Monday, February 01, 2010

Dressing to impress?

I’m looking for philosophical uses of ὥρα -- the term that Aristotle uses in NE 10.4 in a suggestive analogy for the relationship between pleasure and activity. I’ve now found three interesting passages from Xenophon and one from Plato. Here’s the first one from Xenophon.

When describing Eudaimonia, the goddess who competes with Aretē in Prodicus’ story of the choice of Heracles, Xenophon writes that she wore ‘a dress from which her ὥρα might particularly shine forth’ (ἐσθῆτα ἐξ ἧς ἂν μάλιστα ὥρα διαλάμποι, Mem. 2.1.22). I am tempted to think this means that she is wearing something revealing or provocative and this would be perfectly fitting for the goddess who is trying to tempt Heracles to choose a life of pleasure and ease. At the least, it is likely that ὥρα here is meant to stand for her visual appeal and it is probable that this appeal is linked to pleasure, perhaps even sexual pleasure specifically. But I can’t easily get hold of Gigon’s commentary on Mem. 2 and the library is in a bit of a state because of building work so the Budés are not on the shelves either. So, does anyone know of any discussion of this or (what I want) some confirmation that what is being described here is some kind of alluring, visible physical beauty and the sort of thing that might evoke or promise pleasure?

Here's Annibale Carracci's 1596 painting of the choice of Hercules. There's plenty here 'dialamp-ing', I reckon.

I’ll try to remember to talk about the other passages later. I’m rather interested in the Plato passage and will let you know what I think once I’ve decided.

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