James H. Fetzer

James H. Fetzer
Fetzer in 2004
Born James Henry Fetzer
(1940-12-06) December 6, 1940
Pasadena, California, USA
Nationality American

James Henry Fetzer (born December 6, 1940) is an emeritus professor of the philosophy of science at the University of Minnesota Duluth. 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.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

In the early 1990s, Fetzer started promoting John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, later 9/11 conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, conspiracy theories regarding the 2002 death of Senator Paul Wellstone and more recently Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting conspiracy theories. He cofounded Scholars for 9/11 Truth in 2005,[7] 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.[7][8][9][10][11]

Early life

Fetzer was born in Pasadena, California, on December 6, 1940, to a father who worked as an accountant in a welfare office in Los Angeles County,[12] and grew up in a neighboring city, Altadena.[13]

After his parents' divorce, Fetzer moved to La Habra Heights, California, with his brother, mother, and stepfather.[13] His mother died when he was 11, and he went to live with his father and stepmother.[13][14]

Following his graduation from South Pasadena High School, Fetzer studied philosophy at Princeton University and graduated magna cum laude in 1962[7] where his undergraduate thesis, done under Carl G Hempel, won The Dickinson Prize.[1] He then joined the United States Marine Corps, and was second lieutenant in an artillery unit.[7] In the early 1960s he was stationed at Okinawa, Japan.[12][14] During military service in the 1960s, Fetzer married, and divorced four years later, after having a son.[14] He remarried in the 1970s while teaching at the University of Kentucky.[14]

In 1966, soon after promotion to captain, he resigned to enter graduate school.[7] 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.[7][12][14]


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.[7] 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.[10] After ten years without a tenure-track position, in 1987 he was hired as a tenured full professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth.[10] In 1996 Fetzer received a Distinguished McKnight University Professorship from the University of Minnesota,[15] a title that recipients retain until they retire from the University.[16] He retired in 2006 and is now an emeritus professor.

In the late 1970s, Fetzer received a National Science Foundation fellowship,[17] and contributed a chapter to a book on Hans Reichenbach.[18] In 1990, Fetzer received the Medal of the University of Helsinki.[1] He assisted theorists in computer science,[19][20] and joined debate over proper types of inference in computing.[5] In the late 1990s, Fetzer was called to organize a symposium on philosophy of mind,[21] and authored textbooks on cognitive science and artificial intelligence.[3][4] He is an expert on philosopher Carl G. Hempel.[1][22]

Fetzer published over 100 articles and 20 books on philosophy of science and philosophy of cognitive science, especially of artificial intelligence and computer science.[6][23] He founded the international journal Minds and Machines, which for 11 years he edited, and founded the academic library Studies in Cognitive Systems,[7] of which he was series editor.[1] 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.[2][22][24][25][26]

Promotion of conspiracy theories

Claiming an interest in alleged government conspiracies that dates to the 1963 assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, Fetzer became "a familiar and controversial figure in the JFK research community".[14] With Don "Four Arrows" Jacobs, Fetzer claimed that the 2002 airplane crash that killed US Senator Paul Wellstone was an assassination.

Fetzer alleged that the 9/11 attacks were treason, and called for military overthrow of President George W. Bush.[7] He has asserted that the World Trade Center buildings collapsed by controlled demolitions or by high-tech weaponry, although his speculations have drawn further critics.[7] In 2005, with Steven E. Jones, Fetzer co-founded Scholars for 9/11 Truth.[7] 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."[27]

An article by Fetzer published by Press TV and Veterans Today (a site, according to Oliver Kamm, which "promotes conspiracy theories")[28] titled (by the latter) "Did Mossad death squads slaughter American children at Sandy Hook?" was described in January 2013 by Kamm in The Jewish Chronicle as "monstrous, calumnious, demented bilge" that "violates all bounds of decency".[28] In 2015, Fetzer published a book titled Nobody Died at Sandy Hook: It Was a FEMA Drill to Promote Gun Control.[29]

Regarding the Holocaust, Fetzer has written: "My research on the Holocaust narrative suggests that it is not only untrue but probably false and not remotely scientifically sustainable."[11][30]

