It is the commandment of the Moral Philosophers that, of the good gifts whereof they have spoken, Man ought to put his thought and his anxious care into the effort to make them as useful as possible to the receiver. Wherefore I, wishing to be obedient to such a mandate, intend to render this my BANQUET [Convito] as useful as possible in each one of its parts. And because in this part it occurs to me to be able to reason somewhat concerning the sweetness of Human Happiness, I consider that there could not be a more useful discourse, especially to those who know it not; for as the Philosopher says in the first book of Ethics, and Tullius in that book Of the Ends of Good and Evil, he shoots badly at the mark who sees it not. Even thus a man can but ill advance towards this sweet joy who does not begin with a perception of it. Wherefore, since it is our final rest for which we live and labour as we can, most useful and most necessary it is to see this mark in order to aim at it the bow of this our work. And it is most essential to make it inviting to those who do not see the mark when simply pointed out. Leaving alone, then, the opinion which Epicurus the philosopher had concerning it, and that which Zeno likewise had, I intend to come summarily to the true opinion of Aristotle and of the other Peripatetics. As it is said above, of the Divine Goodness sown and infused in us, from the original cause of our production, there springs up a shoot, which the Greeks term “hormen,” that is to say, the natural appetite of the soul.
And as it is with the blades of corn which, when they first shoot forth, have in the beginning one similar appearance, being in the grass-like stage, and then, by process of time, they become unlike, so this Natural appetite, which springs from the Divine Grace, in the beginning appears as it were not unlike that which comes nakedly from Nature; but with it, even as the herbage born of various grains of corn, it has the same appearance, as it were: and not only in the blades of corn, but in men and in beasts there is the same similitude. And it appears that every animal, as soon as it is born, both rational and brute beast, loves itself, and fears and flies from those things which are adverse to it, and hates them, then proceeding as has been said. And there begins a difference between them in the progress of this Natural appetite, for the one keeps to one road, and the other to another; even as the Apostle says: “Many run to the goal, but there is but one who reaches it.” Even thus these Human appetites from the beginning run through different paths, and there is one path alone which leads us to our peace; and therefore, leaving all the others alone, it is for the treatise to follow the course of that one who begins well.