Fraud and guilt: rationalization
strategies and the relevance of
School of Management, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada
Purpose –The purpose of this paper is to use Kierkegaard’slife-views (aesthetical, ethicist and religious
life-views) for better understanding the way fraudsters are dealing with their ontic-existentiell guilt, while
Design/methodology/approach –Rationalization tacticsmake possible to neutralize moral discomfort
about fraudulent practices.Endorsing Kierkegaard life-views actually unveilsthree basic patterns fraudsters
could agree with (consciouslyor not): the focus for individualization processes, the ontic-existentiellquest and
the attitude towards guilt. Each Kierkegaardian life-view has deepened this threefold pattern in a very
Findings –The aesthetician life-view is so emphasizing immediacy and pleasure that it strengthens an
amoral perspective. Fraudsterscould easily adopt such life-view. The ethicist is so basically concernedwith
morality (distinction between good and evil)that he/she cannot consciously favour fraudulent practices. At
best, fraudstersmay be “would-be ethicists”. As long as they are unable tofeel repentance, fraudsters will not
be able to fullyembrace the religious life-view. At best, they may be “would-bereligious”.
Research limitations/implications –The way Kierkegaard’s life-viewscould put light on fraudsters’
rationalization tactics has notbeen empirically assessed. Empirical studies that would be focussedon such
topics should deepen the relevance and meaning of fraudsters’psychological, sociological, cultural and
Originality/value –The paper analyzesto what extent fraudsters could feel psychological guilt, as wellas
ontic-existentiell guilt, as it is grounded on ontological-existential guilt (guilt as an ontological category).
Taking Kierkegaard’s life-views as reference pattern, it presentsthe implications of being oriented towards
immediacy/pleasure(avoiding guilt, at any cost), towards freedom (beingaware of one’s guilt) or towards the
inﬁnite(being fully aware of one’s guilt).
Keywords Corruption, Fraud, guilt, Kierkegaard, Rationalization tactics
Paper type Conceptual paper
Guilt cannot be reduced to psychologicalprocesses, or to social, cultural and even religious-
spiritual conditioning factors. It is rooted in our being-free, and thus, in our ontological-
existential ﬁnitude. Martin Heidegger (1962, p. 33) asserted that ontology implies the
analysis of the structure of existence, while ontic affairs actually deal with the way we are
deciding our own existence. Heidegger’s ontological difference referred to the difference
between Being and entities. Unlike nonhuman beings,human being can grasp the being of
entities. He/she can understand Being itself and the being of entities (Käufer, 2005, p. 483).
Being is not the concept thatactually covers all entities. Rather, understanding Beingmakes
possible to meet entities as entities(Nicholson, 1996, p. 362). In What is metaphysics? (1938),
Disclosure statement: No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the author.
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.26 No. 2, 2019
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