Deontology and Accounting Ethics

Topics: Ethics, Immanuel Kant, Deontological ethics Pages: 9 (2840 words) Published: March 2, 2011
Deontology and Accounting Ethics

Amanda Dunn

Liberty University



1 Ethical Systems Description

1 Deontological

2 Utilitarian

2 Ethical Systems Evaluation

1 Organizational Culture of Accounting

2 AICPA Professional Code of Conduct

3 Utilization of a Deontological System


No man can be certain beyond a shadow of a doubt how he will react in any given situation. One can know how he would hope to react; however, until the circumstances are in place behavior can not be entirely predicted. A person’s reaction in the direst of moments is in fact the heart of who they are. While reactions are spontaneous, actions are not and the decisions to act or not to act in one fashion or another are based on an ethical viewpoint. This truth spans across both personal and professional lives and from those individual lives crosses the boundaries into entire professions. Ethics is not limited to individuals, but stretches across entire organizations, social practices, and even complete social, political, and economic systems (Duska & Duska, 2003). The accounting profession is not an exception. This paper will describe the deontological ethical system as well as the utilitarian ethical system, both of which are proposed for the accounting profession. Second, it will evaluate each system with respect to the accounting professions organizational culture and the Accounting Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Code of Professional Conduct. Finally, it will conclude the use of the deontological ethical system as most appropriate for the accounting profession. System Descriptions

There are two ethical systems typically proposed for the accounting profession, namely deontological and utilitarian. Both systems contain characteristics which have been argued to be most appropriate for the accounting world. Each has been purported by authors, philosophers, ethicists, and theologians for over 200 years and in all aspects of life. More recently, associating ethical systems with business transactions and general business behavior has become popular. A closer look at each will allow for a deeper understanding and potential application of each to the accounting profession. Deontology

Deontology is a form of ethics in which results, bases, and measurable goodness of acts are rule-based (Geisler, 2010). One of deontology's most well known advocates was Immanuel Kant. Kant's valuation of an action was purely qualitative. Regardless of the consequences of any action, the action itself is deemed right or wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral based on the application or disregard for the underlying rule. Mankind has a moral duty fulfill. Deontology is normative and is rooted in what ought to be done based on seeded principle and not merely as a reaction to potential consequence (Van Staveren, 2007). Even among those who do not tout deontology as the favorable ethic system for business, it is noted that Kantian ethics are gaining popularity. Altman (2007) acknowledges "Kant is gaining popularity in business ethics because the categorical imperative rules out actions such as deceptive advertising and exploitative working conditions, both of which treat people merely as means to an end" (p. 253). This ethical system does not consider the effect of a decision in terms of distributed "goodness", but rather the "goodness" of the decision itself. The former is left to the deontological opposition in utilitarianism. Utilitarianism

Economists such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham fostered utilitarianism as well as Greek philosophers like Epicurus. Mill's assessment of an action is quantitative as compared to Kant's qualitative analysis. Duska and Duska (2008) summarize Mill's judgment of a justifiable action as one in which more total happiness than unhappiness for more people is attained (p. 52). This system allows the validation of action based...

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