Foundational Evidentialism and the Problem of Scatter

Abstracta 3 (2):89-106 (2007)
Ted Poston
University of Alabama
This paper addresses the scatter problem for foundational evidentialism. Reflection on the scatter problem uncovers significant epistemological lessons. The scatter problem is evaluated in connection with Ernest Sosa’s use of the problem as an argument against foundational evidentialism. Sosa’s strategy is to consider a strong intuition in favor of internalism—the new evil demon problem, and then illustrate how a foundational evidentialist account of the new evil demon problem succumbs to the scatter problem. The goal in this paper is to evaluate the force of the scatter problem. The main argument of the paper is that the scatter problem has mixed success. On the one hand, scatter undermines objectual evidentialism, an evidentialist theory that formulates principles of basic perceptual justification in terms of the objects of perceptual states. On the other hand, the problem of scatter does not undermine content evidentialism, an evidentialist view that formulates its epistemic principles in terms of the assertive content of perceptual states. The significance of the scatter problem, especially in concert with the new evil demon problem, is that it provides an argument for content evidentialism.
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