Effective: Late Fall 8-Week, 2018/2019

POSC 403: *Modern Political Philosophy

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  Course Description

Study of major writers in political philosophy from Hobbes to the present. Cross-listed as PHIL 403 and POSC 403.

Prerequisite: Junior Standing

Proctored Exams: Midterm and Final


As part of TruitionSM, students will receive their course materials automatically as described below.


  •  Morgan, Michael L. (editor). Classics of Moral and Political Theory. 5th ed, Hackett Publishing Company, 2011.  eText
  •  Nelson, B. R. Western Political Thought. 2nd ed, Waveland Press, Inc., 1996.  eText

Bookstore Information

Visit https://www.ccis.edu/bookstore.aspx for details.

eText Information

If a course uses an eText, (see Textbook information above) the book will be available directly in Desire2Learn (D2L) and through the VitalSource eText reader the Friday before the session begins, if registered for courses prior to that date.  Students will have a VitalSource account created for them using their CougarMail email address. Upon first login to VitalSource, students may need to verify their account and update their VitalSource password.  More information about how to use the VitalSource platform, including offline access to eTexts, can be found in D2L.  Students that would like to order an optional print-on-demand copy of eligible eTexts can do so through the VitalSource bookshelf at an additional cost.  Once orders are placed, it can take approximately five to seven business days for students to receive their print-on-demand books.

Physical Course Materials Information

Students enrolled in courses that require physical materials will receive these materials automatically at the address on file with Columbia College.  Delivery date of physical materials is dependent on registration date and shipping location.  Please refer to confirmation emails sent from Ed Map for more details on shipping status.

Returns: Students who drop a course with physical course materials will be responsible for returning those items to Ed Map within 30 days of receipt of the order.  More specific information on how to do so will be included in the package received from Ed Map.  See here for Ed Map's return policy. Failure to return physical items from a dropped course will result in a charge to the student account for all unreturned items.

Note: Students who opt-out of having their books provided as part of TruitionSM are responsible for purchasing their own course materials.

  Course Overview

In this course you will read from the original works of many of the major authors of political philosophy. You will begin to understand the various views regarding human nature and the impact those views have had on ideas about the origins of society and on the development of political systems. Introducing yourself to political philosophy should be an exercise in analyzing your own political beliefs and values. When you understand that philosophers have been trying to answer important political questions for thousands of years, you will be able to gain perspective on your own political knowledge and begin to reevaluate some of your own viewpoints.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Objectives

  • To introduce the subject of political philosophy and its primary authors.
  • To begin formulating personal philosophical views on the political world.

  Measurable Learning Outcomes

  • Explain the relationship between one's view of human nature and the proper political system.
  • Identify significant trends in the historical development of political thought such as equality, liberty, gender equity, justice, force and the right of revolution.
  • Explain significant contributions of the most important writers of political thought beginning with Hobbes and continuing to the present.
  • Read and comprehend original sources in political philosophy.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 900-1000 90-100%
B 800-899 80-89%
C 700-799 70-79%
D 600-699 60-69%
F 0-599 0-59%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Discussions (16) 160 16%
Short Essays (5) 240 24%
Capitalism and Democracy Paper (1) 200 20%
Final Exam (1) 200 20%
Midterm Exam (1) 200 20%
Total 1000 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Introductions 0 Wednesday
Discussion 1 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 2 10 Friday/Sunday
Short Essay 1: Hobbes 48 Sunday

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 3 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 4 10 Friday/Sunday
Short Essay 2: Declaration of Independence 48 Sunday
Proctor Information N/A

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 5 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 6 10 Friday/Sunday
Short Essay 3: Jean-Jacques Rousseau 48 Sunday

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 7 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 8 10 Friday/Sunday
Midterm Exam 200 Sunday

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 9 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 10 10 Friday/Sunday
Short Essay 4: John Stuart Mill 48 Sunday

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 11 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 12 10 Friday/Sunday
Short Essay 5: Liberty and Freedom 48 Sunday

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 13 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 14 10 Friday/Sunday
Capitalism and Democracy Paper 200 Sunday

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 15 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 16 10 Friday/Saturday
Final Exam 200 Saturday
Total Points: 1000

  Assignment Overview


Each week you will have assigned readings from the two texts as well as additional resources in the Content area of the course. Be sure to do all the readings before joining the discussions or writing the short essays for the Internet Assignments.


There will be two weekly discussion questions, worth 10 points each. You should respond to the first discussion question each week by Wednesday at 11:59 pm Central Time (CT) and respond to the second discussion question by Friday at 11:59 pm CT. By Sunday midnight, respond to at least two classmates’ posts for each discussion question. Week 8, discussion responses will be due Saturday midnight.

