James H. Fetzer
James H. Fetzer
Fetzer in 2004
James Henry Fetzer
December 6, 1940
Pasadena, California, U.S.
James Henry Fetzer (born December 6, 1940) is a former professor of the philosophy of science at the University of Minnesota Duluth and a conspiracy theorist. In the late 1970s, Fetzer worked on assessing and clarifying the forms and foundations of scientific explanation, probability in science, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of cognitive science, especially artificial intelligence and computer science.
In the early 1990s, Fetzer began to promote John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, later 9/11 conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, conspiracy theories regarding the 2002 death of Senator Paul Wellstone and Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting conspiracy theories since the multiple fatalities in 2012. He cofounded Scholars for 9/11 Truth in 2005, and claims that the United States government, Israeli government and Israeli Mossad are involved in these and other conspiracies. Fetzer's allegations and speculations have drawn strong criticism. In October 2019, a Wisconsin court ordered Fetzer to pay the father of a Sandy Hook victim $450,000 in a defamation case.
After his parents' divorce, Fetzer moved to La Habra Heights, California, with his brother, mother, and stepfather. His mother died from suicide when he was 11, and he went to live with his father and stepmother.
Following Fetzer's graduation from South Pasadena High School, he studied philosophy at Princeton University and graduated magna cum laude in 1962 where his undergraduate thesis, under the supervision of Carl G Hempel, won The Dickinson Prize. He then joined the United States Marine Corps, and was second lieutenant in an artillery unit. In the early 1960s, he was stationed at Okinawa, Japan. During military service in the 1960s, Fetzer married, and divorced four years later, after having a son. He remarried in the 1970s while teaching at the University of Kentucky.
In 1966, soon after promotion to captain, he resigned to enter graduate school. Having attained a master's degree from Indiana University, he studied at Columbia University for a year, then returned to Indiana University and in 1970 gained a PhD in history of science and philosophy of science.
He became an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky in 1970, and received the University of Kentucky Student Government's first Distinguished Teaching Award in 1973. He was denied tenure at Kentucky in 1977, and spent the next ten years in visiting positions at the University of Virginia, University of Cincinnati, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and University of South Florida. After ten years without a tenure-track position, in 1987 he was hired as a tenured full professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth. In 1996 Fetzer received a Distinguished McKnight University Professorship from the University of Minnesota, a title that recipients retain until they retire from the University. He retired in 2006.
In the late 1970s, Fetzer received a National Science Foundation fellowship, and contributed a chapter to a book on Hans Reichenbach. In 1990, Fetzer received the Medal of the University of Helsinki. He assisted theorists in computer science, and joined the debate over proper types of inference in computing. In the late 1990s, Fetzer was called to organize a symposium on philosophy of mind, and authored textbooks on cognitive science and artificial intelligence. He is an expert on philosopher Carl G. Hempel.
Fetzer published over 100 articles and 20 books on philosophy of science and philosophy of cognitive science, especially of artificial intelligence and computer science. In 2002, Fetzer wrote Consciousness Evolving, a collection of studies on the past, the present, and the future of consciousness. The book is divided into three sections: how and why consciousness evolved, special consciousness capacities such as language, creativity, and mentality, and the prospects for artificial consciousness. He founded the international journal Minds and Machines, which he edited for 11 years, and founded the academic library Studies in Cognitive Systems, of which he was series editor. He founded the Society for Machines & Mentality. Near and after retirement, Fetzer remained a contributor to as well as cited or republished in philosophy of science and cognitive science volumes and encyclopedias.
Promotion of conspiracy theories
Fetzer alleges government conspiracies include an involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy. He believes Kennedy's assassination was "a government hit job" and "the Zapruder film is a fake". With Don "Four Arrows" Jacobs, Fetzer claimed that the 2002 airplane crash that killed US Senator Paul Wellstone was an assassination "by an out-of-control Republican cabal under the direction of" Karl Rove.
