Morality is a set of rules concerning right and wrong behaviour. Ethics is the branch of philosophy that attempts to provide clear arguments about which moral rules are best and how those rules ought to be interpreted.
There are several different ethical theories or frameworks for ethical decision-making, each of which has been advocated by prominent moral philosophers. Some philosophers, for example, advocate thinking about ethics entirely in terms of consequences: what action will produce the best outcomes overall? Others have argued in favour of thinking solely in terms of duties, and absolute principles of behaviour – such as ‘Always tell the truth’ – that could be adhered to by all. Still others have advocated thinking about ethics in terms of hypothetical contracts, asking us to imagine what rules of behaviour reasonable, unbiased people would agree society should live by. And finally, some have argued that we ought not to think about ethics in terms of rules, but rather to think about what kinds of virtues good people embody, and what kinds of people we think it best to emulate.
Many different factors affect ethical reasoning, including age, sex, religion, and professional affiliations.
It is preferable that your ethical decisions be based on good reasoning and careful consideration of the relevant laws and principles, but it is also necessary to be aware of the various personal factors affecting your own decision-making, and those of other people. One of the differences between the two approaches is that in a rules-based approach, you look for a rule that prohibits you from doing whatever it is you are considering. In a principles-based approach, you have to think more widely and consider whether or not a principle is being violated or even threatened. In many ways the principles-based approach is more reliable in that if an action is planned, its appropriateness is assessed. If it goes against the principles of professional behaviour and values, then the action should be avoided, even if no rules exist concerning this specific action.
Another difference is the onus of responsibility. In a rules-based approach, someone in authority has to create a list of prohibited activities for you to obey. In a principles-based approach, the responsibility is on you, as a professional, to decide if, in each specific case, a principle is being violated.
It is difficult to have a written rule that covers every possible situation. Furthermore, in a rules-based approach, people sometimes start looking for loopholes. They look for situations that are not prohibited and use them to their advantage. This is what happens in taxation where tax rules are established but accountants look for loopholes in order to avoid tax.
A principles-based framework is a more flexible approach, and can cover new situations that might not have been thought of. It can sometimes seem more difficult, however, because you need to carefully think through every situation. ACCA’s fundamental principles:
Professional competence and due care
As a human being, you and your ethics are shaped by your upbringing and your experience. As a professional accountant or student accountant, you are bound by the laws of your country, and all regulations that flow out of them. As an ACCA member, student, or affiliate, you are also bound by the fundamental principles of ACCA. Section 3.2 of the ACCA Rulebook contains the full text of these principles. These principles are based on standards from IFAC, the International Federation of Accountants which apply to accountants around the world. What follows is an explanation of these principles. integrity
What the rulebook says
You 'should be straightforward and honest in all professional and business relationships.' In other words
Do not lie and do not issue false or misleading information. objectivity
What the rulebook says...
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