A Princeton University Press series, “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers” recently released a slim volume entitled How to Give.
This new translation of Seneca the Younger’s De Beneficiis has insights for both givers and receivers, confirming that the questions surrounding philanthropy—and how to receive as well as to give graciously—are of enduring importance.
Also of enduring significance is the role of philanthropy in fostering a healthy civil society: “Giving and receiving, Seneca believes, are the lifeblood of a healthy civil society,” writes John J. Miller in a recent review of How to Give published in National Review. With a small state apparatus, philanthropy—from both the rich and the poor—was significantly more important from Seneca’s position in Ancient Rome than it often is today. And yet, even as the “impersonal mechanisms of exchange or welfare” have grown today, the need for philanthropy has not been supplanted.
Miller explains that “How to Give is not really a how-to guide for modern philanthropists,” but nevertheless a valuable book for both givers and receivers. Anyone thoughtful about anonymous giving or the widow’s mite would find Miller’s review interesting and might find themselves going further into Seneca’s work as well.