Iberian merchants writing manuals on commercial arithmetic, bookkeeping, and trade systematized exchange into a viable taxonomy of paperwork, accounts, and accounting books. These manuals define economic rationality as an epistemic practice and the object of knowledge of early modern Iberian capitalism. Technical authors suggest that quantitative thinking belongs to a higher domain of abstraction, where numbers promote habits of reasoning, creditworthiness, and objective neutrality. These empirical, organizational, and ethical advantages crystallize in double-entry bookkeeping. Discussions focus on the cognitive process of calculation, the arithmetic logic of commodification, and the merits of practical knowledge. Traders, business agents, computors, and accountants are men of experience who understand reality in terms of figures, are aware of real problems, and offer viable solutions. These experts see capitalism as a mode of organizing and conveying knowledge. Their heuristic approach sheds light on the pragmatic ethics and ambiguous legal notions late-scholastic moral theologians pondered as they sought to theorize an international system of acquisition and exchange.


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pp. 16-51
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