As I was writing my question I realized what I believe to be the correct answer and wanted to share it just in case someone else was wondering this step in Paxos, or maybe correct it if its not 100% correct (or clear).
Recall that, in Paxos, the actual goal is to achieve some consensus (agreement) on some value. The actual value is not very important as long as its from the valid set of values. However, we only care that our protocol somehow achieves some agreement. Thus, if we are a proposer and want to propose a value, what we really care is that some value is agreed amongst the processes participating in the protocol (since that the goal of a consensus algorithm, that some valid value is accepted). If for some reason, we were desperate for our value to be accepted at some point, we could eventually re-run a different instance of Paxos later (or more instances of Paxos until that value is chosen), so its ok to try to suggest the value later (to a different paxos instance) if we really need to (but that will be a different set of rounds of Paxos, starting with round zero and doing Paxos all over again). Its crucial to understand that suggesting the value to the same paxos instance is pointless since the point is that once paxos reaches consensus, that it sticks to it. We have to run paxos for a different set of values if we want our value to still be decided at some point.
But, the point of the step that "acceptors respond with the highest-numbered proposal that the current acceptor has seen", is to guarantee that if a value in the past (with lower sequence number) had been ratified, then why complicate agreement by considering a different value? It's easier to eventually agree at some value if we just keep that ratified value instead. Furthermore, and the more important reason is, imagine if we decided to discard the value we had ratified previously and instead ratify the new incoming one. Well, if we did that and update our state it could be very bad, because, one important property we wish our algorithm to have is, "once an agreement by majority has been reached, we wish it to be impossible for our system to change its mind" (because consensus has occurred already, so a change in mind is completely unnecessary). If we take this new (wrong) approach I have suggested, then that property could not hold. However, if instead, we always just respond with the highest ratified value, then the proposer on the other side is bound to learn the chosen value, if one has been chosen (if he queries some majority). Thus, the safe thing to do is, just send the proposer the current ratified value with the highest sequence number, that way, if a value was chosen, then the system is not able to change its mind if a consensus occurred (since its not necessary for it to change its mind since some value has already been accepted by some majority!). The whole point of consensus means that we agree on something, so changing the value can be viewed as breaking consensus.