Strictly speaking, evidence already implies bearings for or against a proposition. But often times, people collect candidates for evidence before they know whether they can count as evidence or not. "Data" will do most of the time, but there are occasions where "data" would not do, e.g. on an archaeology site. Nobody calls dinosaur bones data.

  • 2
    Maybe they are clues until their place in the puzzle becomes more clear. – bib Apr 4 '14 at 20:31
  • Very close. Basically it's a generic term for potential evidence. This word will be used in an essay on theory of knowledge. – George Chen Apr 4 '14 at 20:34
  • 1
    Samples (which need not be physical entities). – Edwin Ashworth Apr 4 '14 at 21:01
  • Samples, data, clue, they all cover some ground but not all. – George Chen Apr 4 '14 at 21:05
  • How about material? – George Chen Apr 5 '14 at 0:30

Why not information or data. The mere existence of some piece of realia will never be evidence. The information derived from it, its presence, its condition and other perceptable data are what will become the evidence.

For example, the bone. It is a thing in or on the ground. Someone will have to tease out of htat thing that it is a bone, that it came from a dinosaur, that it is a certain size, shape, age, soil loction, distance from other bones, etc. To even simply say We found dinosaur bones requires the gleaning, processing and conveying of a range of information or data.

The evidence is ultimately that recitation of information, not just A lump was on the ground (and even that involves data processing by the speaker).

  • You totally understand me. – George Chen Apr 4 '14 at 21:43
  • Someone hypothesizes that there was a drought 600 years ago in central Asia . And she first collects some timber from an archaeology site. These timber may or may not belong to that time period, thus may or may not count as evidence. Would she call the timber data or information? – George Chen Apr 4 '14 at 21:50
  • 1
    She would call the measurements, descriptions, observations and analyses of the timber data or information. The actual piece of wood is an information vehicle or data source. – bib Apr 4 '14 at 22:05
  • I might have to invent a word. – George Chen Apr 4 '14 at 22:13
  • If only you know how powerful it could be if there is such a word that distinguishes evidence from potential evidence. – George Chen Apr 4 '14 at 22:16

The best terms to use for "candidates for evidence" are likely "potential evidence", "findings", or, for the most general, "facts",

I'd recommend the latter for brevity's sake, unless you want to avoid the connotations of "things that are taken to be true."

  • 1
    I like findings, but a dinosaur bone isn't a fact in normal parlance, however undeniable it may be. – TimLymington Apr 4 '14 at 21:19
  • Yes, brevity and contrast are the reason I look for a single term. – George Chen Apr 4 '14 at 21:19
  • Fact has a very precise meaning is philosophy. There are unknown facts. And most of known facts are inferred from evidence. – George Chen Apr 4 '14 at 21:20
  • The only facts we have immediate access are our own thoughts, sensations, feelings and other mental events. These are the only facts one can collect. – George Chen Apr 4 '14 at 21:25
  • All facts are just human measurements. What the weather service reported as the temperature is a fact; what the temperature actually was is another – DougM Apr 5 '14 at 3:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.