Born Aug. 18, 1752, in Naples; died June 21, 1788, in Vico Equense. Italian Enlightenment figure.
Born into an aristocratic Neapolitan family, Filangieri gave up a military and diplomatic career to study law. He became well known as a jurist, economist, and publicist. His principal work, The Science of Legislation (vols. 1–7; Naples, 1780–85), sharply criticized the feudal order in the Kingdom of Naples and in Europe. Calling feudalism an absurdity, he noted the conflicting interests of the several thousand landowners and the millions of unfortunate peasants and stressed the inescapable hostility between them. He demanded the abolition of feudal obligations, the state confiscation of church lands, and the conversion of the large feudal estates into taxable free property. Filangieri also advocated reforms in trade, legislation, and judicial procedure. He attached particular importance to judicial reform, since he considered feudal relations to be a consequence of bad laws, which he expected to be abolished by an “enlightened monarch.” Filangieri applauded the reforms carried out in the Kingdom of Naples by the premier secretary of state, Tanucci, a supporter of enlightened despotism. In 1787 Filangieri was appointed by Tanucci to head the supreme treasury council.