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The iconographic individualist, Thoreau, has been excoriated as selfish for his critique of philanthropy, but this is an oversimplified response to a nuanced thinker.

"In Walden, an eight-paragraph critique of philanthropy follows this line, in which Thoreau suggests that there is a relevant distinction between “philanthropic enterprises” and what Schulz describes as “helping other people.” Thoreau avoided philanthropic enterprises not because he resented helping other people (there are too many examples in which he did provide help to others) but because he thought philanthropy was usually driven by selfishness. He wrote: “Philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is sufficiently appreciated by mankind. Nay, it is greatly overrated; and it is our selfishness which overrates it.” Philanthropy, he thought, was based more on the desire of the reformer to seem good than the goal of helping others."--Alda Balthrop-Lewis, the Religious Dispatches, USC Annenberg

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