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Idealized ethical decision-making is the study of how perfectly rational ethical agents would make decisions. Although it is unrealistic to assume that we are perfectly rational agents, understanding idealized ethical decision theory is useful because it provides a direction to aim for in evaluating practical decision-making processes.

An idealized ethical decision theory will tell agents which of the actions available to them is best, given their beliefs about the world and what they value. There are three important components of idealized ethical decision-making:

  • Epistemology: how should people form beliefs and credences about the way the world is, given their evidence?
  • Ethics: what is valuable, or ethical?
  • Decision theory: given people’s views about the world and what they value, how should they combine the above two categories to reach decisions?