Stumbling on the Threshold: A Reply to Gwiazda on Threshold Obligations

Religious Studies 48 (4):469-478 (2012)
Abstract
Bayne and Nagasawa have argued that the properties traditionally attributed to God provide an insufficient grounding for the obligation to worship God. They do so partly because the same properties, when possessed in lesser quantities by human beings, do not give rise to similar obligations. In a recent paper, Jeremy Gwiazda challenges this line of argument. He does so because it neglects the possible existence of a threshold obligation to worship, i.e. an obligation that only kicks in when the value of a parameter has crossed a certain threshold. This article argues that there is a serious flaw in Gwiazda’s proposal. Although thresholds may play an important part in how we think about our obligations, their function is distinct from that envisaged by Gwiazda. To be precise, this article argues that thresholds are only relevant to obligations to the extent that they transform a pre-existing imperfect obligation or act of supererogation into a perfect obligation. Since it is not clear that there is an imperfect obligation to worship any being, and indeed since on a certain conception of moral agency it is highly unlikely that there could be, the search for a rational basis for the obligation to worship must continue.
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