chapter  VI
Pages 16

T HEFIRSTSERIOUSattempttoestimatetheforceofthewordphilanthropiaistobefoundinDiogenesLaertius.2 ItisananalysisattributedtoPlatoinadocumentfalsely

attributedtoAristotle.Itsoriginisquiteuncertain,exceptthatwe canreasonablysaythatitdatesfromtheHellenisticage.3The wordliterallymeans'loveofmankind'.AccordingtoDiogenes itmaytakethreeforms,areadinesstomeetandgreetpeoplepersonally,charitytotheneedy,andgeneroushospitality,arising apparentlyfromanenjoymentalikeofgoodfoodandsocial intercourse.ThisreadsalmostliketheaimsandobjectsofaRotary Club.AfarmoreacutedivisionwasmadebyThomasMagister inaboutA.D.1310.4Hesaysthatphilanthropiahastwomeanings. StrictlyitreferstoanattitudeofgoodwillfromsuperiortoinferiorsuchasGodmayshowtoman,oramonarchoranyoneelse inapositionofauthoritytoasubjectorsubordinate.Butithas thewiderconnotationoffriendshipandalovingdispositionof oneindividualtowardsanother.This,sofarasitgoes,isexcellent. Itpicksoutandstatesthebasicmeaningofthewordandthe supremepointofinterestinitshistory.AndtheChristianwriter alsoseesthatthewordcametobelinkedbothwiththesupreme pagansocialvirtueoffriendshipandwiththesupremeChristian socialvirtueofagape.·

Theoriginalmeaningofphilanthropiaisclearlycareshownby thegodsformankind.Thewordisnotmetricallyadaptedtoepic, andtheideaisalientoHomer'sthought.Henceitscatastrophic


first appearance is in Aeschylus' Prometheus Vinctus, where the Titan is taunted for his love of mankind which has outrun all bounds.1 He has given man fire, and from that gift, as the argument of the play reminds us, has come all science and all industry. It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of this twicerepeated epithet. A new conception of the higher powers is breaking through, and from that will spring a new insight into the responsibility of a man to his neighbour. For the moment the gods condemn Prometheus for his act. The poet to some extent shares that judgement. Prometheus is not just the innocent and gallant victim of a brutal and licentious tyrant. But neither is he a justly condemned villain whose punishment matches the inherent viciousness of his practices. In Zeus' first dominion, there was no place for philanthropia. Promcthcus is a rebel against such an order and is wrong to be so; he is a disruptive influence in society. But a new order is coming which will enshrine a new set of values, and in this new society philanthropia will be the order of the day. Prometheus is, so to say, the reformer born before his time.