Which of these men ought to be termed excellent, brave, or worthy? I reply: He who went first. How would you designate that other man? I reply: “As most vile.” Why is he not called unworthy or cowardly, that is to say, vile? I reply: Because unworthy, that is, vile, he should be called who, having no guide, might have failed to walk straightforward; but since this man had a guide, his error and his fault can rise higher; and therefore he is to be called, not vile, but most vile. And likewise he who, by his father or by some elder of his race is ennobled, and does not continue in a noble course, not only is he vile, but he is most vile, and deserving of as much contempt and infamy as any other villain, if not of more. And because a man may preserve himself from this vile baseness, Solomon lays this command on him who has had a brave and excellent ancestor, in the twenty-second chapter of Proverbs: “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set,” And previously he says, in the fourth chapter of the said book: “The path of the Just,” that is, of the worthy men, “is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day; the way of the wicked is as darkness, and they know not at what they stumble.”
Finally, when it says, “And though he walks upon the earth Is counted with the dead,” to his greater disgrace I say that this most worthless man is dead, seeming still alive. Where it is to be known that the wicked man may be truly said to be dead, and especially he who goes astray from the path trodden by his good ancestor. And this it is possible to prove thus: as Aristotle says in the second book On the Soul, to live is to be with the living; and since there are many ways of living—as in the plants to vegetate; in the animals to vegetate and to feel and to move; in men to vegetate, to feel, to move, and to reason, or rather to understand; and since things ought to be denominated by the noblest part, it is evident that in animals to live is to feel—in the brute animals, I say; in man, to live is to use reason. Wherefore, if to live is the life or existence of man, and if thus to depart from the use of Reason, which is his life, is to depart from life or existence, even thus is that man dead.