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By W. W. Sawyer

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216–18)’]”51 The miser is gendered through this comparison, and his features apparently compound his moral debasement. ”53 Avarice, like lust, emasculates. Poggio is an important marker of historical change who gives us an encapsulated vision of late medieval thought on greed. In this short dialogue one can see a range of issues that the evidence will show continued to populate the imaginations of people for the next century. Poggio addressed the question of profit and basic economic motivations and the role that religion could or should play in the economy.

The political turmoil of the Holy Roman Empire, while certainly offering radicals like Martin Luther spaces within which his critiques could develop a social life, offered intellectuals like Paracelsus the same opportunities. Even in the wake of the Reformation and the first wave of social turmoil that developed from it, the catholic Paracelsus was not subject to the types of confessionalization—the attempt to enforce consistency of belief within a particular religious context—that would characterize the second half of the sixteenth century.

Within Paracelsus’s writings he envisioned a set of holistic relationships in such a way that social transgressions were also sins. This raises an important question: what type of critique was Paracelsus issuing in these texts? Writing after the Reformation, but also after the collapse of the Peasant’s War of 1525 (which was particularly acute in Swabia and Switzerland, the regions in which Paracelsus lived), Paracelsus tried to negotiate between the more radical claims of peasants to escape manorial control (like Luther, he did not advocate rebellion), but he also indicated that the wealthy needed to fulfill their obligations to the poor.

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