Suppose that there are evidentiary objects, objects that are evidence for things. For a horrible example, suppose that an unusually placed corpse might be evidence of foul play. Generally, per the SEP article on evidence:

When one compares philosophical accounts of evidence with the way the concept is often employed in non-philosophical contexts, however, a tension soon emerges. Consider first the kinds of things which non-philosophers are apt to count as evidence. For the forensics expert, evidence might consist of fingerprints on a gun, a bloodied knife, or a semen-stained dress: evidence is, paradigmatically, the kind of thing which one might place in a plastic bag and label ‘Exhibit A’. Thus, a criminal defense attorney might float the hypothesis that the evidence which seems to incriminate his client was planted by a corrupt law enforcement official or hope for it to be misplaced by a careless clerk. For an archaeologist, evidence is the sort of thing which one might dig up from the ground and carefully send back to one's laboratory for further analysis. Similarly, for the historian, evidence might consist of hitherto overlooked documents recently discovered in an archive or in an individual's personal library.[1] Reflection on examples such as these naturally suggests that evidence consists paradigmatically of physical objects, or perhaps, physical objects arranged in certain ways. For presumably, physical objects are the sort of thing which one might place in a plastic bag, dig up from the ground, send to a laboratory, or discover among the belongings of an individual of historical interest. [emphasis added]

Now, we might adopt a scheme of such objects:

  • _______ evidence is evidence for _______ objects.

For example:

  1. General evidence is evidence for general objects.
  2. Possible evidence is evidence for possible objects.
  3. Nonexistent evidence is evidence for nonexistent objects.
  4. Ordinary evidence is evidence for ordinary objects.

Then abstract evidence would be evidence for abstract objects, i.e. if there are abstract evidentiary objects, then there is evidence for abstract objects.

This scheme too naive to survive, for can we gerrymander the template so as to generate perverse factoids like, "Contradictory evidence is evidence for contradictory objects."

However, in the theory of abstract objects specifically, Zalta opens a neo-Meinongian door with the encoding stipulation. So if Zalta's theory were true, we should be able to stipulate that there are abstract objects that encode the property "is abstract evidence for abstract objects." This is still seemingly naive (as a matter of comprehension), for we should also be able to encode for "is an abstract object that is counterevidence for abstract objects," among other things. But is it as naive as the foregoing template?

  • This definition is at odds with the usual use of adjectives, we typically call evidence X-sy when it has property X, not when it is evidence for X. What is evidence for abstract objects? Intuitions, similarities between concrete objects, cogent theory of them (let's say). What do we gain from calling all of those "abstract" that would justify revising the common use of "abstract"? Btw, with your definition, there is nothing perverse about "contradictory evidence is evidence for contradictory objects", it is just a semantic tautology like "bachelors are unmarried men".
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 3:32
  • @Conifold I was trying to get at a sense that evidence for abstract objects would itself have the property of being abstract; then the perversity is that evidence for objects of any category would share the identifying property of the category, but this would lead us to be able to define evidence into existence for objects in suspicious categories. Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 3:57
  • It is rather common that evidence for objects with a property does not have the property and is not even an "object". Generally, what constitutes "evidence" is rather complex and background dependent (both observational and theoretical). There might be some such auto-evidentiary objects in a category (like autological words), or maybe even auto-evidentiary categories where all are (I can't think of one), but abstract objects is not one of them.
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 4:12

2 Answers 2


The scheme is too naive to survive and its application can yield false results. Also, it assumes that evidence is always an object, which is at least debatable.

The scheme is almost trivially true if you apply it in a circular way and assume that evidence is an object, because you can then interpret it as 'The existence of x object is evidence for the existence of x objects'.

If you don't interpret it in that circular way, then there are instances of the scheme which don't necessarily follow, such as those where the adjective to be supplied is:


Badly categorised




And so on.

Also, the scheme isn't universally applicable. Take an example such as the reading on my blood pressure device being evidence that I need to take more exercise, or the presence of a certain type of clay being evidence that diamonds may be found in alluvial silt- I can't see how the scheme could be meaningful or correct in all cases.


It doesn’t make any sense always. For example, worthless evidence is evidence for worthless objects , obviously the evidence can not be worthless but objects can.

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