The two-envelope paradox: An axiomatic approach

Mind 114 (454):239-248 (2005)
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Abstract
There has been much discussion on the two-envelope paradox. Clark and Shackel (2000) have proposed a solution to the paradox, which has been refuted by Meacham and Weisberg (2003). Surprisingly, however, the literature still contains no axiomatic justification for the claim that one should be indifferent between the two envelopes before opening one of them. According to Meacham and Weisberg, "decision theory does not rank swapping against sticking [before opening any envelope]" (p. 686). To fill this gap in the literature, we present a simple axiomatic justification for indifference, avoiding any expectation reasoning, which is often considered problematic in infinite cases. Although the two-envelope paradox assumes an expectation-maximizing agent, we show that analogous paradoxes arise for agents using different decision principles such as maximin and maximax, and that our justification for indifference before opening applies here too.
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