The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Philanthropy involves the donation or granting of money to various worthy charitable causes. It is seen as a way to directly effect change in society without recourse to the bureaucratic mechanisms of government. Someone who practices philanthropy is known as a philanthropist. Philanthropy is a major source of income for artistic, musical, religious, and humanitarian causes.

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Philosophical views on philanthropy

Philanthropy is not always viewed as a universal good. Notable thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche objected to philanthropy on philosophical grounds, connecting it with the idea of the weak leeching off the strong. Ayn Rand is another major thinker with similar views.

Political views on philanthropy

Governments are often supportive of philanthropic efforts. In many countries, those who donate money to a charity are given a tax break. At one extreme of this kind of thought, there is a school of American Republican thinking that wishes to eliminate all government granting programs, and which avers that philanthropy will provide for all deserving charitable needs.

Uses of the word

By the conventional definition of philanthropy, only a wealthy person can be a philanthropist. Many non-wealthy individuals have dedicated – thus, donated – their lives to charitable causes but have never been described as philanthropists.

Robert L. Payton expanded the conventional defintion of philanthropy in his 1988 book "Philanthropy: Voluntary Action For the Public Good." The text of this book and many of his writings are available at PaytonPapers.

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Last updated: 05-07-2005 09:52:29
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04