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The Radical Philosophy of Gaetano Filangeri

Gaetano Filangeri, the mind behind the inventive Bourbon king Ferdinando IV, was an important 18th-century Neapolitan jurist and philosopher. Born near Naples in 1752 as prince of Arianello, Filangeri was an encyclopedist and a reformer; his work was central to the birth of a liberal movement in southern Italy.

Filangeri's key tenet was his strong belief in public education, which he believed to be the foundation for a happy, healthy, satisfied society. Among his other ideas, he believed that honesty was the primary social virtue, and that merit should be the only distinction among individuals.

Little known to most, his ideas were influential to the elaboration of the U.S. Constitution: Benjamin Franklin was in frequent correspondence with Filangeri during the American Revolution. Having obtained several copies of Filangeri's main work -- the six-volume The Science of Legislation -- he incorporated some of the suggested principles into the U.S. Constitution.

Filangeri's work was cut short by his early death in 1788, and the sixth volume is only an outline. However, the preceding volumes have been translated into English, French, German, and Spanish.

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