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Socrates Program: 2023 Winter Seminars

Event information
Fri Feb 17, 2023 - Mon Feb 20, 2023
Aspen Meadows
845 Meadows Rd
Aspen, CO
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Socrates Winter Seminars

The Socrates Program is excited to host our annual Winter Seminars this February 17th-20th in Aspen, CO. Seminar tuition is $2,500. Limited scholarships are available by application. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, please do so here. We will be hosting three seminars with new and veteran moderators. 

Reproductive Rights and the US Courts

Reproductive politics in the United States was revolutionized with the historic Roe v. Wade (1973) Supreme Court decision. Dodd v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022) reversed Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion, and launching a cascade of legislation across the United States. The Supreme Court’s deviation from the stare decisis doctrine leaves a patchwork of trigger laws and new legislation that are currently being challenged in state and federal courts. When the judiciary, particularly the highest court, decides sensitive social and political questions like those surrounding reproductive rights, what responsibility do they have to maintain precedents? Is there a way forward to protecting reproductive rights through legislation rather than the courts? Join us to ask the hard questions about how the United States has regulated contraception and abortion and what path we can forge forward in and outside the Courts.

Chancellor’s Professor Michele Bratcher Goodwin is the founding director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy.  She is the 2022 recipient of the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award. Dr. Goodwin is also the recipient of the 2020-21 Distinguished Senior Faculty Award for Research, the highest honor bestowed by the University of California, and the 2021-2022 Provost’s Distinguished Visiting Faculty Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is an elected member of the American Law Institute as well as an elected Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Hastings Center (the organization central to the founding of bioethics). She is an American Law Institute Adviser for the Restatement Third of Torts: Remedies.

Can We Imagine a Future Beyond Race?  SOLD OUT

In 2012, the conceptual artist and analytic philosopher Adrian Piper famously “retired from being black.” This course suspends disbelief and draws inspiration from her provocative gesture, seeking to probe the possibilities and limitations it may reveal. At a moment of greater understanding of genetics and genealogy, as well as intensified collective participation in what the late essayist Stanley Crouch termed “the all-American Skin Game,” it feels even more dangerous and necessary today than even 10 years ago to cast a skeptical eye on the racial construct and to attempt to imagine a universally humanist world beyond it.

“Racism is real and anti-racism is both admirable and necessary, but extant racism isn’t what principally produces our inequality and anti-racism won’t eliminate it,” Adolph Reed and Walter Benn Michaels argue. “And because racism is not the principal source of inequality today, anti-racism functions more as a misdirection that justifies inequality than a strategy for eliminating it.” We will take seriously the central proposition that “racecraft,” as Barbara and Karen Fields have famously termed the social customs and habits of language and thought that reproduce racial difference, obscures more than it elucidates about the human condition: racism—and racialized exploitation—create race, and not the other way around. We will also take seriously Ta-Nehisi Coates’s argument that a great though measurable material harm was done to “those on whose labor and exclusion the  country was built”—that is, men and women of all manner of genetic and ancestral makeup who have been deemed “black.”

The course will engage a multitude of perspectives, including my own, which, as the son of a white mother and black father in America, began with blind adherence to the so-called “one-drop rule” but has grown considerably more complicated in light of more recent experiences as the “black” father of “white” children in Paris. It aims to challenge students’ thinking about the various racialized identities we inhabit/inherit and will concern itself with two related questions: to what extent do we create ourselves, and to what extent are our identities passively received? We will read and discuss the work of thinkers and writers who subvert our understanding of racial categorization and offer pathways to a freer, racially transcendent future.

Moderator: Thomas Chatterton Williams, is the author of Losing My Cool and Self-Portrait in Black and White. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a 2022 Guggenheim fellow, a visiting fellow at AEI, and a visiting professor of the humanities and senior fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and many other places, and has been collected in The Best American Essays and The Best American Travel Writing. He is a 2019 New America national fellow and a recipient of the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. His next book, Nothing Was the Same: The Pandemic Summer of George Floyd and the Shift in Western Consciousness, will be published by Knopf.  He lives in Paris and New York.

The American Presidency Under Fire: Lessons from Lyndon B. Johnson  SOLD OUT

The late sixties marked a time in America of great social and cultural upheaval. With the post-war order being questioned and the country’s internal politics reaching a level of contention more vitriolic and chaotic than in living memory, Lyndon B. Johnson brought to the executive office unique elected experience having served as a US Representative and US Senator before becoming President. Taking the helm of a country reeling from the assassination of JFK, President Johnson embarked on an agenda of expanding civil rights, access to healthcare, urban and rural development, public services, and education and the arts. The successes and failures of his presidency are debated to this day and his legacy is rooted in the political tensions we are seeing in our current political moment. In the seminar we will explore whether Johnson’s reforms serve as an example today for US leadership. What mistakes can we learn from? Do personal foibles undermine the achievements of a leader? To what lengths should a leader go to achieve her ends? Do the worthiness of the ends justify the means?

Moderator: Mark K. Updegrove is a presidential historian and the author of five books on the presidency. He currently serves as the president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation and the presidential historian for ABC News. Earlier in his career, he was the director of the LBJ Presidential Library and publisher of Newsweek. He has interviewed seven US presidents.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a Socrates seminar?

The Socrates Seminar is a roundtable discussion / collaborative weekend-long event for participants from different fields. Participants are asked to contribute their understanding of and reactions to carefully selected readings, with the guidance of moderators who are experts in their sector. This is not a panel discussion, nor is it a tutorial where the experts share their knowledge.  The roundtable discussion format is a multilateral debate moderated by the moderator(s).  The seminars are held on Aspen Meadows Resort campus.

How many seminars can I participate in?

You will register for one seminar of up to 24 participants for the entire weekend. Meals and programming will be enjoyed with the entire group which includes participants from all three concurrent seminars.

What if my preferred seminar is sold out?

Please reach out the Socrates Team directly via email and one of our team members will assist you. The team will work with you to get you into the best seminar for you.

What does tuition cover?

Tuition includes seminar attendance and materials and meals during the program, which begins at 6pm on Friday evening and ends at 12 pm on Monday.

Are scholarships available?

Scholarships for tuition assistance are available through the Socrates Program. The application can be found here.

Can I bring a guest?

If you would like to bring a guest to join you for meals, you are welcome to for $500.00. These both can be purchased as add-ons when you register.

What transportation will be provided at the event?

If you are a guest of the Aspen Meadows Resort, they will take care of your arrival and departure transportation to and from the airport. If you are staying at an alternative location, taxis and a free local bus are available.

The Aspen Meadows offers a complimentary shuttle that runs into Aspen every 30 minutes.

What is the timing of the seminars and programming for the weekend?

You can view the tentative agenda below, which has the set times for the seminars and meals (the event locations and optional activities will be added closer to the event). To join for the whole experience, you will want to arrive in Aspen by 6pm on Friday and depart after 12pm on Monday.

In the morning until 1 pm daily, you are welcome to explore and engage with everything Aspen has to offer. We have partnered with Blazing Adventures to offer some special trips to Socrates participants. 

What is the dress codes for the seminar? 

Although we do not require a specific dress code, most people dress business casual in the seminar rooms and bring something a bit more dressy for the evenings. We recommend that you dress for warmth and comfort. Please wear sturdy shoes that will allow you to walk through snow. 

Health and Safety Guidelines for In Person Events

The Aspen Institute is committed to creating a safe seminar experience for all participants. Please see our COVID-19 safety guidelines here.

These guidelines will be regularly updated to meet the latest health and safety guidance of the CDC and local authorities. If you anticipate any issues or have any concerns, please contact us at [email protected].