Carr, Susan and Oreszczyn, Sue
Critical systems heuristics: a tool for the inclusion of ethics and values in complex policy decisions.
In: Ethics as a Dimension of Agrifood Policy: Proceedings of the 4th Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics, 20-22 March 2003, Toulouse, France.
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From the introduction Drawing on a study of members of the UK’s Agriculture and Biotechnology Commission, this paper
explores the use of Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) as a structured approach to the inclusion of
ethics and values in complex policy decisions.
CSH was devised by Ulrich in a planning context, as a way of making explicit the value assumptions
underlying practical judgements by means of critical reflection. It is rooted in Critical Systems
Thinking, which challenged earlier notions of systems thinking by introducing a more socially aware
and critical form of systems practice.
Ulrich used the concept of system boundaries to provide a conceptual framework for dealing with the
facts and values that underlie a decision. The CSH framework encourages people to consider critically
such matters as what counts as an ethically-defendable 'improvement', who should benefit, and what
should count as relevant knowledge and sources of expertise.
This paper highlights some of the advantages and disadvantages of CSH as a tool for achieving a more
inclusive, critical and self-reflective approach to decision making about genetically modified crops.
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