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90 Fourier dated his discovery that commercial life was ‘a cesspool of moral filth’ to his sixth year: From that time on I noted the opposition which prevails between commerce and truth. I was taught in catechism and at school that 40 The Morality of Money one must never lie; then I was taken to the shop to be trained at an early age in the occupation of lying, the art of selling. Shocked by the chicanery and fraud that I saw, I proceeded to take aside the merchants who were the victims and to reveal the deception to them.

The early modern period sees this relationship alter in a crucial way. By the mid-seventeenth century the difference is manifest: for those engaged in commerce, religion has moved from the centre of man’s being to something more akin to ‘insurance’ for the soul. This change in emphasis helps to explain why so many of those prominent in business and industry at this period were Protestant Dissenters, for by and large the Catholic tradition continued to take the late Medieval line and in essentials this continues today.

If commerce gave rise to lies and perjuries, then these were not the fault of trade. Sins of this kind had their origins in the person, not the profession. Was it not true that shoemakers and farmers were also capable of lies, perjuries and blasphemies, and yet their profession could not be considered evil? The merchant concluded that if he lived virtuously all would go well with him, but if he lived wickedly it would not be due to his profession but due to his own moral failings. 67 But if Augustine began to open the door to commerce, for the historian John Baldwin it is the little-known twelfth-century canon lawyer, philosopher and theologian, Rufinus, who was the pivotal figure in this shift.

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Action Philosophers! 08 - Senseless Violence Spectacular - February 2007 by Evil Twin Comics


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