Having confuted the error of other men in that part wherein it was advanced in support of riches, it remains now to confute it in that part where Time is said to be a cause of Nobility, saying, “Descent of wealth;” and this reproof or confutation is made in that part which begins: “They will not have the vile Turn noble.” And in the first place one confutes this by means of an argument taken from those men themselves who err in this way; then, to their greater confusion, this their argument is also destroyed; and it does this when it says, “It follows then from this.” Finally it concludes, their error being evident, and it being therefore time to attend to the Truth; and it does this when it says, “Sound intellect reproves.”
I say, then, “They will not have the vile Turn noble.” Where it is to be known that the opinion of these erroneous persons is, that a man who is a peasant in the first place can never possibly be called a Nobleman; and the man who is the son of a peasant in like manner can never be Noble; and this breaks or destroys their own argument when they say that Time is requisite to Nobility, adding that word “descent.” For it is impossible by process of Time to come to the generation of Nobility in this way of theirs, which declares it to be impossible for the humble peasant to become Noble by any work that he may do, or through any accident; and declares the mutation of a peasant father into a Noble son to be impossible. For if the son of the peasant is also a peasant, and his son again is also a peasant, and so always, it will never be possible to discover the place where Nobility can begin to be established by process of Time.
And if the adversary, wishing to defend himself, should say that Nobility will begin at that period of Time when the low estate of the ancestors will be forgotten, I reply that this goes against themselves, for even of necessity there will be a transmutation of peasant into Noble, from one man into another, or from father to son, which is against that which they propound.
And if the adversary should defend himself pertinaciously, saying that indeed they do desire that it should be possible for this transmutation to take place when the low estate of the ancestors passes into oblivion, although the text takes no notice of this, it is right that the Commentary should reply to it. And therefore I reply thus: that from this which they say there follow four very great difficulties, so that it cannot possibly be a good argument. One is, that in proportion as Human Nature might become better, the slower would be the generation of Nobility, which is a very great inconvenience; since in proportion as a thing is honoured for its excellence, so much the more is it the cause of goodness; and Nobility is reckoned amongst the good. What this means is shown thus: If Nobility, which I understand as a good thing, should be generated by oblivion, Nobility would be generated in proportion to the speediness with which men might be forgotten, for so much the sooner would oblivion descend upon all. Hence, in proportion as men might be forgotten, so much the sooner would they be Noble; and, on the contrary, in proportion to the length of time during which they were held in remembrance, so much the longer it would be before they could be ennobled.