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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P082-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

Article Summary

Evidence is a sign or indication of what is true.

Evidence is central to representing and investigating the world. It can justify beliefs, credences, and various other doxastic attitudes, such as suspecting that p. Evidence also legitimates emotions, decisions, and actions. A state might close a bridge, for example, based on evidence it is unstable. Evidence affects moral and legal matters, such as how we may permissibly treat people. Killing another person is usually legally and morally prohibited, for instance, but can be rendered permissible by compelling evidence that the person is an immediate serious threat to others. More mundanely, we might permissibly avoid a person, based on evidence they mistreat people. In addition to justifying beliefs, it also causes belief. It can be difficult to suspend judgement in the face of compelling evidence.

Evidence plays significant roles in interpersonal relationships, including assigning blame and resolving disputes. It is paramount in law, science, journalism, and medical practice; it structures scholarly pursuits, such as historical investigation. More prosaically, evidence is how humans, higher animals, and (perhaps) robots navigate their environment. It is indispensable to thought.

What kinds of things can be evidence? Candidates include facts, propositions, assertions, beliefs, knowledge, objects, states of affairs, and phenomenological experiences (§1). Pieces of evidence stand in intricate webs, with the overall epistemic force of a body of evidence depending on many interlocking factors (§2). Evidence can be undermined or reinforced by other evidence, and differing background knowledge licenses different inferences from a given piece of evidence. Evidence affects the justification of belief and other doxastic attitudes in various ways, and also influences epistemic practices, character, and institutions (§3).

Citing this article:
Gardiner, Georgi. Evidence, 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P082-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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