Inderscience Publishers

How to cut across the catch-all? A philosophical-cultural framework for assessing sustainability

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The manner in which the sustainable performance of a complex system can be assessed continues to be the focus of many discussions. This paper builds on efforts to use multimodal system analysis for describing sustainable functioning. Initial research was conducted in the contexts of system sciences and urban planning, but the resulting method is estimated to have a wider potential for application. The Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd?s original theory of modal law-spheres, which forms the basis for multimodal system analysis, is reconsidered. His theory facilitates a deepened insight into the difference between expressed sustainability definitions. In addition to an analysis in terms of modal aspects of sustainable functioning, the value-driven trade-offs that occur within modal spheres need addressing. The multimodal method is therefore confronted with the analytical categories of the Cultural Theory. Combining both efforts thus results in a two-dimensional analytical grid that accounts for intermodal connectivity and intra-modal oppositions.

Keywords: integrated sustainability assessment, philosophical-cultural framework, sustainable development, multimodal system analysis, Herman Dooyeweerd, cultural theory, environmental ethics, holistic thinking

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