(image from Maicar)
Philanthropy is often thought of as being about giving money, whether there is a moral element to this or not doesn't seem to matter - though most philanthropy is done from a standpoint of some interest or passion in a cause or idea. It is the idea of philanthropy as a character trait (or virtue) that I aim to question here, and this question can seemingly be answered by really grounding down to the root of the word itself - phil-anthropy.
The word itself is Greek in origin, stemming from Prometheus Bound, a Greek play from around 400BC. Prometheus Bound tells the tale of "the primitive creatures who are to become human live first a fearful life, in utter darkness in caves. Zeus, the powerful and at times tyrannical King of the Gods, decides these creatures have no value and set about to destroy them. Prometheus, however, possessing something referred to as 'philanthropos tropos' or a humanity loving character decides to defend the defenceless."
Prometheus is the first philanthropist - in the true sense of the word.
Phil - to love, anthropos - mankind
(to love mankind)
(to cherish humans)
(to love thy neighbour)
(to accept others without judgement)
(to care for the best and worst of humanity)
(to step above the ego and show compassion for all humans)
In the play the first two gifts that Prometheus gives to the cave dwellers is fire (knowledge) and blind optimism (hope). The philanthropic act is beyond the simple concept of giving money, it is the giving of character and virtue to humans who, without said virtues, were mired in a world of fear and hate. These two philanthropic gifts were more powerful, more freeing, than money could ever be - for with knowledge and hope any human can bravely stride forward into life, living a fully human existence; one can thrive.
Is philanthropy a virtue?
Yes, as long as we live it within which the vein it is intended, (do not take example from a certain US President....), and we look beyond just the giving of money as a philanthropic act, but consider how else we can love our fellow humans, philanthropy will always be a virtue.