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 thenelli01

Immoral to forget?

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So here is a scenario:

 

My mom had her laptop in a bag to bring with her to New Jersey. My macbook had Safari browser, which is incompatible with Office 365, and I wanted to get on my email. So I took her laptop and used it, which she doesn't mind. However, I forgot to put it back in her bag. I must have gotten side-tracked and left it on the table. She had work to do while she was away so she was justifiably angry. But she went so far to say that it was "wrong" of me to not put it back. 

 

Is forgetting subject to moral judgement? Was I being neglectful by not focusing and making sure that her laptop went back in her bag?

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You can't be unintentionally choosing to do something wrong while not intending to do so.

 

The only thing of moral relevance is how you acted prior to and upon finding out you made that sort of mistake.  There could be an error such as not handling a known problem with forgetfullness or a problem after such as not being appropriately apologetic, but you can't be acting immorally while not acting consciously.

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Is forgetting subject to moral judgement? Was I being neglectful by not focusing and making sure that her laptop went back in her bag?

 

To the second question, I would say yes. Obviously you didn't mean to be neglectful, but you were anyway. As you said, you got preoccupied with other things and didn't make sure that your mom's laptop was returned to her bag. I don't consider this a moral error because you weren't being neglectful on purpose (ie: with the intention of malice), but you should try to be more careful with other people's things.

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Is forgetting subject to moral judgment?

Yes, it is. Everything we do is subject to moral judgment, because everything we do is subject to our choice to focus or not. "I wasn't conscious of my actions" is not an automatic excuse. But that doesn't mean mistakes are automatically immoral either.

Mistakes can in fact be moral, in the sense that it can be the moral choice to accept the possibility of mistakes rather than strive for perfection. But that doesn't make them amoral: in fact, being a perfectionist is the immoral choice, and allowing for the possibility of mistakes is the moral choice.

In general, allowing for mistakes is moral when the (known/ expected) cost of fixing them is less than the cost of preventing them. I'm going to assume that you had no idea that the cost of not putting that laptop back involved your mother missing it on a trip, and in fact the rational expectation was that it would be no big deal. If you did know it, then not focusing on making sure you put it back was immoral. But, if you didn't, then it wasn't.

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Is forgetting subject to moral judgement? Was I being neglectful by not focusing and making sure that her laptop went back in her bag?

 

In my view, absolutely it is.  It is important to take a wider context than simply one instance in order to address issues like this, where you are not consciously making a wrong choice, but rather your 'default' setting or level of attention leads you astray.  (If this is really just an isolated incident, and you're usually very attentive to stuff like this, then the rest of my post isn't really relevant to your situation in particular.  However, this is an issue that I've given some thought to, so either way I'd like to lay it out.)

 

I'll give you some examples from my life to make this a little more concrete.  I have a tendency to fail to look for opportunities to show those that I care about just how valuable they are to me.  Far too often, when other people tell me about something they did for a friend or loved one, I find myself chiding myself for not thinking of that, or for not doing something similar when I had the chance.  For example, it just didn't occur to me to call my sister after her first day or few days of college, to see how it was going.  I haven't seen my grandparents in quite a while, and I didn't even think that it might be a good idea to visit them until my sister mentioned that she was flying out there to see them.  For a more mundane example, I'm sure you know those people that, when they go shopping, are constantly finding gifts to buy that their friends or family would appreciate.  I'm kind of the opposite.  I could be looking at something that would be perfect as a gift for someone I care about, and I probably wouldn't even realize it; it wouldn't even occur to me to buy it for them.

 

I'll stop embarrassing myself with examples of my failings, but my point is this: even though none of these are bad choices that I consciously made, the end result is that, if I follow my 'default' setting with things like this, I end up neglecting people that I care about and whom I definitely don't want to neglect.  In my case, I need to find ways to consciously and actively seek out these opportunities, because they don't just 'occur' to me like they often do with others around me.  I may not mean to miss out on these opportunities, but the fact is that I do, and I really don't want to.  The solution is for me to take responsibility for what my 'default' setting is, and find ways to counteract it and eventually shift it more towards were I would like it to be.

 

Presumably in the future you want to avoid forgetful mistakes that inconvenience your mother (or others around you).  Actually achieving that goal requires not hiding behind the explanation of 'well, I didn't mean to' and taking a longer viewpoint, where you are able to change how forgetful you are, to some extent at least.  But again, if you're generally much better about this sort of thing, I don't mean to offend.

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