Normative Ethics Framework

Decisions in Normative Framework

Every day, human beings are faced with the challenge of making decisions that may be right or wrong when judged on various frameworks. The rightness or wrongness of a decision may depend on individual beliefs and intentions. Various ethical frameworks can be used to assess the actors’ decisions in The Circle. The main character, Mae, makes many decisions throughout her career that impact her loved ones. The decision to participate in the transparency challenge, expose her parents without consent, search for Mercer leading to an accident, and return to The Circle, even after these events, can be evaluated through the normative framework.

A normative ethics framework clarifies different normatively valuable goals, the trade-offs involved with the goals, and how to balance the trade-offs (Von der Pfordten, 2012). A consequentialist normative framework determines the rightness or wrongness based on the outcomes. This framework addresses the welfare of the public based on utility or hedonism. The utilitarian theory notes that an action is right if it leads to the greater good of most people. In The Circle, Mae decides to join the next-gen tech company revolutionizing social interaction through its project, See Change. The project installs cameras globally and connects its members on the Circle platform. These cameras infringe on individual privacy, but it is not until the selection of specific participants in the experiment that this issue is of concern. Mae rises through the ranks quickly and becomes influential in the company, making her a key decision-maker. The circle demonstrates how the technology helps track down criminals globally within minutes. Mae is also caught in a fog while kayaking, and an incoming ship almost flips her over. However, she is saved through The Circle, which compels her to take part in the experiment. Making this decision, Mae had seen the greater good The Circle would bring to the world. It would help reduce crime and promote fast response to emergencies, saving the world. Therefore, her decision to participate and show the world the project’s benefits was right based on the utilitarian, consequentialist normative framework.

Achieving full transparency, however, is an infringement of personal rights. Therefore, consent is needed to monitor and collect data on individuals. The Circle monitors people through hidden cameras and interconnects them so that anybody in the world can access the live stream. As employees at The Circle, they have the moral duty to protect the welfare of the public. According to the generally accepted rule, firms should act morally, with respect, fairness, and transparency towards their customers. Although the organization cannot be considered moral or immoral, individual employees have the moral duty to uphold various values. The original concept founder of The Circle, Ty Laffite, was there throughout the company’s growth and noted that the company stores private data on all its members. However, he did not raise the alarm to the public about the potential danger The Circle posed. He, instead, to the backseat and let Eamon and Tom run the company towards total infringement of people’s privacy without consent. Based on hedonism in the consequentialist normative approach, an act should aim to derive more pleasure and not harm those involved (Driver, 2014). When Ty failed to condemn the development of his product, True You, into the See Change surveillance program, he promoted harm to the public by violating their right to privacy. Individuals should be able to review the project, assess the potential benefits and disadvantages, and give informed consent to have their lives monitored and uploaded for everyone to see.

Mae also had the moral duty to protect the privacy of her parents and friends. However, she decided to give up their privacy without their consent by agreeing to participate in the See Change program. Also, Mae agrees to the crowd’s insistence that they should use The Circle to find Mercer, who ends up dying in an accident after a drone startles him on the way as he flees from an angry mob. However, both of these decisions were right based on the duty framework. Mae was an employee of The Circle and was obliged to follow the rules within the project. Her participation in the See Change project automatically gave the company access to her private life, whether other people agreed to it or not. She was fulfilling her duty (Bonde & Firenze, 2013) as an employee, and, as collateral, her family and friends got exposed against their will.

The organizational leaders, Eamon and Tom, were trusted by the employees and the public to make a tech tool that would benefit them and bring social change. They wanted to achieve full transparency and having cameras and The Circle community globally was their idea of social change. However, they did not think through the ethical issues surrounding the program’s implementation. They were inconsiderate that not everyone is open to having their private lives broadcast, no matter how confident they are about it. The leaders were wrong to push for complete transparency initiatives and even suggest that everyone must have an account on The Circle. According to Kant’s categorical imperative, people should only make decisions that they wish could be universal laws (O’Neil, 2013). Having people’s private lives monitored and aired turned out to be unpleasant for the executives at The Circle once they realized that they would also be subjected to the same. Their wives already knew about their secret accounts, which did not sit well with them. They should not have treated other people’s privacy as a means to achieve their organizational goals but as an end in itself.


Bonde, S., & Firenze, P. (2013). A framework for making ethical decisions. Brown University. thical-decisions

Driver, J. (2014). The history of utilitarianism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford

encyclopedia of philosophy. O’Neill, O. (2013). Acting on principle: An essay on Kantian ethics. Cambridge University Press.

Von der Pfordten, D. (2011). Five elements of normative ethics – A general theory of normative individualism. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 15(4), 449-471.

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