Kurt Borg, ‘Exploring Michel Foucault’s Move from Power and Knowledge to Ethics and the Self’, Dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Master of Arts in Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Malta, February 2014
In this dissertation, I will consider the multiple trajectories of the thought of Michel Foucault in the 1970s and 1980s, offering an approach through which his writings on power and knowledge on one hand, and ethics and the self on the other can be understood fruitfully in relation to each other without being seen as representing a radical break in his work. I will do this by, first, locating the question of the subject and its formation within Foucault’s works on disciplinary power and sexuality, paving the way for this question to be revisited through his later writings on ethics. I will then consider how the development of Foucault’s ideas on power into biopower and governmentality enable an approach through which continuity within Foucault’s works can be identified through the rel ations between power, conduct and modes of individualisation. This will lead to considering Foucault’s genealogy of ethics and the modern subject not as a departure from his earlier ideas, but as the culmination of his interest in analysing knowledge, power and ethics. I will consider but go beyond the notions of aesthetics of existence and care of the self in Foucault’s discussion of ancient Greek and Hellenistic ethics in order to deal with his ideas on parrhēsia and truth-telling from his final lecture courses at the Collège De France that show that his late ideas reflect his earlier concerns. Therefore, by appealing to the conceptual developments within his writings as well as his approach to philosophical analysis, Foucault’s philosophical projects need not be seen as disparate and so the issue of continuity in his work can be raised and positively viewed.