Available on ORBilu since
08 June 2023
Article (Scientific journals)
The argument from small improvement is a red herring
Raleigh, Thomas
2023In Inquiry
Peer Reviewed verified by ORBi


Full Text
Final Academia Draft.pdf
Author preprint (263.1 kB)

All documents in ORBilu are protected by a user license.

Send to


Keywords :
Decision Theory; Rationality; Incommensurability
Abstract :
[en] The much-discussed ‘Argument from Small Improvement’ has been advanced both as a reason to reject (tripartite) Completeness, one of the standard axioms of decision theory, and to accept the possibility of rationally incomparable choices. But this form of argument cannot be an effective basis for either of these conclusions, unless one already has some prior, independent reason to prefer Transitivity to Completeness as a constraint on rational preferences (or rational values). In particular, I show how a reverse argument from small improvement can be constructed, starting from the assumption of tripartite Completeness, to the conclusion that Transitivity fails. I conclude that this form of argument as it has been standardly presented in the literature is a kind of ‘red herring’. We can only make progress here by evaluating the reasons independent of either such argument to prefer one or other of Transitivity or Completeness.
Disciplines :
Philosophy & ethics
Author, co-author :
Raleigh, Thomas ;  University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE) > Department of Humanities (DHUM)
External co-authors :
Language :
Title :
The argument from small improvement is a red herring
Publication date :
Journal title :
Publisher :
Routledge, United Kingdom
Peer reviewed :
Peer Reviewed verified by ORBi


Number of views
42 (1 by Unilu)
Number of downloads
0 (0 by Unilu)

Scopus citations®
Scopus citations®
without self-citations


Similar publications

Contact ORBilu