Vol 12, No 1, 2008

Healthy Shame? An Interchange between Elspeth Probyn and Thomas Aquinas

Tom Ryan SM


In her recent book Blush: Faces of Shame, Elspeth Probyn offers a profile of shame drawing on the disciplines of psychology, sociology and cultural anthropology. She argues that shame is a) inherently value-oriented, b) necessary for human well-being and c) universal or essential as a human phenomenon. This approach to shame has significant resonances with the theological anthropology and christian ethics of Thomas Aquinas. In exploring these authors, we can gain a clearer picture of the transformative function of shame in the personal, social, cultural and moral dimensions of human life.