand the evolution of the latter term. Historically, such giving has more often been construed as an imperative duty rather than as a choice of the fortunate toward the misfortunate. Only recently have forces of religious schism, liberalism, and individualism broken charity's traditional lien on property. Ancient service to the needy requires attention not only to the actual poor and their real needs, but also to the social imagination of the rich. Perceptions of dangerous want by the wealthy, accurate or not, more often determined the type and direction of their giving. The demand for and the supply of philanthropy rarely accord. Past disjunctures here, grown unbearable to new generations of aspiring benefactors, have caused epochal changes in the practice and meaning of philanthropy, religion, and politics.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Pebi- to History of Philosophy - Indifferentism