Jared Taylor, born in Japan to American parents – both missionaries – , president of the New Century Foundation, Philosophy BA from Yale University, Sciences Po from the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris and founder of the journal American Renaissance, is a journalist. In this interview, he talks about history, philosophy and human nature, expressing his opinions within each of these areas.
Interview done by jonasscherer via e-mail between november 20th and 22nd, 2012.
Jonas Scherer: You have received your BA in Philosophy from Yale. Why Philosophy?
Jared: At that time I believed that studying philosophy would teach me how to be a better, wiser person. I was disappointed. The study of philosophy seemed to be more like archaeology of thought. The concerns of most philosophers did not seem very relevant to the decisions a person must make in real life. It was only later, when I went to Sciences Po in Paris, that I seriously studied subjects that ahd more relevance to real life: history and economics.
Jonas Scherer: History having relevance to real life?
Jared: Yes, history has a great deal of relevance to real life. It is not possible to understand the present without understanding something of the past.
Jonas Scherer: And this understanding comes from a simple observation of the past?
Jared: Unfortunately, we cannot observe the past, but we can study it and try to understand it, and without some grasp of the past the present is incomprehensible. For example, there are black people living in the United States. How did they come here? Why are they concentrated in certain parts of the country? Why are so many of them hostile to the white majority?
This is just one example of the millions upon millions of questions that cannot be answered without historical knowledge.
Jonas Scherer: When Emerson¹ claims that “every observation of history inspires a confidence that we shall not go far wrong; that things mend”, is he wrong?
Jared: I was not familiar with this quotation, but I cannot agree with Emerson. The past is full of failures, of things that did not mend. Think of the all the empires that have collapsed, the great monuments of architecture and learning that have disappeared, the countless wars men have fought for so little result.
There are few things we can say with certainty about the course of human history, but we can say this: There has been tremendous and unquestionable “technological” advance that makes it possible for far more humans to live far more comfortably than was even imaginable in the pre-technological past. Some societies have established rules that
make life for their citizens more fair and predictable. But there have been countless mistakes, countless dead ends, countless self-deceptions from which mankind appears to have learned virtually
This is not an argument against the study of history. It is an argument for deeper and better study of history.
Jonas Scherer: So we can try to understand current problems like racial and political conflicts by means of a historical approach?
Jared: Yes. We are still trying to solve the same political problems that have bedeviled the West for several hundred years. These problems have largely to do with the fact that human beings are unequal and therefore do not achieve the same levels of success in life. Should men be free and therefore starkly unequal or should they live under constraints that force them closer to equality? This is the central purely political problem that the West has been struggling with since
Racial problems are more recent, certainly for Europe, which was largely homogeneous until just a few decades ago. History tells us that human inequality and racial conflict are constants. History is full of attempts to solve, ignore, and sidestep these constants, and we can learn much from studying these attempts. At the same time, scientific advances–genetics and behavioral genetics–make it easier for us to understand the roots of both individual inequality and racial conflict.
I believe that the most successful societies are based on a realistic understanding of human nature, and the best schools in which to study human nature are history and the sciences of genetics and behavior. A firm grasp of human nature is a much more helpful basis for organizing a country and solving social problems than is ideology of any kind.
Jonas Scherer: In the history of science, the conceptions of human nature in biology, psychology and anthropology, for instance, are constantly changing, going back and forth and back again. How can we trust in science to understand human nature?
Jared: We now have much better tools for understanding human nature, specifically the impact that genes have on complex behavior patterns. Some of the best data come from studies of identical twins who were separated at birth and reared apart. They are remarkably similar, despite growing up in what might have been vastly different environments. Likewise the field of evolutionary psychology is throwing much light on the deep commonalities of human behavior.
I would not agree, in any case, that our views of human nature are constantly changing. From classical times until the Second World War,there was general agreement on human nature, on the inherent inequality of individuals, and on sex differences. We are only now coming out of a decades-long nightmare during which people actually believed that we are born as blank slates whose desires and habits are strictly a result of societal conditioning. There are a few holdouts who still at least pretend to believe this, but for the most part we have returned to a much more sensible understanding of the limits of environmental intervention.
1 The Young American. In.: Orations, Lectures and Essays. London: Charles Griffin and Company,1866 (p. 265)