Here’s part of one reader’s response to the column on the evolution of cooperation, sympathy, kindness, and all that other nice stuff. For him, Aristotle had some ideas worth considering:
"Perhaps even more to the point about helping unfit people is from an old guide to the moral life, none other than Aristotle. In T.V. Smith’s text Philosophers Speak for Themselves, Aristotle examines the differences among human acts, especially those which involve the passions (kindness, altruism, etc). I quote: “Just as it is easy to give money. Anyone can do that. But to give money to the right person, in the right amount, for the right reason, in the right way and at the right time, this is not what anyone can do. Nor is it easy. The point here is that the act of giving is not in itself praiseworthy. It is common among many people and animals. But it takes a wise and prudent man to know the proper way of giving which involves many nuances. This of course is something that biology and evolution will not tell us much about. Such abilities are only found in humans which, if we are to understand the poet and the philosopher, are not inherited but remain a difficult and never ending struggle to arrive at the good in all of its forms.
The unfit are only unfit if we make them so by acting out our lower instincts. When we use our reason and the enlightened human values that we alone possess among all species, then we are indeed fit to care for the unfit. No mere animal here but a fully human person who knows how he or she differs from all other life forms.
I firmly believe in evolution, as species adaptation through genetic mutation. I do not believe that this simple formula explains or reveals the endless capacities of humans to remake and refashion themselves and their place in the tree of life."