Short Essays

There will be five Short Essay assignments, worth 48 points each. Each Short Essay assignment should be completed as a Word document and posted to the appropriate folder in the Dropbox area of the course.

Capitalism and Democracy Paper

You will write one formal paper, approximately 12-15 pages in length, worth 200 points. I recommend that you begin working on the paper no later than week four of the course. It will be due at the end of week seven. The paper should be properly referenced, and it should be completed as a Word document and posted to the appropriate folder in the Dropbox area of the course.


There will be a Midterm Examination and a Final Examination, worth 200 points each. Each is made up of three parts.
• Part 1 will be multiple-choice and true/false
• Part 2 will consist of short essay questions. These should be answered in about two paragraphs per question.
• Part 3 you be include longer essay questions. Each question should be answered in a detailed analytical essay.

You will have 2 hours to complete each exam. The Midterm and Final Exam must be proctored at a Columbia College site or approved location. Please see Proctor Policy in the Course Policies section of this syllabus.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.

• Nelson: Chapter 8
• Morgan: Thomas Hobbes: The Introduction, The Leviathan: Part I chapters 1-5, 8, 14-15 Part II chapters 17-21, 29-30.
• View the resources for Thomas Hobbes posted in the course Content area.
Introduce yourselves to everyone else in the class. Post your introduction in the appropriate topic in the Discussion area of the course.
Discussion 1
After reading the selections from Thomas Hobbes in the text and Content area and reviewing the notes, consider the following: In Of Man Hobbes lays out his view of human beings and their nature. What does humanity look like to Hobbes? Are we sophisticated and refined or animalistic and brutal? Why does this matter to him? How does it impact Hobbes’ view of politics and the State?

Your initial response is due by Wednesday at 11:59 pm CT.
Discussion 2
Hobbes describes man’s life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” What is he describing here? How is the idea of a social contract relevant? If life is like Hobbes describes, what should be the role of government in ameliorating these conditions? Is modern democracy equipped to do this? Why or why not?

Your initial response is due by Friday at 11:59 pm CT.
Short Essay 1: Hobbes
Go to the Content area of our course and select the link to visit the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy page for Thomas Hobbes; read the introduction and the selections on his life and his intellectual influences. In an essay of approximately two pages, answer the following questions:
• What major political event(s) during Hobbes’ life influenced his intellectual development?
• What were two important political issues that divided people in England during his life?
• How did these issues help to shape Hobbes thinking about politics?
• Does he believe in a strong central authority or in democracy and representative government?
• Does he think that people ever have the potential to rule themselves? Why or why not?
Submit your completed essay in the course Dropbox by Sunday at 11:59 pm CT
• Nelson: Chapter 9
• Morgan: John Locke: The entire Second Treatise of Government.
• View the resources for John Locke posted in the course Content area.
Discussion 3
Locke has often been cited as the inspiration for many of the ideas adopted by American Democracy. Describe at least two concepts, taken from Locke, that have found their way into America’s political culture. Are they relevant in modern politics? How important are these ideas and are there any negatives to Locke's influence on American politics?

Your initial response is due by Wednesday at 11:59 pm CT.
Discussion 4
Locke refers to the “state of nature” when justifying his particular view of society and government. What does he mean by the “state of nature?” What does the state of nature look like according to Locke? What political concepts does he develop using this idea?

Your initial response is due by Friday at 11:59 pm CT.
Short Essay 2: Declaration of Independence
Go to The National Archives Experience Declaration of Independence website provided in the Content area of the course. Read the Declaration.

Find at least four different statements or principles in the Declaration that appear to come from the philosophy of John Locke. In short answer format (two to three paragraphs per item), describe each statement and explain why you think each is the descendent of Locke’s philosophy. Is the United States a Lockeian nation? Describe at least two ways in which Locke’s political principles have had major impacts on the structure or functions of the American political system.

Submit your completed essay in the course Dropbox by Sunday at 11:59 pm CT.
Proctor Information
Submit your proctor form to the appropriate Dropbox folder by the end of the week. Remember to “Save” the form before placing it in Dropbox. See the Content area for more information.
• Nelson: Chapter 10
• Morgan: Rousseau: Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men, read both parts; On the Social Contract, Books I, II and IV.
• View the resources for Rousseau posted in the course Content area.
Discussion 5
Rousseau, like Locke, is concerned with liberty. Describe the concept of liberty as understood by Rousseau. How does his view differ from Locke’s? What about gender equity, is this something Rousseau might be concerned with? How does his view of liberty fit with our own notion of equality before the law?

Your initial response is due by Wednesday at 11:59 pm CT.
Discussion 6
What does Rousseau mean by the “General Will?” How is the General Will different from the “will of all?” What is the role of the “Legislator” in defining the General Will? Why does Rousseau believe that knowledge of the General Will can improve society? Does the General Will make sense in a modern democracy?

