Critical systems heuristics: a tool for the inclusion of ethics and values in complex policy decisions

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.
Year of Conference
Conference Name
Ethics as a Dimension of Agrifood Policy: Proceedings of the 4th Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics