There is much in this case that must make you think and that determines what people do in certain concrete circumstances. I’ll mention a few:
- As psychological studies have shown: The more people are present at the place of an accident, the fewer people will help, for everybody thinks that another person will do so, and if no one else does, why just you?
- Once one person takes the initiative to help, more people present are prepared to help. However, in fact most of them will help only if they are asked in person to do so. So if you are at the place of an accident and can’t handle it alone, don’t expect that the others present will help you, but address yourself to a specific person among the bystanders – whoever it is – and then it’s almost certain that this person will help.
- Each car driver (and car passenger) passing by without giving help was not simply someone passing by, but s/he was passing by in a box, namely in a car. They saw the accident through the windows of their cars, a bit as if they were watching a drama in a theatre. And who will give help to the actors in need on the stage? In other words, the fact that you are sitting in a car creates a distance between your world within the car and the world outside the car. The world outside the car becomes a kind of objective occurrence that develops independently of you; a kind of drama acted on a stage (unless you yourself collide with another car).
- People are more willing to help when they have prepared themselves in some way what to do in situations they don’t expect or that suddenly happen. Even a little mental preparation at home will do a lot to make you act in the right way in sudden circumstances. That’s also why I called the behaviour of the policepersons involved unprofessional, for isn’t it to be expected that it is a part of their training to care for the victims and to see whether help is necessary?
- All persons involved in the accident were foreigners or of foreign origin (which in case of the Frenchman involved was maybe not clear at first sight, however; but the other cars involved had foreign registration numbers).Voilà a little philosophy of help or rather non-help. I had the intention to write this week yet a bit about Bertrand Russell’s book The Problems of Philosophy and especially about the chapter on “The Limits of Philosophical Knowledge”. But once I started to write, my fingers begun to type on the Problem of Man (Woman) and so it became a blog on his (her) limits. Maybe another time I’ll return to Russell.