Philanthropy is understood as a set of activities and behaviors that lead to conscious support of other people (individuals, groups, organizations). It differs from altruism, which is - as will be shown in more detail below - an individual initiative and is mostly limited to the immediate surroundings. Philanthropy tries to solve the problems of the weak or handicapped in a broader context, conceptually and tends to organize itself into the whole system of care for these problematic groups. At the most general level, it is driven by the effort to achieve a higher quality of life for both the individual and society as a whole.
On the contrary, the Dictionary of Foreign Words from 1966 - ie from the communist period - defines philanthropy as "philanthropy, a bourgeois way of individual solution to human misery caused by the capitalist social order". presented for decades, which had detrimental consequences for the public's perception of philanthropy.
Philanthropy is born from the awareness of the actual inequality of people in society - the inequality of property, abilities, possibilities, legal and very random situations. Philanthropy, especially in its organized form, is an expression of the efforts of individuals and society to correct these inequalities, especially in those areas where the strength of the individual is not enough. Traditionally, this method of correction has been linked to financial support. The first manifestation of philanthropy was almsgiving in kind and then money.
The concept of philanthropy is also associated with related concepts, including charity, patronage, charity, altruism and more. Very often philanthropy is mistaken for charity or charity, but the concept of philanthropy is superior to these concepts. The term charity (from the Latin charitas and the Greek charis - thanks, joy) is understood in the broadest sense in the sense in which it was used in Christianity. In it, charity is understood as the highest form of love, which is manifested in the mutual love between God and man and in the selfless love of man for his neighbors. In a narrower sense, the term public charity is used as a term for the organized care of the elderly, abandoned, disabled, sick, injured and expelled. Sometimes the word "Charity" is also used as the name of Catholic church institutions, which deal with the above-mentioned services. The term charity is also used as a synonym for charity.
The concept and institute of alms is also connected with the concept of philanthropy. In Christianity, almsgiving is understood as a generous gift to the poor, and therefore as an act of love for one's neighbor. Islam knows the concept of charitable tax liability. The institute of alms is contained in various religions, and its function is to alleviate involuntary poverty, or to support voluntary austerities (eg in begging orders or Buddhist monks).
In addition to the term philanthropist (philanthropist), the term patron is a frequently used term. A patron is a person who financially and otherwise supports the arts and sciences. Gaius Cilnius Maecenas, according to whom this designation originated, was a Roman politician, a rich and educated aristocrat, a close friend of Emperor Augustus. He is best known as a supporter and supporter of culture and Roman poets.
The essence of philanthropy implies that it is the bearer of positive values, the moral values it represents, and within these moral standards it cultivates the whole society: it provides care and gives hope, leads to cooperation and human togetherness, inspires active life attitudes.
Philanthropy thus connects the individual and the general in a special way and represents in this respect a certain form of this relationship: on the one hand it reveals how the individual is dependent on the community, how he is committed to society and how he has it "in his own way" and according to "his possibilities" serve. On the other hand, at the level of the general (ie human community), he points out that society should not oppress individuals.
Thus, in philanthropy, there is a special mutual mediation between the individual and the general, between the individual and society. The expression of this relationship is, on the one hand, the principle of solidarity, according to which the individual as a social being is integrated into the whole community and society and is bound to them, and on the other hand the principle of subsidiarity, according to which every form of community is tied to the well-being of individuals.
Moreover, the concept of Western European modern philanthropy is supported by a modern understanding of man as the bearer of the same rights as the rights of others. Sociologist Louis Dumont called this political-sociological concept of "human equality" as "Homo aequalis": there are no legitimate differences in conditions or even in the types of people. "
In sociological theories, however, there have been in the past those that did not recognize the essence of philanthropy as helping others and society. For example, Adam Smith believed that if each individual pursued only his own benefit, all of these results together would serve the common good. British utilitarians, such as Herbert Spencer and Leslie Stephen, argued that there was no difference between "me" and "the others" (thus denying the concept of distinguishing between altruism and selfishness). According to Spencer, society exists for the good of its members, not them for the good of society. Utilitarians thus saw the end of moral activities in the welfare of society, in the realization of the social organism.