I have a question about empiricism. If I was an empiricist how would I know that the country of New Zealand exist if I had never been there to experience it with my senses? I have seen it on tv, movies, and read about it, but that would only tell me that those movies, tv programs, and books exist, not that the country they show or describe do. It would seem to be the same as saying since I've seen middle earth on tv, movies, and read about it, then it must exist. How would an empiricist answer this?

I think the simplest answer is this: empiricists think beliefs about matters of fact should be grounded in empirical evidence; they don't think the evidence always has to be direct. I've never been to New Zealand, but I have a considerable amount of indirect empirical evidence that it exists. To take just one bit of that evidence: people whom I know to be otherwise reliable and honest tell me they've been there.

On the other hand, I don't even have indirect evidence that Middle Earth exists. What I have is evidence for is that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote stories about a fictional place called Middle Earth, which neither he nor anyone else claimed was real.

The (small) larger point is this: the one-word name of a view is not always the best way to figure out what the view actually comes to. Very few, if any, self-described empiricists have said that evidence always has to be direct to be relevant.

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