Your initial response is due by Friday at 11:59 pm CT.
Short Essay 3: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Go to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy page for Jean-Jacques Rousseau and read the selection on his work Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Answer the following questions: What does the state of nature look like according to Rousseau? What role does “reason” play? Where does inequality come from? How does his attitude toward the “state of nature” differ from that of Locke? What political concepts does he develop using this idea?

Submit your completed essay in the course Dropbox by Sunday at 11:59 pm CT.
• Nelson: Chapters 11 and 12
• Morgan: Hume: Treatise of Human Nature, the entire selection
• Review the resources for Burke, Hume, and Bentham posted in the course Content area.
Discussion 7
Edmund Burke’s reaction to the French Revolution has become known as “conservatism.” What were Burke’s main criticisms of the Revolution? What does he think of the “liberal” reforms introduced by the French and American revolutions? What does Burke think of the “rights” claimed by revolutionaries?

Your initial response is due by Wednesday at 11:59 pm CT.
Discussion 8
David Hume was an early "liberal" and critic of both the religious and rational bases for morality. What is the main argument Hume advances for the origins of morality? How is this idea related to things like vice and crime? How would it change the idea of justice? Do Hume's ideas make sense in the political world? How would his ideas on property be important to modern economic thinking?

Your initial response is due by Friday at 11:59 pm CT.
Capitalism and Democracy Paper
Begin researching your paper assignment this week. It will be due in week seven.
Midterm Exam
The Midterm Exam will open on Tuesday of Week 4 and will close at 11:59 pm CT on Sunday of Week 4. Remember, you have a 2-hour time limit on this exam. The entire exam is worth 200 points.

The exam must be taken in a proctored environment.
• Morgan: John Stuart Mill, read all of On Liberty and The Subjection of Women
• Review the resources for Mill posted in the course Content area.
Discussion 9
According to Mill, what are the proper limits of society (government) over the individual? What does this say about Mill’s view of human nature? Does Mill think that men and women are fundamentally different in nature? What type of government would Mill favor? Would it be activist or limited? What functions would Mill’s ideal government serve?

Your initial response is due by Wednesday at 11:59 pm CT.
Discussion 10
One of Mill’s most influential arguments concerns the free marketplace of ideas. Describe Mill’s idea of freedom of speech. Why does he feel that freedom of speech is so important? What does he mean by “infallibility?” Is one person’s opinion just as important as society’s? What does Mill say about the political opinions of women? How does Mill differ from his contemporaries on this point?

Your initial response is due by Friday at 11:59 pm CT.
Short Essay 4: John Stuart Mill
From the Content area of our course, go to the website of the Libertarian Party and go to their page on issues and positions. Browse the topics listed there and choose at least three positions that, in your estimation, are similar to positions taken by Mill. In short answer format (two to three paragraphs per position), briefly describe each position and then compare it to Mill’s philosophy. Also answer the following questions: Would J.S. Mill agree with the positions taken by the Libertarian Party? Why? Where might he disagree and why?

Submit your completed essay in the course Dropbox by Sunday at 11:59 pm CT.
• Nelson: Chapter 13
• View the resources posted in the course Content area.
Discussion 11
Alexis DeTocqueville wrote the first major work analyzing modern, liberal democracy. His analysis argues that there is the potential for serious problems as democratic societies develop. What are two potential weaknesses of modern democracy according to DeTocqueville? How are these related to the idea of equality?

Your initial response is due by Wednesday at 11:59 pm CT.
Discussion 12
Describe the three regions of human liberty referred to by Mill. How does this idea of liberty compare to modern views on personal freedom? Is it related to modern political concepts, like being pro-choice or one-person-one vote? Why or why not?

Your initial response is due by Friday at 11:59 pm CT.
Short Essay 5: Liberty and Freedom
Write a brief essay, one or two pages, on liberty and freedom. Describe concepts of liberty and freedom in the works of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Mill. What are the major differences and similarities? Which are most influential in terms of modern politics/society? Do any of these authors anticipate the inclusion of ethnic minorities and/or women in the political system? If so, what do they say?

Submit your completed essay in the course Dropbox by Sunday at 11:59 pm CT.
Course Evaluation
Please evaluate the course. You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link sent to your CougarMail will allow you to access the evaluation. Please note that these evaluations are provided so that I can improve the course, find out what students perceive to be its strengths and weaknesses, and in general assess the success of the course. Please do take the time to fill this out.
• Nelson: Chapter 14
• Morgan: Karl Marx, Alienated Labour and the Communist Manifesto.
• View the resources for Marx posted in the course Content area.
Discussion 13
According to Marx, what is the relationship between workers (proletariat) and those who own the “means of production” (bourgeoisie)? Why is this so important? Is this relationship permanent or can political reforms change it? Does this relationship exist today in the way that Marx describes it? Is there any ambiguity surrounding the definition of workers and owners today? If so, what is it/are they?

