Oral Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

The Self in Self-Care:  A Philosophical Exploration of Self as Subject, Object, and Interdependent Arising (#77)

Raeann LeBlanc 1 , Emefa Adawudu 1 , Pamela Masoka 1 , Miaomiao Shen 1
  1. UMass Amherst, Amherst, MASSACHUSETTS, United States

 Self-care has many meanings. Self-care is operationalized in modern day healthcare practices by medicalized dictates to self-manage illness as a self-care practice.  This presentation will explore the philosophical conceptualizations of self-care. We will elaborate on the philosophical perspectives of Michael Foucault and Boris Groys on the fundamental problem of the relationship between the subject (self) and object (self) as constructed in the medicalized encounter.We will draw on specific examples from chronic illness care to disclosure of terminal illness.  Foucault argued that “you must attend to yourself, you must not forget yourself and you must take care of yourself” in being a “doctor of the self”. Yet, according to Groys the contemporary order of care has reversed this.  Our health “care” systems require individual sickness. This state of sickness generates care in the first place including self-care. In this presentation we will examine perspectives and concepts that differentiate self-care from illness care systems.  We will examine how under the gaze of the healthcare system we are constructed as objects of sickness while also being subjects of this experience. We will argue that the knowledge of our bodies as being externally constructed colonizes this dependence of the care system on the objectified bodies in its care. This construct necessitates sickness as a biopolitical state for there to be care at all. Finally, we will return to Foucault’s bold premise of our interdependent arising that returns self-care into an order that precedes rather than is a result of our healthcare systems as a nursing philosophy. 

Keywords:  Self-care, Foucault, Groys, Nursing Philosophy

  1. Groys, B. (2022). Philosophy of Care. Verso Books.
  2. Foucault, M. (1988). Technologies of the self. In Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault (Vol. 18).
  3. Hancock, B. H. (2018, July). Michel Foucault and the problematics of power: theorizing DTCA and medicalized subjectivity. In The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A forum for bioethics and philosophy of medicine (Vol. 43, No. 4, pp. 439-468). US: Oxford University Press.