Some Thoughts About The Palatabilist Theory Of Truth [wip]

“Dixit itaque ei Pilatus: Ergo rex es tu? Respondit Jesus: Tu dicis quia rex sum ego. Ego in hoc natus sum, et ad hoc veni in mundum, ut testimonium perhibeam veritati: omnis qui est ex veritate, audit vocem meam. / Dicit ei Pilatus: Quid est veritas? Et cum hoc dixisset, iterum exivit ad Judæos, et dicit eis: Ego nullam invenio in eo causam.”
“Pilate therefore ſaide vnto him, Art thou a King then? Ieſus anſwered, Thou ſaieſt that I am a King. To this end was I borne, and for this cauſe came I into the world, that I ſhould beare witneſſe vnto the trueth: euery one that is of the trueth heareth my voice. / Pilate ſaith vnto him, What is trueth? And when hee had ſaid this, he went out againe vnto the Iewes, and ſaith vnto them, I find in him no fault at all.”

—John 18:37–38, The Bible, Vulgate / King James Version

Theories of Truth

There are numerous theories of truth. The most common, correspondence, states that a statement is true insofar as it corresponds to the world. The other main approach, the coherence theory of truth, states that a statement is true insofar as it is coherent with one’s other beliefs. Like most others who try to be broadly realistic in their approach to philosophy, I hold a correspondence theory of truth.

Identity politics instead relies on an entirely different theory of truth, one more closely aligned to ideas such as pragmatism (a pragmatic theory of truth holds instead that a statement is true if it is useful to believe it) and postmodernism. I call it Palatabilism: the principle that all statements and actions must be palatable (acceptable, inoffensive) to a given group or individual.

Like the essentialist theory of being, palatabilism is a description, assigned by me to others, rather than a clearly defined philosophical doctrine with which adherents identify. Indeed, it is traditionally considered intellectually gauche to express palatabilist beliefs too explicitly, and so even those who act according to such a principle in practice will usually deny that they do.¹

The Varieties of Palatabilist Experience²

I have identified four axes along which palatabilist attitudes may differ, while still being recognisably palatabilist. These categorisations are my groupings. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive within their axis, nor complete, nor discrete.

Delimited by scope of judgement

  • Auto-palatabilism: It must be palatable to oneself
    E.g., the default bestial instinct that all humans adopt defensively: we do not like to believe that which upsets us—albeit, most of us grow beyond that, or are supposed to.
  • Power palatabilism: It must be palatable to the powerful
    E.g., censorship, whether by formal state structures or other centres of power such as business and the media, uses this palatabilism; it is often quite pragmatic, serving power for the benefits power can provide, but monarchist / fascist ideologies sometimes make this power palatabilism a point of principle.
  • Inverted or Intersectional palatabilism: It must be palatable to the powerless
    E.g., the very widespread current Sklavenmoral, near-ubiquitous on the left, and to which most current power centres must pay at least lip service; I group intersectional palatabilism as a subset of this, using the notorious intersectional approach of assigning effective notional points to various states of supposed powerlessness to create an inverted hierarchy.³
  • Universal palatabilism: It must be palatable to everybody
    E.g., the ‘nice’, liberal-centrist version of the above: “Wouldn't it be nice if we could all agree and figure things out together, and not be mean to each other, y'know?”. This is of course both impossible and easily exploited: a cynical special interest group can simply declare itself offended by a reasonable criticism in order to silence dissent. For example, an extremely wealthy and powerful ethno-religious minority could pretend to be offended by comments about its power, or about the tyrannical behaviour of their parent state—hypothetically, of course.

Delimited by sub-/objectivity

  • Subjective palatabilism: What is palatably so for one may not be so for all
    E.g., cultural relativism, whereby offences carried out elsewhere (or elsewhen) are excused as being part of that culture.
  • Objective palatabilism: What is palatably so for one is so for all
    E.g., the ironic cultural imperialism of American liberals insisting that their idiosyncratic identity fetishes must be accepted by all cultures around the world, and must be applied retrospectively to all historical societies.