Fetzer has alleged the 9/11 attacks were treasonable, and called for the military overthrow of President George W. Bush. He has asserted that the World Trade Center buildings collapsed by controlled demolitions or by high-tech weaponry, although his speculative assertions have drawn further critical attention. In 2005, with Steven E. Jones, Fetzer co-founded Scholars for 9/11 Truth. Jovian Byford criticized Fetzer's speculations that Jews or Israel were involved in a conspiracy to commit the 9/11 attacks as "a contemporary variant of the old, antisemitic conspiracist canard about the disloyalty of Jews and their usurpation of power in the name of communal interests and the accumulation of wealth."
An article by Fetzer published by Iranian state-run Press TV and conspiracy theory and fake news website Veterans Today titled (by the latter) "Did Mossad death squads slaughter American children at Sandy Hook?" was described in January 2013 by Oliver Kamm in The Jewish Chronicle as "monstrous, calumnious, demented bilge" that "violates all bounds of decency". Fetzer was a member of the Advisory Board of Veterans Today in 2013. In 2015, Fetzer published a book titled Nobody Died at Sandy Hook: It Was a FEMA Drill to Promote Gun Control. Leonard Pozner, father of Sandy Hook victim Noah Pozner, sued Fetzer and his co-author, Mike Palacek, for defamation in a Dane County, Wisconsin court. In June 2019, circuit judge Frank Remington found that Fetzer and Palacek had defamed the Pozners, with damages to be awarded at an October 2019 trial. On October 16, 2019, a jury in Wisconsin awarded Leonard Pozner $450,000 for defamation. Pozner’s son Noah, 6, was the youngest person killed during the mass shooting that left 26 people dead, including 20 children around Noah’s age. The book's publisher, Moon Rock Books, personally apologized to the Pozners and agreed to take the book out of circulation.
Fetzer contributed the foreword for a book entitled Breaking The Spell (2014) by Nicholas Kollerstrom, a work of Holocaust denial. Fetzer himself has said of the Holocaust: "My research on the Holocaust narrative suggests that it is not only untrue but probably false and not remotely scientifically sustainable."
In 2013, officials of the University of Minnesota said that "Fetzer has the right to express his views, but he also has the responsibility to make clear he's not speaking for the university." He is retired and no longer employed by the university.
- James H Fetzer, ed, Science, Explanation, and Rationality: Aspects of the Philosophy of Carl G Hempel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p xi.
- Ellery Eells & James H Fetzer, eds, Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, Volume 284: The Place of Probability in Science: In Honor of Ellery Eells (1953–2006) (Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer, 2010), pp ix–x, 321.
- Jan Woleński, "Books received: Philosophy, Mind and Cognitive Inquiry by David J Cole, James H Fetzer, Terry L Rankin; Artificial Intelligence: Its Scope and Limits by James H Fetzer", Studia Logica: An International Journal for Symbolic Logic, 1992; 51(2): 341–43, p 341: "I start with Fetzer's monograph because it provides a general paranorama of AI and its foundational problems. ... The book touches many foundational problems of AI belonging to epistemology, psychology, philosophy of language, philosophy of science and computer science. Fetzer's discussions vary from very elementary...to quite advanced...".
- Justin Leiber, "James H Fetzer, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded, Paragon Issues in Philosophy", Minds and Machines, 1999 Aug;9(3):435–37, p 435: "It is a delight to see this revised edition of what is possibly the best short introduction to 'philosophy and cognitive science' around today, one fully accessible to undergraduates".
John Heil, Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction, 2nd edn (New York: Routledge, 2004), ch 1 "Introduction", subch 1.5 "A look ahead", § "Suggested reading", p 14, recommends Fetzer's Philosophy and Cognitive Science.
- Donald Angus MacKenzie, Mechanizing Proof: Computing, Risk, and Trust (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2001), pp 18, 205, 244 & 323 discusses Fetzer's contributions, and on pp 388 & 421 identifies citations of Fetzer.
