Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Neil Van Leeuwen

Second Advisor

Daniel Weiskopf


In this paper, I propose a novel theory of sacred values, which are a recently proposed type of conative attitude meant to account for religious and political actions that are incomprehensible using theories of rational choice (Atran 2016; Baron & Spranca 1997; Tetlock et. al. 2000). Sacred values are unique mental states because they encode unconditional preferences for certain privileged outcomes. I develop Isolated Sacred Value Theory by formulating two decision principles that reflect behavior in morally-relevant circumstances: the inviolability principle and the unrankability principle. Having formulated my proposal, I consider the impact of my proposal on extant theories of rational choice (e.g. von Neumann & Morgenstern 1944). Lastly, I apply ISVT to problems regarding the typical extension of sacred values and the possibility of immoral actions.