Date of Award
The eighteenth century "philosopher” was a determined fighter, but a fighter with a malicious, destructive turn of mind. This iconoclast, not merely holding before himself the banner of philosophy but hiding behind its disarming folds, attacked religion whose very spirit, faith, he was determined to destroy in the name of reason. And the rationalist was confident that he held a powerful influence over society. For example, had his doctrines not transcended the speculative and brought about the French Revolution of 1789? Then his plea had been received by a deluded people: "Enlightenment, Progress, Reason.” How well did Leo XIII recognise these subtle delusions of rationalist error...
"But as men are apt to follow the lead given them, this new pursuit seems to have caught the souls of certain Catholic philosophers, who, throwing aside the patrimony of ancient wisdom, chose rather to build up a new edifice than to strengthen and complete the old by aid of the new— ill advisedly, in sooth, and not without detriment to the sciences."
But it would seem that the rationalist, having expended his energy in a statement of his position, namely, to oppose faith with reason, dissipated himself in contradictions and was content to be a mere stepping stone of another opponent of faith and true reason.
This new opponent was holding its vigor still at the time of Leo XIII. How faith was being attacked not in the name of reason, but in the name of science. As materialistic "Thought" increased under the tutelage of the discoveries of "science,” Catholic philosophers were viewed by the world as timid, halting idealists, sterile of philosophical combat.
Aylward, James, "Leo XIII And Philosophy" (1942). Philosophy Undergraduate Theses. 70.