Asked • 03/14/19

Why do some people care so much about "empirical truth"?

Whenever you discuss philosophy, inevitably you will come across a type of person who holds empirical truth above all else, and will blatantly ridicule any discussion which has its onset in a paradigm that emphasizes other aspects than just empirical evidence. Some famous examples are perhaps Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, two men who have built their fame on satire, mockery and insults, but when actually forced to address the philosophical nature of certain topics (primarily God) outside of their own comfortable paradigm of science, they have proven themselves to be quite inept at understanding the subtleties involved in the perspectives offered by their discussants. See e.g. Sam Harris vs William Craig in "the God Debate". However, what surprises me is the immense popularity of such behaviour and the number of people who ascribe to such a philosophy. I say surprise because, a fairly simple philosophical argument seems to break it apart quite easily: Empirical truth, although obviously very useful for empirical and practical matters such as physics and engineering, does not hold the same weight in philosophical discussions because by the very nature of philosophy, one is not bounded to the empirical world, and therefore what we call "empirical truth", could be neither truth nor empirical, at least not in the greater, philosophical sense. For example, does God exist? By the very nature of a discussion concerning God and the supernatural and the possibility of different realms of existence containing different levels of people, it stands to reason that empirical evidence acquired by a certain level of people in a certain realm has no say in the matter of the philosophical debate, it is a completely void and irrelevant contribution to the discussion. So why do people prioritise empirical truth so much in philosophy? As mentioned, it is a thing of beauty in science and other practical matters, but in philosophy, we aspire to discover a higher level of truth. Why do people think we can obtain this higher level of truth by employing something as basic as what the eyes of a human can see?

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