About Socrates

History of Program

The first groups of participants came from Silicon Valley when the internet was coming of age, and Socrates seminars continue to enable participants to explore current, pressing global challenges. Discussions are built around contemporary texts and are led by moderators who engage and encourage participants to share their views with a diverse group of peers.

The Socrates Approach

The Socrates Seminar is a collaborative endeavor 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. Participants develop an understanding of the reading material and formulate responses to the issues that they cover at the roundtable meetings. The seminars provide stimulating dialogue, values-based introspection, and dynamic debate that serves to enhance participants’ leadership capabilities.

What makes Socrates unique?
  1. Socrates seminars attract leaders interested in critical problems facing the world.
  2. Socrates demonstrates and champions the Aspen method of moderated learning and bringing diverse views to the table. 
  3. Socrates offers a seminar length designed for optimal balance between serious content and cross-disciplinary thought for busy professionals.
  4. Socrates creates a unique professional network and engages people with ideas to move into action.
  5. Socrates offers a diverse network which has grown to over 10,000 alumni from the US and abroad, from the public, private, non-profit, and academic sectors.

Flagship Winter and Summer Seminars in Aspen, CO

Drawing more than 180 leaders annually, every President’s Day weekend (February) and the first Friday following the end of the Aspen Ideas Festival the Socrates Program organizes 8 seminars (3 in the Winter; 5 in the summer) at the Aspen Institute’s Meadows campus in Aspen, CO.

Socrates Salons

Leveraging the geographic diversity of the Socrates Society, program staff work with alums and partner organizations like the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, New Orleans Business Alliance, and Hunter College (NYC) to bring one day seminars (Salons) to a handful of cities across the USA.

Inclusive Republic Summit Series

Focusing on small and medium-sized cities, this seminar series focuses on founding documents and letters from some of America’s great leaders to help civically-engaged leaders to engage in the same type of debates that our founders did in the first 20 years of our nation’s founding. Participants leave these one-day events with more questions about American history and respect for the diversity of the readings that expose the textured history of our 242 year old democratic Republic.

International Socrates Seminars

Each international seminar has on average participation from five countries, including US participants, who often help accelerate the dialogue in countries unfamiliar with Socratic dialogue. In each international location, our partners also provide a public event with the US-based moderator to expose more people to the topic.

Past Offerings
Emerging Governance Leaders Series

The Socrates Program created an annual series of Socratic seminars for Congressional staff, focused on Article 1, Section 1 of the US Constitution. Reaching up to 100 Congressional staffers per year. Past seminars took place at James Madison’s Montpelier and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Socrates Goes Digital

During the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the Socrates Program is worked hard to continue in our mission of providing high quality, thought-provoking, Socratic dialogue. View all of our digital seminars here.


For information about Socrates Programs, please contact us at socrates@aspeninst.org