Donald MacKenzie, "A view from Sonnelbichl: On the historical sociology of software and system dependability", in Ulf Hashagen, Reinhard Keil-Slawik, Arthur L Norberg & Heinz Nixdorf, eds, History of Computing: Software Issues (Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag, 2002), p 112: "Conversely, the claims of the formalizers have been fiercely contested by computer scientists Richard DeMillo, Richard Lipton and Alan Perlis, as well as by philosopher James H Fetzer".
- James H Fetzer, ed, Consciousness Evolving (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing, 2002), p ix.
- Atkins, Stephen E. (2011). The 9/11 Encyclopedia. 2nd edn, Santa Barbara CA: ABC-CLIO. pp 181–83.
- Jaya Narain (February 16, 2007). "We're all conspiracy theorists at heart". BBC News. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- Justin Pope (August 7, 2006). "Scholars join ranks of Sept 11 conspiracy theorists". Bangor Daily News. Bangor ME. Associated Press. p. A3. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Mike Mosedale (June 28, 2006). "The man who thought he knew too much". City Pages. Minneapolis. p. 1. Archived from the original on March 11, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2012.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Tevlin, Jon. "Tevlin: Northfield pub puts free speech limits to the test". Star Tribune. Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
- Crawford, Amanda J. (February 5, 2020). "The Professor of Denial". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 66 (21). ISSN 0009-5982. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
- Svrluga, Susan (October 16, 2019). "Jury awards $450,000 to father of Sandy Hook victim in defamation case". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
- Otterman, Sharon (June 18, 2019). "Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theorist Loses to Father of 6-Year-Old Victim Over Hoax". The New York Times.
- "Sandy Hook shooting: Parent awarded $450,000 for defamation". BBC News. October 16, 2019. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- Sarah Lederer (February 2009). "James Fetzer's home page". James H Fetzer at University of Minnesota Duluth. Retrieved February 2, 2009.
- Mike Mosedale 2006, p. 2.
- Mike Mosedale 2006, p. 3.
- Hollingsworth, Jana (January 5, 2013). "Retired UMD professor theorizes that government behind Newtown massacre". St. Paul Pioneer Press/Duluth News Tribune. Twincities.Com. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
- "McKnight Awards". University of Minnesota. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
- James H Fetzer, The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals with Minds? (Peru IL: Open Court Publishing, 2005), back cover.
- James H Fetzer, "Reichenbach, reference cases, and single case 'probabilities' ", in Wesley C Salmon, ed, Synthese Library, Volume 132: Hans Reichenbach: Logical Empiricist (Dordrecht: D Reidel Publishing, 1979).
- Subrata Dasgupta, Cambridge Tracts in Theoretical Computer Science 15: Design Theory and Computer Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), "Acknowledgements", p xix: "Quite apart from the many hundreds of authors cited in the text, I owe a massive debt of gratitude to many individuals and organizations who, in one way or another, have influenced the final shape of this work. In particular, I thank the following: ... Bimal Matilal (Oxford University) and James Fetzer (University of Minnesota)—two philosophers—for discussions or correspondences regarding matters philosophical.
- Allen Kent & James G Williams, eds, Encyclopedia of Microcomputers, Volume 14: Productivity and Software (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1994), p v.
- Selmer Bringsjord & Michael John Zenzen, Superminds: People Harness Hypercomputation, and More (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003), pp xx–xxi: "In connection with Chapter 1, we're grateful to Michael Costa for inviting Jim Fetzer to organize a symposium on whether minds are computational systems for the annual meeting of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology, in Nashville, Tennessee, April 4–7, 1996".
- Erich H Reck, ch 15 "Hempel, Carnap, and the covering law model" pp 311–24, in Nikolay Milkov & Volker Peckhaus, eds, Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science 273: The Berlin Group and the Philosophy of Logical Empiricism (Dordrecht, Heidelberg, New York, London: Springer, 2013), pp 312 & 323.
Philosophy of Science:
- James H. Fetzer (December 31, 1981). Scientific Knowledge: Causation, Explanation, and Corroboration. Springer. ISBN 978-90-277-1335-3.
- Principles of Philosophical Reasoning. Rowman & Littlefield. June 1984. ISBN 978-0-8476-7341-4.