Delimited by extent of palatability

  • Passive palatabilism: It must not be actively offensive
    E.g., one could assign a neutral state to statements, between offensive and palatable, that are perhaps uncomfortable but not outright offensive; a truth exemption, for example, like in the law on defamation etc. Passive palatabilism is less threatening than active palatabilism, and so will often be claimed even when the actual content of a holder's beliefs are plainly actively palatabilist.
  • Active palatabilism: It must be actively palatable
    E.g., the most radical identity politics claims, such as “silence is violence”: it is not sufficient to be passively inoffensive; one must be actively making statements that are palatable to the given subjects.

Delimited by scope of subject

  • Ethical palatabilism: An action must be palatable to be good
    E.g., the minimal palatabilist claim, which is even so not trivial: the good (whatever that is) is so iff it is palatable to the given subjects.
  • Veridical or Truth palatabilism: A statement or belief must be palatable to be true
    E.g., the widespread dismissal of any statement that is found offensive: it is now common for someone to “disagree” with a purported statement of fact solely on the grounds that it is offensive. Traditionally this should have no bearing on its truth value, but to a palatabilist it cannot be true if it is offensive.
  • Ontological or Being palatabilism: A thing or situation must be palatable to exist, to be real
    E.g., the mystical nature of trans identity is believed to exist because it is palatable to social justice activists; conversely, the bizarre-to-outsiders claim that disputing the ontological claims of trans identity means denying the existence of trans-identifying individuals, is because of this ontological palatabilism.

This final categorisation reflects the sliding scale along which identitarians enact palatabilism. At the extreme are those who refuse to accept the very existence of anything that is unpalatable to their world view. Less extreme are those who refuse to accept the truth of any unpalatable statements. Finally, there are those who refuse to accept the morality of any unpalatable statements, actions, events. But palatabilism, as a subconscious way of thinking, not a public, formal doctrine, is often held in a veridical or even ontological manner in practical terms, even if the subject would claim otherwise. The consequences of one’s statements and actions speak louder than one’s self-professed rationality.


sum θoətiz abaʊt ðiiy palatəbiilist θiəriiy ov trʊʊθ [blank]

“Dixit itaque ei Pilatus: Ergo rex es tu? Respondit Jesus: Tu dicis quia rex sum ego. Ego in hoc natus sum, et ad hoc veni in mundum, ut testimonium perhibeam veritati: omnis qui est ex veritate, audit vocem meam. / Dicit ei Pilatus: Quid est veritas? Et cum hoc dixisset, iterum exivit ad Judæos, et dicit eis: Ego nullam invenio in eo causam.”
“Pilate therefore ſaide vnto him, Art thou a King then? Ieſus anſwered, Thou ſaieſt that I am a King. To this end was I borne, and for this cauſe came I into the world, that I ſhould beare witneſſe vnto the trueth: euery one that is of the trueth heareth my voice. / Pilate ſaith vnto him, What is trueth? And when hee had ſaid this, he went out againe vnto the Iewes, and ſaith vnto them, I find in him no fault at all.”
“pailət ðeəfoə seiyid tə hii, ‘kwes ðii biiy a kiŋ, ðen?’ jiizəs ansərid, ‘ðii sei ðat mii biiy a kiŋ. tə ðis end mii biiyid beərəð, and foə ðis kʊəz mii kumid intʊʊ ðə wuəld, ðat mii ʃʊd beə witnəs tə ðə trʊʊθ: evriiy-um ðat biiy ov ðə trʊʊθ hiə miis vois.’ / pailət seiyid tə hii, ‘kwes wot bii trʊʊθ?’ and wen hii seiyivid ðis, hii goʊwid aʊt agen tə ðə jʊʊwiz, and seiyid tə dii, ‘mii faind in hii noʊ folt at oəl.’”
—jon 18:37–38, ðə baibəl, vulgeit / kiŋ jeimz vuəʒən