By ‘Grammatical Thomists,’ Murphy means those Thomists who to some extent have adopted the ‘linguistic turn’ in modern philosophy, primarily through their engagement with Wittgenstein. Thus her primary interlocutors are Thomists such as Herbert McCabe and Denys Turner. What I find especially interesting about this work, is that one of Murphy’s main concerns is to re-present the ‘five ways’ of Thomas Aquinas as full-blooded proofs. Of course, nowadays, arguments for the existence of God are not particularly in vogue, mainly because of theology’s attempts to avoid any suspicion of ‘foundationalism’ and also because (post)modern theology has for the most part, bought into Heidegger’s narrative of Western philosophy as one giant exercise in onto-theology.
It may appear that her project here shares much in common with that of Denys Turner who in ‘Faith, Reason and the Existence of God’ presents a defence of Vatican I’s promulgation that the existence of God can be known with certainty by the natural power of reason. Murphy shares this belief, but she argues that Turner, by limiting himself to merely arguing for the possibility of a rational proof of the existence of God, rather than delving into any particular proof whatsoever, is himself guilty of a form of foundationalism. For, as Murphy notes, there is nothing intrinsically ’foundationalist’ about reasoning to God’s existence. Rather, foundationalism comes into play when “one reasons upon reason” (33) As she says, not even Descartes though it necessary to first prove the rationality of proving the existence of God before he went on to offer a proof! (87) One recalls here John Paul II’s lamentation in Fides et Ratio that philosophy has been reduced to epistemology – it no longer seeks to know reality but instead limits itself to asking how one can know anything at all.
On this point, I think she is a little unfair on Turner. Yes, it would be preferable to simply get on with the business of proving God’s existence, but in a climate which believes this undertaking to be an impossibility, such attempts are not going to be given a hearing in the first place. Turner recognises his goal is limited and may seem ‘pedantic’ to many, but I think a critique of those Kant-inspired arguments against the possibility of a proof and theological apprehensiveness about ‘proofs’ in relation to God’s existence is a worthy cause in itself.