- James H. Fetzer, ed. (August 1985). Sociobiology and Epistemology. Springer. ISBN 978-90-277-2005-4.
- Definitions and Definability: Philosophical Perspectives. 1991. ASIN B000IBICGK.
- James H. Fetzer (October 1992). Philosophy of Science (Paragon Issues in Philosophy). Paragon. ISBN 978-1-55778-481-0.
- James H. Fetzer, ed. (January 1993). Foundations of Philosophy of Science: Recent Developments (Paragon Issues in Philosophy). Paragon. ISBN 978-1-55778-480-3.
- Charles E. M. Dunlop; James H. Fetzer (March 1993). Glossary of Cognitive Science (A Paragon House Glossary for Research, Reading, and Writing). Paragon. ISBN 978-1-55778-567-1.
- James H. Fetzer (January 1997). Philosophy and Cognitive Science (Paragon Issues in Philosophy). Paragon. ISBN 978-1-55778-739-2.
- Minds and Machines: Journal for Artificial Intelligence, Philosophy, and Cognitive Science, Vol. 7, No. 4. Kluwer. November 1997. ASIN B000KEV460.
- James H. Fetzer, ed. (December 2000). Science, Explanation, and Rationality: The Philosophy of Carl G. Hempel. Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-512137-7.
- James H. Fetzer (January 2001). Artificial Intelligence: Its Scope and Limits. Springer. ISBN 978-0-7923-0548-4.
- Computers and Cognition: Why Minds are Not Machines. Springer. January 8, 2002. ISBN 978-1-4020-0243-4.
- James H. Fetzer, ed. (May 2002). Consciousness Evolving (Advances in Consciousness Research). John Benjamins. ISBN 978-1-58811-108-1.
- James H. Fetzer (2005). The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals With Minds?. Open Court. ISBN 978-0-8126-9459-8.
- James H. Fetzer (December 28, 2006). Render Unto Darwin: Philosophical Aspects of the Christian Right's Crusade Against Science. Open Court. ISBN 978-0-8126-9605-9.
- James H. Fetzer, ed. (October 1997). Assassination Science: Experts Speak Out on the Death of JFK. Open Court. ISBN 978-0-8126-9366-9.
- James H. Fetzer, ed. (August 2000). Murder in Dealey Plaza: What We Know Now that We Didn't Know Then. Open Court. ISBN 978-0-8126-9422-2.
- James H. Fetzer, ed. (September 2003). The Great Zapruder Film Hoax: Deceit and Deception in the Death of JFK. Catfeet Press. ISBN 978-0-8126-9547-2.
- Four Arrows (aka Don Trent Jacobs); James H. Fetzer (November 2004). American Assassination: The Strange Death Of Senator Paul Wellstone. Vox Pop. ISBN 978-0-9752763-0-3.
- James H. Fetzer, ed. (March 28, 2007). The 9/11 Conspiracy. Open Court. ISBN 978-0-8126-9612-7.
- John Benjamins: Book details for Consciousness Evolving [AiCR 34]
- James H Fetzer, "Corroboration" pp 178–79, in Sahotra Sarkar & Jessica Pfeifer, eds, The Philosophy of Science, Volume One: A–M (New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2006).
- James Fetzer, "Carl Hempel", in Edward N Zalta, ed, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013).
- James H Fetzer, ed, Epistemology and Cognition (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1990 / New York: Springer-Verlag, 2012).
- Mike Mosedale 2006, p. 4.
- Byford, Dr Jovan (2011). Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 110ff. ISBN 978-0-230-35637-5.
- Kamm, Oliver (January 4, 2013). "From Nonsense to Indecency". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
- Schlatter, Evelyn (January 10, 2013). "Veterans Today Editor Blames Newtown Tragedy on Israel". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
- James Fetzer. "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook". James Fetzer.
- Kamm, Oliver (December 11, 2014). "'Respectable' revisionists". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
- Fetzer, Jim (July 2, 2015). "The Holocaust Narrative: Politics Trumps Science". James Fetzer. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
- James H. Fetzer at University of Minnesota Duluth