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Dr. Seth M. Holtzman


Associate Professor

His philosophical interests and areas of work are broad.  He is particularly interested in the nature of presuppositions, the theory of the categories, the a priori, philosophical knowledge, philosophical argumentation, in the course of articulating and defending a humanistic worldview. 

His wife, Lisa Boguslaw, teaches dance part-time at Catawba.  They have a wonderful little daughter, Ava, who was born in 2000.  Dr. Holtzman's spare time activities include photography, gardening, and cello.  Dr. Holtzman is also committed to environmental causes.

Statement on Teaching
College teaching is my vocation, not simply a job, because I am committed to advancing liberal education.  We need to clarify the purpose of liberal education and and to strengthen it.  But one cannot understand liberal education without considering our relationship to our culture. The culture consists of the patterns of thought and feeling, accumulated knowledge, hopes and aspirations, language and other symbol systems, developed wisdom, and artistic products and expressions, within which we develop our individual and communal identity. We all internalize the culture as we grow up, and we are carried in its currents throughout our lives. What we think, experience, know, and do is governed to a great extent by our culture's world view; but for the most part we internalize and operate within the culture uncritically. Uncritical acceptance of the culture subjects us to cultural slavery; for, the culture is the master of us, instead of we being master of it. Furthermore, if we do not gain critical mastery of the culture, we will not gain a critical mastery of our own identities. Higher education prepares us to understand and to think critically about our culture and therefore about ourselves. It is liberal education because it is designed to help free people from cultural slavery.  

What is the relationship between the culture and philosophy? Every culture has a dominant world view, a conception of what is real and of what powers we have for experiencing and knowing the real. This world view plays a governing and organizing role in the culture; it defines the limits of what we take to be possible and the limits of what concepts and ways of thought we take to be meaningful. All knowledge, thought, experience, reasoning, and action takes place within its limits. The world view shows up as deep assumptions about reality and knowledge, and these philosophical assumptions function as intellectual foundations in the culture.

Philosophical problems are complex logical problems that develop within those foundations.  Some cultural problems affect only a few people, but philosophical problems affect all of us, since anyone who has internalized the culture will have internalized any philosophical problems in the culture.  So, the culture has a philosophical dimension just as real and important as, say, its economic dimension or psychological dimension. It would be foolish to be ignorant of economics; one had better have at least a rudimentary knowledge of money and economic institutions and ways of thought. Nor would one want to be ignorant of psychology, unable to grasp and interpret and correct oneself and others. Our work at mastering the culture requires us to confront philosophical issues. The choice is not whether to attend to philosophy or not, therefore, but rather whether we will successfully or unsuccessfully acknowledge and critically examine the philosophical commitments in our culture and in us.  Philosophy, I believe, has a unique and essential function in a liberal education. In this way, I try to convey the power and potential of philosophy in higher education.

Some people contend that teaching in higher education is valuable but that scholarship is not.  Academic scholarship is not simply a matter of learning more about one's discipline; it is also a matter of advancing one's discipline.  Only in this way do we improve the culture, solve its internal problems, and gain a greater mastery of it and of ourselves. Teaching and scholarship, then, are not opposed activities. Scholarship enlivens and improves teaching. Teaching stimulates and tests scholarship. In higher education to value teaching is to value scholarship.