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I would suppose that traditionally, evidence had this broad meaning that I seek, and that is why "empirical evidence" is a popular phrase.

What I would like is a word that refers to a broad notion that encompasses theoretical arguments, as well.

I want to refer to everything substantive that an individual has brought to a discussion: not only the empirical evidence (such as demonstrations or references), but also the non-trivial theoretical points that they have made.

For instance, if I was arguing about taxes with someone, and they say "Raising taxes is a bad idea, because the government already has too much power", then unless I completely reject the premise that the government has too much power, this should be considered "theoretical evidence" for their position that "Raising taxes is a bad idea".

I can't think of a better word than evidence, but I don't think people will understand what I'm talking about if I use it this way, without explaining what I mean first.

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4 Answers 4

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Philip Howard, "Four Types of Evidence" categorizes empirical evidence under the heading "Statistical Evidence," whose characteristics, he says, include

• Moderately strong or supportive evidence

• Reference to empirical analysis, or to the results of methodical or scientific experiments or investigations

According to Howard, the other three categories of evidence (and their characteristics) are "Anecdotal Evidence":

• Usually very weak 'positive' evidence

• Description of one, or a small number of specific instances, presumably of the same type, general nature, or structure. Better used as 'negative' evidence; as counterexamples

"Testimonial Evidence":

• Moderately strong or supportive evidence

• Reference to an established or trustworthy authority

and "Analogical Evidence":

• Fairly strong or supportive evidence (of a sort)

• Explanatory "modeling" of the target phenomenon by means of a comparison with an already understood, or more easily understood, phenomenon

So you could say that anecdote, testimony, and analogy are forms of evidence that do not inherently connote empiricism.

Given these alternatives to empirical evidence that nonetheless fall under the umbrella term evidence, I think evidence doesn't inherently connote empiricism and may be the best term to use.

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    Sven, the usual authoritative answer, in this case virtually redefining the question to facilitate a more cogent overview. But the link seems to have expired: is there a more recent one? Feb 4, 2023 at 15:36
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    @EdwinAshworth: The only online version of the text I cited in my 2014 answer that I can find is at "Four Types of Evidence" on a law blog called MyLawman: Innovations in Law, posted by Abhinav K. Mishra on March 1, 2012. This blog doesn't mention Philip Howard, but it antedates my answer, so it perhaps Mishra, not Howard, is responsible for the original formulation, and I cited a later version that failed to credit the actual author. Or perhaps not. The Internet often handles "who's first" questions in Abbott & Costello style.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 5, 2023 at 7:56
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"Support" or "Backing" seem like pretty good options.

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    Why? Please add supporting information of how this answers the question.
    – livresque
    Feb 4, 2023 at 15:36
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I want to refer to everything substantive that an individual has brought to a discussion: not only the empirical evidence (such as demonstrations or references), but also the non-trivial theoretical points that they have made.

Quite simply these are "arguments"

Argument

OED

3.a. A statement or fact advanced for the purpose of influencing the mind; a reason urged in support of a proposition; spec. in Logic, the middle term in a syllogism. Also figurative.

c1405 (▸c1395) G. Chaucer Franklin's Tale (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 178 Clerkes wol seyn as hem leste By argumentz that al is for the beste.

c1790 T. Reid Let. in Wks. I. 81/2 It is a good argument ad hominem, against the scheme of Necessity held by Hume.

1865 J. B. Mozley 8 Lect. Miracles viii. 187 Anything is an argument which naturally and legitimately produces an effect upon our minds, and tends to make us think one way rather than another.

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You could call this a reason to believe something. Merriam-Webster defines "reason" in this sense as "a rational ground or motive" or "a sufficient ground of explanation or of logical defense."

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