Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 5, pp 1177–1201 | Cite as

Responsibility for forgetting

  • Samuel MurrayEmail author
  • Elise D. Murray
  • Gregory Stewart
  • Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
  • Felipe De Brigard


In this paper, we focus on whether and to what extent we judge that people are responsible for the consequences of their forgetfulness. We ran a series of behavioral studies to measure judgments of responsibility for the consequences of forgetfulness. Our results show that we are disposed to hold others responsible for some of their forgetfulness. The level of stress that the forgetful agent is under modulates judgments of responsibility, though the level of care that the agent exhibits toward performing the forgotten action does not. We argue that this result has important implications for a long-running debate about the nature of responsible agency.


Responsibility Omissions Negligence Forgetting Value Stress Fault Guilt Blame Capacity 



We would like to thank Sara Johnson for help with some of the statistical analysis. Also, thanks to Manuel Vargas, Santiago Amaya, Dylan Murray, and Paul Henne for discussion of various points in the paper. Members of MADLab and the Imagination and Modal Cognition lab at Duke University gave critical feedback on the vignettes and analysis of initial results (especially Aaron Ancell, Jesse Summers, Jana Shaich Borg, Luka Ruzic, and Bryce Gessell). This project was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to Felipe De Brigard and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and a grant from the Philosophy and Science of Self-Control project at Florida State University to Samuel Murray. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation, Florida State University, or the Philosophy and Science of Self-Control project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Applied Research and Youth Development, Department of Child Study and Human DevelopmentTufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  3. 3.Imagination and Modal Cognition LabDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Department of PhilosophyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  5. 5.Kenan Institute for EthicsDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  6. 6.Duke Institute for Brain ScienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  7. 7.School of LawDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  8. 8.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  9. 9.Center for Cognitive NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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