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Consequentialists, or utilitarians, are principally concerned with the consequences of an action. For them, determining whether a particular action is morally right or wrong is entirely dependent on what the consequences of the decision are. Jeremy Bentham, the “father” of traditional (or act) utilitarianism, believed that happiness was the maximization of pleasure and the minimization of pain. He created the notion of the “happiness calculus” that could be used to judge the morality of decisions—if an action increases aggregate happiness, and then it is desirable and morally right and if combined happiness decreases, then the act is morally wrong. Many critics of Bentham point out that it can be almost impossible to quantify something as intangible as happiness and it is even more difficult to “calculate” the sum total of happiness created across society because people experience and value happiness in different ways. From a utilitarian point of view, a good accountant would focus on maximizing total happiness or utility across society and in particular from the business/organizational perspective. While in theory, it is possible to perform the “happiness calculus” with things that can be quantified in financial or other numerical terms, it would be necessary to translate intangible or non-financial information into quantitative terms that could be evaluated using a mathematical approach. While a utilitarian accountant may not be as concerned about these non-quantitative factors, they are an important consideration that may distort the results of the utility calculations if not considered in the mathematical model. As long as a the results of a decision increase the overall utility (or happiness), the utilitarian accountant wou... ... middle of paper ... ...ed behavior (like deontology or rules-based approaches), a virtuous accountant considers each situation individually and within the context of the circumstances in which it is to be made. While general rules guide behavior, each situation warrants thoughtful concern for the stakeholders involved and decisions are made in a balanced way that is consistent with the pursuit of virtue, or moral excellence. While virtuous accountants are concerned with the consequences of an action, they are not focused on maximizing utility, as are consequentialist accountants. Of course, as humans we are not perfect and there is room for misinterpretation and mistreatment of some accounting transactions. However, the virtuous accountant would constantly strive to improve her acumen and take every failure as an opportunity for growth as part of her quest for attaining moral excellence.

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