Nihilists about instrumental value deny that choices have any objective, instrumental values. They say that there’s no fact-of-the-matter about what a choice did to help you achieve your ends. Absolutists about instrumental value say that choices have objective, instrumental values, and this value is independent of which alternatives you could have selected instead. Here, I introduce and explore a third option, which I call ‘comparativism about instrumental value’. According to the comparativist, a choice is objectively instrumentally valuable to the extent that it leaves the world better than an alternative would. Because this varies, depending upon which alternative we consider, the only facts about objective instrumental value are comparative facts. I give two reasons to take comparativism seriously. In the first place, it better fits with natural ways of thinking about instrumental value than either nihilism or absolutism. In the second place, it affords us theories of instrumental rationality which avoid problems faced by evidential and causal decision theory.
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