Bochum-Grenoble Memory Colloquium

Sven Bernecker (Universität zu Köln)

The moral excusability of forgetting.

28.01.2021, 10:00-11:30 CET (UTC+01:00).

Online Lecture via zoom.

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  • Meeting ID: 829 7050 5769
  • Password: 8rraW0

Abstract: Does moral ignorance due to forgetting exculpate wrongdoing? Could an agent be blamelessly ignorant of, say, the fact that one ought to be tolerant of differences; or would such an ignorance always imply a lack of good will? I argue that the debate about the exculpation of forgetting-based moral ignorance suffers from two defects. First, the debate does not first consider the rules for which morally relevant memory behaviors we ought to perform and avoid. Second, the debate lacks a proper understanding of the processes by which people forget the difference between right and wrong. When we examine the processes by which people remember or forget the correct moral theory or acquire a twisted one, we see that excuses are not binary but gradable: they can be weaker or stronger, mitigating blame to greater or lesser extent (Sliwa 2020). This paper argues that moral ignorance (due to forgetting) may well excuse but not exculpate — it may lessen the blameworthiness of a forgetting-involving wronging but not so much as to warrant forgiveness.