Here’s an epistemic excellence some people have. They can, on the basis of the slimmest of evidence, figure out what is going on in a situation. The kind of situation where I notice this the most is in social situations, but it can happen in other situations as well. A former colleague, Bob Burch, said that while in grad school, they’d play a game where everyone got to read the first two sentences of a paper in a journal and then predict what the paper would do on that basis. Some people can do this very well; Bob is one of those people. Others can apparently read people’s motives in the same way, employing what is apparently only the slimmest of evidence to unearth the truth. Good detective novels seem to have characters chock-full of this ability.
Call such an ability “discernment” (and don’t worry too much about the ordinary language connotations of the term, if you think they call into question calling the above ability by this name). I don’t bring up such cases as an objection to evidentialism, though others may wish to take it in that direction. I bring it up simply because it is such an interesting ability. But if there is a problem here for any particular view in epistemology, we’d first have to know what we should say about such discernment. Does it result in rational beliefs? Does it yield knowledge? Is the ability explicable in terms of additional background information possessed by the discerning, or in terms of some special capacity to access the right kind of background information in the relevant circumstances?