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.

  • Argument covers both: "Your arguments against raising taxes..." – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 15 '14 at 17:54
  • Theory? Hypothesis? Logic? Argument? Supposition? Instinct? Gut feel? – WS2 Nov 15 '14 at 18:02
  • How about proof? – Reto Koradi Nov 15 '14 at 18:30
  • Subjective probability ? – Aluna Nov 15 '14 at 18:34
  • Allegation? - an assertion made with little or no proof. [TFD] – 0.. Nov 15 '14 at 20:01

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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