And does he not depart from the use of Reason who does not reason or think concerning the aim of his life? And does he not depart from the use of Reason who does not reason or think concerning the path which he ought to take? Certainly he does so depart; and this is evident especially in him who has the footprints before him, and looks not at them; and therefore Solomon says in the fifth chapter of Proverbs: “He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray,” that is to say, he is dead who becomes a disciple, and who does not follow his master; and such an one is most vile.
And of him it would be possible for some one to say: How is he dead and yet he walks? I reply, that as a man he is dead, but as a beast he has remained alive; for as the Philosopher says in the second book On the Soul, the powers of the Soul stand upon itself, as the figure of the quadrangle stands upon the triangle, and the pentagon stands upon the quadrangle; so the sensitive stands upon the vegetative, and the intellectual stands upon the sensitive. Wherefore, as, by removing the last side of the pentagon, the quadrangle remains, so by removing the last power of the Soul, that is, Reason, the man no longer remains, but a thing with a sensitive soul only, that is, the brute animal.
And this is the meaning or intention of the second part of the devised Song, in which are placed the opinions of others.
The most beautiful branch which grows up from the root of Reason is Discretion. For as St. Thomas says thereupon in the prologue to the book of Ethics, to know the order of one thing to another is the proper act of Reason; and this is Discretion. One of the most beautiful and sweetest fruits of this branch is the reverence which the lesser owes to the greater. Wherefore Tullius, in the first chapter of the Offices, when speaking of the beauty which shines forth in Uprightness, says that reverence is part of that beauty; and thus as this reverence is the beauty of Uprightness, so its opposite is baseness and want of uprightness; which opposite quality it is possible to term irreverence, or rather as impudent boldness, in our Vulgar Tongue.
And therefore this Tullius in the same place says: “To treat with contemptuous indifference that which others think of one, not only is the act of an arrogant, but also of a dissolute person,” which means no other except that arrogance and dissolute conduct show want of self-knowledge, which is the beginning of the capacity for all reverence. Wherefore I, desiring (and bearing meanwhile all reverence both to the Prince and to the Philosopher) to remove the infirmity from the minds of some men, in order afterwards to build up thereupon the light of truth, before I proceed to confute the opinions propounded, will show how, whilst confuting those opinions, I argue with irreverence neither against the Imperial Majesty nor against the Philosopher. For if in any part of this entire book I should appear irreverent, it would not be so bad as in this treatise; in which, whilst treating of Nobility, I ought to appear Noble, and not vile.