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Berlin Sustainability Talk with Richard Hill

Sep 03, 2012 | 04:00 PM

On September 3rd, 4-6 p.m., Dr. Richard Hill (University of Cape Town) will give a talk on "Philosophical ideas and theoretical insights to improve the practice of environmental assessment."

In the first part of his talk he will share a normative, methodological theory of the EA process that interlinks two concepts, critical rationality and mutual adjustment. Critical rationalism offers a useful mindset to guide the process of ascertaining the consequences of proposals, and later in providing justifications for decisions taken. A formalised process of mutual adjustment, sourced from theories of public sector decision making, is more appropriate in the process of multi-actor decision making (or shaping), in which participants adjust to each other's interests in agreeing on a course of action. Where mutual adjustment fails and intersubjective agreement is not possible, a decision must be taken and imposed, subject to the conditions of critical rationality. If these concepts help us to engage more consciously in the public arena of EA, the second part of his talk will delve into the minds of the participants through the insights offered by the recently developed argumentative theory of reasoning.  He will outline the apparent failings of classical reasoning, particularly those relevant to decision making, namely the confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, and attitude and group polarisation. The argumentative theory of reasoning turns these apparent failings into virtues through a thesis that our capacity to reason evolved primarily for deliberative purposes in social settings. The theoretical insights of evolutionary psychology can assist practitioners of deliberative processes to better understand the reasoning and decision making abilities of the many actors involved. Participants apply their minds individually and collectively using an eclectic mix of intuitive argumentative abilities and reflective reasoning capabilities.

 Dr Richard Hill is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town. His research aims to better understand the role of Environmental Assessment (EA) in society, in terms of why and how it works to regulate proposals, and to improve the practice of EA. He is member of the Board of the recently established Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa, and he represents the academic sector on a national steering committee directing the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment and Management Strategy for South Africa. His Website can be found at: http://www.egs.uct.ac.za/staff_files/hill.html

The Berlin Sustainability Talk is a monthly brown bag seminar at the Environmental Policy Research Centre (ffu). It provides a forum for discussion and exchange about ongoing research projects and recent trends in environmental policy research with scholars of other institutes, business representatives, politics, and public administrations as well as the interested public. A registration for the event is not required.

Time & Location

Sep 03, 2012 | 04:00 PM

FFU, Ihnestr. 22, Raum 3.1c