Business and Professional Ethics Journal

Volume 32, Issue 1/2, Spring 2013

Boudewijn de Bruin
Pages 109-130

Epistemic Integrity in Accounting
Accountants as Justifiers in Joint Epistemic Agents

This paper presents an epistemological or knowledge-theoretic reinterpretation of the role of external accountants. It presents a joint epistemic agent model in which corporate management and accountants together form a source of testimonial knowledge for the firm’s stakeholders about the firm’s financial situation. Recent work from virtue epistemology is used, according to which knowledge is, roughly, true belief that is justified by way of the exercise of epistemic virtue. In the joint epistemic agent model, corporate management provides information, while the accountants ensure justification. The paper argues that to ensure justification, accountants have to exercise self-regarding epistemic virtues such as open-mindedness, but also other-regarding epistemic virtues such as generosity. It is also argued that these virtues are only partly encompassed in existing professional codes of conduct.

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