Title: Audit professional scepticism and the classics: does pyrrhonism serve the practitioner?

Authors: Karen A. Van Peursem

Addresses: School of Accounting and Commercial Law, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

Abstract: This analysis draws on an ancient philosophy to offer how audit regulatory discourse and judicial interpretation come to represent, or fail to represent, the mindset of the philosophical skeptic. Ancient teachings of Pyrrho of Elis, Sextus Empiricus and their modernist peers are brought to bear on concepts formed around what it means to be a 'skeptic'. International auditing standards, ethical codes, personal interviews and a lengthy New Zealand legal judgement reveal professional understandings. Professional discourses are found to be a reductionist form of the skeptical mindset whereby philosophical intent gives way to narrowly-defined and risk-directed interpretations. There is an economy to the professional-sceptic recognising an end-point to enquiry and a less reflexive form of critique. Conclusions reached thus question the authenticity and depth of professional interpretations. Implications for practice offer that a greater commitment to a free-form improvisational enquiry with less dogma-inspiring structures would more closely represent the sceptical pursuit.

Keywords: professional skepticism; philosophy; audit practice; auditing standards; skepticism.

DOI: 10.1504/IJEA.2020.110165

International Journal of Economics and Accounting, 2020 Vol.9 No.4, pp.294 - 314

Received: 29 May 2019
Accepted: 02 Nov 2019

Published online: 07 Oct 2020 *

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