If someone believes a certain set of ideas and/or principles is true, is it true this person will had to have had some 'real' (empirical, 'non-a-priori-established') evidence of some information in their past that at least tries to 'back-up' the set of ideas believed in?

The person would had to have experienced something outside their 'mentality' or points of view that they take as 'outside' justification for this set of ideas they later believe in. Even if the 'outside' real event is misinterpreted and the resulting mistaken conclusions are taken as justification, the belief set of ideas has to have some real event 'backing it up'.

One can not develop a set of beliefs that have no real events in the past that putatively back it up, even if wrongly. (This would be like an a priori 'established' set of ideas believed to be true yet many philosophers seem to be against the idea of a priori information.) So, is it true could one have a set of beliefs with no real empirical evidence (not even misinterpreted evidence) to back it up?

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    Greetings welcome to philosophy.se. Any chance you could reformat this using paragraphs and make clear exactly where the question is... ?
    – virmaior
    Jan 9, 2015 at 5:35

1 Answer 1


This is a tricky question because the human mind is so mind-numbingly interconnected that it is virtually impossible to show that any two thoughts in the mind are not related. So at that lowest level, no, it is impossible because every thought we have is tied to every other thought we have in a huge web.

However, I think there may be a class of beliefs which are almost independent of empirical evidence. There are beliefs where there is little to no evidence one way or the other, but the cost of not accepting or rejecting the belief outright is high. One can see this in a highly extreme stereotype in the movies. There are situations where someone is asked a question, and they don't have enough information to give an answer. In these movie plot situations, a gun is pointed at their head (physically or metaphorically), and they are told to decide one way or another. In order to have enough confidence to give an answer like this, they may be forced to believe one way or another before responding (otherwise the disbelief may be detected and the gun fired). In fact, after the event, they may begin inventing their own world, gathering fake evidence, just to defend the belief they were forced to accept in a traumatic situation.

Related, consider Stockholm Syndrome. To the best of my knowledge, in Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological capture of a victim by their captor occurs before there is empirical evidence to back it up. After this occurs, then the victim begins collecting empirical evidence to misrepresent, but as best as I can tell from my research, the belief occurs before the evidence.

  • Could one believe in a set of principles that are 'meant' to explain some other set of ideas and 'processes' yet the person has no real 'awareness' of any empirical evidence to 'back-up' these 'principles'? The person just 'accepts' the principles because they 'seem' reasonable ( under some interpretation) and/or they take various other peoples 'word' for it.
    – 201044
    Jan 10, 2015 at 5:54
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    Absolutely. I may have overemphasized the "no real empirical evidence." What you describe sounds like a 2nd order model, a model of the model of a process. I considered that to be empirical evidence and strove to find a case which did not fit that pattern. That's just definitions though, I think the case you describe happens all the time.
    – Cort Ammon
    Jan 10, 2015 at 23:01

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