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."[15] He is retired and no longer employed by the university.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 James H Fetzer, ed, Science, Explanation, and Rationality: Aspects of the Philosophy of Carl G Hempel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p xi.
  2. 1 2 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.
  3. 1 2 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...".
  4. 1 2 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.
  5. 1 2 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".
  6. 1 2 James H Fetzer, ed, Consciousness Evolving (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing, 2002), p ix.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Atkins, Stephen E. (2011). The 9/11 Encyclopedia. 2nd edn, Santa Barbara CA: ABC-CLIO. pp 181–83.
  8. Jaya Narain (February 16, 2007). "We're all conspiracy theorists at heart". BBC News. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  9. 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.
  10. 1 2 3 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.
  11. 1 2 Tevlin, Jon. "Tevlin: Northfield pub puts free speech limits to the test". Star Tribune. Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  12. 1 2 3 Sarah Lederer (Feb 2009). "James Fetzer's home page". James H Fetzer at University of Minnesota Duluth. Retrieved February 2, 2009.
  13. 1 2 3 Mike Mosedale 2006, p. 2.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Mike Mosedale 2006, p. 3.
  15. 1 2 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.
  16. "McKnight Awards". University of Minnesota. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  17. James H Fetzer, The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals with Minds? (Peru IL: Open Court Publishing, 2005), back cover.
  18. James H Fetzer, "Reichenbach, reference cases, and single case 'probabilities' ", in Wesley C Salmon, ed, Synthese Library, Volume 132: Hans Reichenbach: Logical Empircist (Dordrecht: D Reidel Publishing, 1979).
  19. 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.
  20. Allen Kent & James G Williams, eds, Encyclopedia of Microcomputers, Volume 14: Productivity and Software (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1994), p v.
  21. 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".
  22. 1 2 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.
  23. Philosophy of Science:
    • James H. Fetzer. (December 31, 1981). Scientific Knowledge: Causation, Explanation, and Corroboration. Springer. ISBN 90-277-1335-9.
    • Principles of Philosophical Reasoning. Rowman & Littlefield. June 1984. ISBN 0-8476-7341-3.
    • edited by James H. Fetzer. (August 1985). Sociobiology and Epistemology. Springer. ISBN 90-277-2005-3.
    • Definitions and Definability: Philosophical Perspectives. 1991. ASIN B000IBICGK.
    • James H. Fetzer (October 1992). Philosophy of Science (Paragon Issues in Philosophy). Paragon. ISBN 1-55778-481-7.
    • ed. by James H. Fetzer (January 1993). Foundations of Philosophy of Science: Recent Developments (Paragon Issues in Philosophy). Paragon. ISBN 1-55778-480-9.
    • Charles E. M. Dunlop; James H. Fetzer. (March 1993). Glossary of Cognitive Science (A Paragon House Glossary for Research, Reading, and Writing). Paragon. ISBN 1-55778-567-8.
    • James H. Fetzer. (January 1997). Philosophy and Cognitive Science (Paragon Issues in Philosophy). Paragon. ISBN 1-55778-739-5.
    • Minds and Machines: Journal for Artificial Intelligence, Philosophy, and Cognitive Science, Vol. 7, No. 4. Kluwer. November 1997. ASIN B000KEV460.
    • edited by James H. Fetzer. (December 2000). Science, Explanation, and Rationality: The Philosophy of Carl G. Hempel. Oxford. ISBN 0-19-512137-6.
    • James H. Fetzer. (January 2001). Artificial Intelligence: Its Scope and Limits. Springer. ISBN 0-7923-0548-5.
    • Computers and Cognition: Why Minds are Not Machines. Springer. January 8, 2002. ISBN 1-4020-0243-2.
    • ed. by James H. Fetzer (May 2002). Consciousness Evolving (Advances in Consciousness Research). John Benjamins. ISBN 1-58811-108-3.
    • James H. Fetzer (2005). The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals With Minds?. Open Court. ISBN 0-8126-9459-7.
    • James H. Fetzer (December 28, 2006). Render Unto Darwin: Philosophical Aspects of the Christian Right's Crusade Against Science. Open Court. ISBN 0-8126-9605-0.
    Conspiracy Theories:
    • edited by James H. Fetzer. (October 1997). Assassination Science: Experts Speak Out on the Death of JFK. Open Court. ISBN 0-8126-9366-3.
    • ed. by James H. Fetzer. (August 2000). Murder in Dealey Plaza: What We Know Now that We Didn't Know Then. Open Court. ISBN 0-8126-9422-8.
    • ed. by James H. Fetzer (September 2003). The Great Zapruder Film Hoax: Deceit and Deception in the Death of JFK. Catfeet Press. ISBN 0-8126-9547-X.
    • Four Arrows (aka Don Trent Jacobs) & James H. Fetzer. (November 2004). American Assassination: The Strange Death Of Senator Paul Wellstone. Vox Pop. ISBN 0-9752763-0-1.
    • ed. by James H. Fetzer. (March 28, 2007). The 9/11 Conspiracy. Open Court. ISBN 0-8126-9612-3.
  24. 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).
  25. James Fetzer, "Carl Hempel", in Edward N Zalta, ed, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013).
  26. James H Fetzer, ed, Epistemology and Cognition (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1990 / New York: Springer-Verlag, 2012).
  27. Byford, Dr Jovan (2011). Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 110ff. ISBN 978-0-230-35637-5.
  28. 1 2 Kamm, Oliver (4 January 2013). "From Nonsense to Indecency". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  29. James Fetzer. "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook". James Fetzer.
  30. Fetzer, Jim (July 2, 2015). "The Holocaust Narrative: Politics Trumps Science". James Fetzer. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
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