Political Science (POLI) 355

Political Philosophy: Plato to Machiavelli (Revision 3)

POLI 355 Course cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online or grouped study

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: None

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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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.


Political Science 355: Political Philosophy: Plato to Machiavelli comprises thirteen units in two parts, as outlined 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 percent) or better. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

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

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

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, 1996.

Arnhart, Larry. Political Questions: Political Philosophy from Plato to Pinker, 4th ed. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 2016.

Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince. Trans. Tim Parks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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

Other materials

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

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you 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 about 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 3, September 10, 2012.

View previous syllabus