Your initial response is due by Wednesday at 11:59 pm CT.
Discussion 14
Marx describes societal institutions like religion, democracy, education, and welfare as part of a “superstructure” of exploitation. What is this superstructure designed to do? Who are the main beneficiaries of the superstructure according to Marx? Do these institutions function as described by Marx in our modern political system? What evidence is there that his ideas about these institutions might be wrong?

Your initial response is due by Friday at 11:59 pm CT.
Capitalism and Democracy Paper
Review this week’s Marx reading and then read the posted notes on capitalism and democracy. Write a properly documented paper, approximately 12-15 pages in length, to answer the following questions:
• What are Karl Marx’s main criticisms of Capitalism?
• Explain Marx’s definition of democracy.
• What changes would need to take place for a Marxist democracy to come into being?
• Were Marx’s criticisms correct?
• What features of modern democratic capitalism might contradict Marx’s arguments?
• Has democracy been able to adapt enough to preclude these criticisms?
Submit your completed essay in the course Dropbox by Sunday at 11:59 pm CT.
• Nelson: Chapter 15
• Morgan: Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation.
• Read the posted readings on Max Weber and John Rawls in the course Content area.
Discussion 15
Describe the protestant ethic thesis postulated by Max Weber. How does this idea relate to modern democratic capitalism? Does it make sense? Does it explain unequal econimic development? Why or why not? How does this view of economic development differ from that of Marx?

Your initial response is due by Wednesday at 11:59 pm CT.
Discussion 16
Describe the modern influence of political ideology on modern political theory. How is ideology reflected in modern political sytems? How are comtempory ideas about things like “citizenship,” "justice," and "equality" affected by different ideological positions? Is this a problem for modern politics?

Your initial response is due by Friday at 11:59 pm CT.
Final Exam
The Final Exam will open on Tuesday of Week 8 and will close at 11:59 pm CT on Saturday of Week 8. Remember, you have a 2-hour time limit on this exam. The entire exam is worth 200 points.

The exam must be taken in a proctored environment.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a cumulative process that begins with the first college learning opportunity. Students are responsible for knowing the Academic Integrity policy and procedures and may not use ignorance of either as an excuse for academic misconduct. Columbia College recognizes that the vast majority of students at Columbia College maintain high ethical academic standards; however, failure to abide by the prohibitions listed herein is considered academic misconduct and may result in disciplinary action, a failing grade on the assignment, and/or a grade of "F" for the course.

Additionally, all required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Columbia College is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning, communicate your concerns with the instructor. In addition to speaking with the instructor, the following resources are available to ensure an opportunity to learn in an inclusive environment that values mutual respect.

  • For students with disabilities/conditions who are experiencing barriers to learning or assessment, contact the Student Accessibility Resources office at (573) 875-7626 or sar@ccis.edu to discuss a range of options to removing barriers in the course, including accommodations.
  • For students who are experiencing conflict which is impacting their educational environment, contact the Office of Student Conduct at studentconduct@ccis.edu or (573) 875-7877.
  • For students who have concerns related to discrimination or harassment based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy or parental status, please contact the Title IX Office at titleixcoordinator@ccis.edu. More information can be found at http://www.ccis.edu/policies/notice-of-non-discrimination-and-equal-opportunity.aspx

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

No late discussion posts will be accepted.

Papers: Late submission of papers will result in the deduction of credit from those assignments. All assignments must be submitted using the course “Dropbox.” Using email or other methods of delivery for your assignments is not allowed. It is the student’s responsibility to get their work in on time.

Exams: Exams must be taken by the deadline posted above. No exams submitted late will be accepted! No make-up tests will be given unless the instructor gives prior permission! If the instructor authorizes an alternate exam period, the student and instructor will coordinate for a make-up examination to be taken as soon as possible. It is the student’s responsibility to make alternate arrangements with their approved proctor.

Emergencies should be communicated and documented to the instructor as soon as possible.

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

Proctor Policy

Students taking courses that require proctored exams must submit their completed proctor request forms to their instructors by the end of the second week of the session. Proctors located at Columbia College campuses are automatically approved. The use of ProctorU services is also automatically approved. The instructor of each course will consider any other choice of proctor for approval or denial. Additional proctor choices the instructor will consider include: public librarians, high school or college instructors, high school or college counseling services, commanding officers, education service officers, and other proctoring services. Personal friends, family members, athletic coaches and direct supervisors are not acceptable.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Technology Solutions Center, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. If you have technical problems with the VitalSource eText reader, please contact VitalSource. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.