For PhD student Sanna Tirkkonen, the line between research and life is a little blurred. “I work in philosophy, and it is quite usual in our field that doing research gets intertwined with the whole way of being,” she explains. “The questions we study are involved with the deep questions concerning life, ethics, society, knowledge, and existence.”
Sanna’s dissertation focuses on the works of French philosopher Michel Foucault, who she first started to study about 15 years ago. She was initially drawn to his work on ethics, which eventually became a part of her dissertation. Sanna’s dissertation examines the intersections between ethics and governing. Using Foucault’s original works, lectures, and articles, as well as other philosophical literature on the topic, she explores how ethical behaviours happen as a result of social encounters. Foucault states that acting morally is not about following moral codes, but rather spontaneously reacting a situation or experience. Sanna argues that a person’s experience is what they themselves live through, but that some experiences can also be shared. In this way, she is able to reflect on the social impacts of personal and collective experiences. It is different to experience oneself as someone “mad”, sick, healthy or disordered. While these are cultural distinctions, they impact they have on a person’s experience is quite real.