Research made by Schuhmann and Bredekamp has pointed up the unsuspected links between Hobbes and one of the ancient traditions best loved by Renaissance philosophy: Hermeticism. Our goal will be to proceed further and to stress the Hermetic significance implicit in the formula "mortal God". If Asclepius can act as a source for the theme of the fabrication of gods, it does not fit in with the antithesis ("mortal god/immortal God") typical of the Leviathan. A proper source for this topic can rather be found in treatise X ("Clavis") of the Corpus Hermeticum, well known to Ficino and to Iustus Lipsius. We must also stress one capital difference: whereas in the Hermetic texts man's apotheosis passes through gnosis and the exercise of the intellect, reserved in practice for a few selected people, in Leviathan on the contrary it is the holder of sovereignty who acquires the features of the "mortal god". Divinisation passes through politics, with the delicate artificial process of "generating the state"; knowledge only provides the tools for the rational technique needed to elaborate sovereignty, through stipulating pacts and the convention of impersonation. The "artificial man" as a mortal God is the apotheosis of the common man who enters into the founding pact with his ordinary intellectual and motivational faculties.
This article challenges the idea that Hobbes presents a negative anthropology and shows, to the contrary, that there is a thick web of social relations in his state of nature and laws of nature. It considers the contradiction between human natural equality claimed by Hobbes, and female subjection that de facto characterizes most of his passages on gender relations. The key to this puzzle is found in comparison of the notions of conquest and consent, and of acquisition and institution, comparisons that establish a similarity between paternal authority and despotic dominion. A step towards the solution is provided by the hypothesis that the divide between “vainglorious” and “moderate” is gendered, with women more disposed to moderation than men. This can be explained by the idea that, “for society’s sake,” women in the state of nature appreciate more the advantages of long-term cooperation, even at the price of some subordination.
Hobbes surely spent the ten years (1641–1651) of greatest significance for his philosophical career on the Continent, in France, above all, in Paris. It was during this period that he published De cive; wrote the De motu, loco et tempore; produced a draft of the entire Leviathan as well as most of De corpore. His complicated relationship with Descartes has been studied closely, and Mersenne’s role has become clearer. There remains however the task of more carefully delineating the contours of Hobbes’s relations with the circles of “learned libertinism.” The Libertinism which will be dealt with here was not only French, instead of English, but also “theoretical” and “intellectual” rather than practical, and nothing at all sexual, contrary to the common usage of that word in the current language. French Libertinism was a philosophical trend aimed at promoting a non-conformist approach to religion, history, morals, and even politics.