The Small Improvement Argument, Epistemicism, and Incomparability

The Small Improvement Argument (SIA) is the leading argument for the proposition that the traditional trichotomy of comparative relations – Fer than, less F than, and as F as – sometimes fails to hold. Some SIAs merely exploit our contingent ignorance about the items we are comparing, but there are some hard cases which cannot be explained in the same way. In this paper, we assume
that such hard cases are borderline cases of vague predicates. All vagueness-based accounts have thus far assumed the truth of supervaluationism. However, supervaluationism has some well-known problems and does not command universal assent among philosophers of vagueness. Epistemicism is one of the leading rivals to supervaluationism. Here, for the first time we fully develop an epistemicist account of the SIA. We argue that if the vagueness-based account of the SIA is correct and if epistemicism is true, then options are comparable in small improvement cases. We also show that even if vagueness-based accounts of the SIA are mistaken, if epistemicism is true, then options cannot be on a par. Moreover, our epistemicist account of the SIA has an advantage over leading existing rival accounts of the SIA because it successfully accounts for higher-order hard cases.

Co-authored with Tweedy Flanigan

Forthcoming in Economics and Philosophy

Read the full paper here: The Small Improvement Argument