Gratitude (from “giving thanks”) is a feeling of gratitude for what has been done, such as attention or service, and various ways in which this feeling can be expressed, including formal rewards (e.g. “giving thanks”). Gratitude is a complex feeling that arises from an emotional and rational assessment of what is happening, the expression of which is highly ritualized. Thankfulness can be addressed not only to specific people, but also to communities (e.g. ancestors) and non-personified entities: the world, God.
In antiquity, gratitude was interpreted as a virtue and was associated with justice. Seneca noted the voluntariness of gratitude as a reciprocal gift of his own free will and pointed out that the value of gratitude is not only practical, in creating a cycle of gifts and support, but primarily moral, because “Virtues do not practice for the sake of reward: the profit from the right deed is that it is perfect. From the Seneca’s point of view, the consciousness of gratitude is more valuable than the gift received, because gratitude, being a virtue, elevates the soul.
In Christianity, however, gratitude is treated not as a virtue, but as a duty, and is associated rather with mercy. For many religions the idea of gratitude to God is important; this gratitude can be expressed through “deeds of virtue and eradication of passions and weaknesses”.
The concept of gratitude as a duty was developed by Immanuel Kant, who distinguished between “just gratitude”, which consisted in gratitude to the benefactor, and “active gratitude”, which was expressed in actions confirming this gratitude. In Kant’s opinion, a duty of gratitude is a moral duty of the individual to himself, and cannot be finally paid any reward, because the donor will always have the merit of being the first to do so.