Summer 2005

Love, Action, and Vows as “Inner Form” of the Moral Life

David S. Crawford

The first claim seems to reverse our instinctive sense of the relation between love and vows. Doesn’t Balthasar have it backwards? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say, after all, that a vow has the inner form of love, at least insofar as the cause of a vow is love? A man and a woman exchange marriage vows because they love each other; a religious takes vows because of his love. Moreover, it seems that a vow is only one possible expression of love. Even were we to grant that vows are the highest expression of love, they are not necessarily the only expression. Rather, love would seem to be the more fundamental (and therefore formative) reality, giving meaning to the possibility of a vow rather than vice versa. To say that something is the “inner form” of something else is to suggest that it makes that something else what it is, gives it its most fundamental character and nature. Thus, if a vow is only one possible expression of love, it cannot be love’s “inner form.” The question, then, is inevitable: Are vows really so very much at the root of love that we would want to call them love’s “inner form”?


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