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Political Science (POLI) 355

Political Philosophy: Plato to Machiavelli (Revision 2)

POLI 355 Course cover

Revision 2 closed, replaced by current version.

View previous syllabus.

Delivery Mode: Individualized study or grouped study

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: None

Centre: Centre for State and Legal Studies

POLI 355 has a Challenge for Credit option.

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POLI 355: Political Philosophy: Plato to Machiavelli provides an overview of classical political thinking about the best life for humankind and the best ways to live together as a community in which members share similar aspirations. The course is divided into two parts; seven units form Part 1 and six units make up Part 2. Part 1 addresses the main similarities and differences in the political ideas of Plato and Aristotle, and forms two-thirds of the course content. These thinkers, arguably, have been the most intellectually significant as well as the most influential philosophical thinkers then or since. Part 2 discusses a handful of philosophers who embroidered in interesting ways on some of the earlier ideas about politics.


POLI 355 comprises thirteen units in two parts as described below.

Part 1: Perspectives on Political Philosophy

Unit 1: Perennial Questions and Political Philosophy

Unit 2: Plato on Philosophical Inquiry and the Good

Unit 3: Plato on Education

Unit 4: Plato on Decay and Corruption

Unit 5: Aristotle on Human Association and Happiness

Unit 6: Aristotle's Typology of Constitutions

Unit 7: Aristotle on Education, the Ideal State and Revolution

Part 2: Medieval to Modern Political Philosophy

Unit 8: St. Augustine

Unit 9: Hildegard of Bingen

Unit 10: St. Thomas Aquinas

Unit 11: Machiavelli on the Sources of Political Power

Unit 12: Machiavelli on Successful Political Leadership

Unit 13: Conclusion: Changing Answers to Perennial Questions


To receive credit for POLI 355, you must achieve a mark of at least 60 per cent on the final examination and obtain a course composite grade of "D" (50 per cent) or better. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Assignment 1 Assignment 2 Assignment 3 Final Exam Total
15% 20% 25% 40% 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Aquinas, Thomas. St. Thomas Aquinas on Politics and Ethics. Trans. and Ed. Paul E. Sigmund. New York: Norton, 1988.

Aristotle. The Politics and The Constitution of Athens. Ed. Stephen Everson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.

Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince. New edn. Trans. George Bull. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1999.

Plato. Republic. Trans. Robin Waterfield. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993.

Other materials

The course materials also include a study guide, student manual, and a reading file.

Challenge for Credit Course Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows students to demonstrate that they have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university level course.

Full information for the Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the POLI 355 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least “D” (50 percent) on the examination.

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, April 23, 2008.

View previous syllabus

Last updated by SAS  07/07/2015 15:03:57