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The specific catalyst for the debates was Xavier Leon’s proposal to Gilson that he and Léon Brunscvicg should debate the status of Thomist philosophy as a philosophy.Gilson in return proposed the broader topic “Christian philosophy”, asking that Brehier be included. Blondel contributed a letter highly critical of Gilson’s position at the meeting, and published a response to Bréhier’s criticisms.Gilson, Maritain, Blondel and Regis Jolivet each published books focused on Christian philosophy in 1931-33.The Société Thomiste devoted their 1933 conference to the topic of Christian philosophy, and the Société d’Etudes Philosophiques devoted theirs that same year to discussion of Blondel’s. Although they did not end in conclusive or universally acknowledged success for any of the participants, the positions of dominant schools of thought regarding Christian philosophy had been firmly established.In addition, the term “Christian philosophy” began to enjoy greater currency in the early part of the 20th century, particularly by the 1920s. First, the Debates provoked counter-responses by both secular, rationalist philosophers and by Catholic, neo-Scholastic philosophers who agreed for different reasons that the notion of Christian philosophy was a false one.Second, they produced reflection and dialogue on the part of Catholic and Reformed Protestant philosophers who considered the term to designate a distinctively Christian manner of philosophizing.
While it never made Thomism the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church, it gave pride of place to Aquinas' work, and within a generation Thomist philosophy became established as the dominant and representative form of Catholic philosophical thought. The document diagnosed philosophical bases of the heresy of “modernism” and reinforced the centrality to be accorded to Thomism.By the time the debates officially began at the March 1931 meeting of the Société Française de Philosophie, the issue was primed for sustained discussion by the Francophone philosophical and theological communities.Several participants had articulated their views on Christian philosophy prior to the debates.Thus Christian philosophy became a central problem for 17th and 18th century thinkers such as Pascal, Malebranche, Descartes, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Catholic Traditionalists (such as de Maistre and Lammenais), neo-Scholastics and other Thomists, and Maurice Blondel.
Another major development stemmed from the impetus given to Catholic philosophical work by several papal encyclicals.Between 19, important debates regarding the nature, possibility and history of Christian philosophy took place between major authors in French-speaking philosophical and theological circles.