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"I don't answer hypothetical question/situations"

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You're trying to make a point by using an imagined situation, but the other person cuts you off as if that is an inferior way of arguing, telling you that they don't answer hypothetical questions/ take hypothetical situations seriously.

 

Where does this stem from? I've heard people say it before, but have never understood it.

Is it just  a way to stop debate and prevent someone from making a good point?

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You're trying to make a point by using an imagined situation, but the other person cuts you off as if that is an inferior way of arguing, telling you that they don't answer hypothetical questions/ take hypothetical situations seriously.

 

Where does this stem from? I've heard people say it before, but have never understood it.

Is it just  a way to stop debate and prevent someone from making a good point?

Here's some examples of hypotheticals:

1. A person gets hit by a car.

2. Someone is living alone on a desert island and has a pet rhino.

3. Someone is living alone on a desert island and has a pet rhino who can talk.

The first hypothetical can be used to make a good point. People do get hit by cars, and you could just find an actual example, but that would take time. It's not unreasonable to ask the person you're debating to simply accept that you could find an actual example, and proceed as if you did.

The second and third hypothetical are not a part of our reality. If you define a good point as useful insight into the nature of reality, then there is no good points to be made using either scenario. Even though the second one could happen, the fact that it DOESN'T happen is enough to make it useless as far as insight into reality goes.

I am one of those people who would dismiss any hypotheticals that involve any deserted islands, or trains diverted onto people tied to the track, or anything like that, because they're always a sign that no good points will follow.

Edited by Nicky

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So as you're not talking about impossible situations or situations that are so distant from reality even though they might be remotely possible, there's no reason why a hypothetical should be dismissed from an argument?

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May I inquire as to the nature of the hypothetical question? For example, does it involve traveling back in time? Or the creation of entire societies of a hypothetical nature, rather than a few alterations of our know society?

Edited by Repairman

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So as you're not talking about impossible situations or situations that are so distant from reality even though they might be remotely possible, there's no reason why a hypothetical should be dismissed from an argument?

All I said was that if a hypothetical is in every relevant way identical to real events, then there is no reason to dismiss it. If it's not, then it doesn't belong in a debate.

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I think there could be value to a hypothetical if it is more simple than reality could ever possibly be. Such as a physicist considering when two perfectly rigid, perfectly elastic spheres collide in outer space.

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Maybe a way to think of it is: if a hypothetical can get to the essence more clearly, it is useful, and if it makes things even less clear and more complicated, it should be thrown out.

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I haven't met anybody who'd dismiss hypotheticals openly but one reason I can think of is that they don't allow for nitpicking.

 

When arguing about something I use hypothetical examples, as JASKN said, to get to the essense. So I try to keep is simple and constrained to the bare essentials. People usually agree first, and then they try to create a 27 ninjas situation (http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/WIMS.htm) by modifying my example. When I point that out I am told I'd be right in my ideal world, but in the real world one can't dismiss the possibility of being attacked by 27 ninjas with UZIs.

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