In the world of business accounting, ethics plays a major role in the daily operations of a business. Not only are businesses responsible for incorporating ethical standards into their operations, but accountants are also responsible for ensuring they perform in an ethical manner. So often, there is a thin line between what is considered ethical and what is considered unethical, especially when a company is considering profit over ethics. However, top level professionals or accountants hold the power to set the tone at the top, lead by example, and provide a standard or code of ethics for peers to follow without hesitation that will ultimately lead to profits earned in an ethical fashion. In efforts to make reasonable decisions and set reasonable standards of ethics, some professionals and accountants may turn to the philosophy of ethics, and the philosophers who have contributed to this subject matter. One of the many great philosophers who have contributed a great deal of insight into the field of ethics is Socrates.
Socrates, a Greek philosopher and logician, was born in 469 Before Common Era (B.C.E.). When Socrates reached the age of eighteen, he was presented to examined and entered onto the citizens' roll, making him eligible for the many tasks of government determined by lot or required of all citizens, beginning with two years of compulsory training in the Athenian militia (SEP, 2009). After completing his two years of military training, Socrates was subject to being sent beyond the borders of Attica with the army, but these were years of relative peace, so he is likely to have practiced a trade (SEP). It is recorded that Socrates took a keen interest in the works of other philosophers such as Plato, Zeno of Elea, and Parmenides (EWB, 1997). Socrates himself wrote nothing; therefore it is assumed that evidence of his life and activities must come from the writings of Plato and Xenophon (EWB). It is reported that Socrates was poor and had only the barest necessities of life; however this did not stop his appeal to others. After questioning those who had a reputation for wisdom and who considered themselves to be wise, he concluded that he was wiser because he could recognize his ignorance while they, who were equally ignorant, thought themselves wise (EWB). On one occasion, the EWB states that Socrates asks, “Is it true that all men are capable of training horses, or only those men with special qualifications and experience?” Thus his chief contributions lie in clearing away the false common beliefs and in leading men to an awareness of their own ignorance, which may begin to allow them to discover the truth (EWB). Socrates shows us that the use of logic and reasoning in an argument or discussion is truly a skill and is a magnetic device used to draw people toward reality and truth. Maybe all professionals or accountants should ask themselves if they need special qualifications or a top-level position in order to act ethically and abide by a strict code of ethics.
Scott (2011) suggests that in order to make a truly ethical decision, one must decide what will make him or her happy. Scott refers to Socrates, stating that “according to Socrates, what makes us happy is what makes us better people.” I strongly agree with this statement. In my profession, I have witnessed people performing in an ethical manner tend to be happier, more calm, and more confident in their final work product. On the other hand, people performing in an unethical manner tend to be reserved, uneasy, easily angered, and extremely defensive. The reasoning behind the different emotions may lie in the different needs required to emphasize the truth or shield a lie. When executives feel as though someone is presenting a lie to them, the executive may begin to rethink his plan to deal with the presenter, in efforts to prevent robbery or future manipulations.
Some people or other...