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Do you have the slightest clue what hypotheticals and stipulations are?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Fifty, Jul 15, 2008.

  1. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Hi! This thread is where you can figure out whether you have the slightest clue what hypotheticals and stipulations are, what their rhetorical function is, and how to use them properly and improperly. I hope to generate some discussion, but I also hope that this post can be linked-to when someone makes themselves look stupid by failing to understand very very basic facts about hypotheticals.

    The following situation seems all too common on OT:

    Threadstarter: If you had an apple, and orange, and a pear, and you could only eat them one at a time, and you could not season them in any way, which would you eat first?

    Poster 1: I'd get a watermelon!

    Poster 2: I'd eat them all at once!

    Poster 3: I'd put the apple in a pie and eat it that way!

    Poster 4: Threadstarter, I can see through your stupid incoherent strawman arguments. I refuse to answer this hypothetical, and we all know how you feel about abortion anyways!

    Poster 5: This is totally unrealistic. Why would I have those three fruits? Why can I only eat them one at a time? Why can't I season them? Sorry but in the real world it just doesn't happen this way, so I refuse to answer.


    Each of these answers demonstrates a profound and mind-numbing inability to understand the basic function of hypothetical cases.

    Posters 1-3 don't understand the role of stipulations in hypotheticals. A stipulation is designed to hold some variable constant, so that you can get to the heart of the issue that you intend to explore. In our example, the threadstarter, perhaps, wants to see which of those three fruits OTers would prefer to eat first. He does not want to know what fruit tastes best when properly seasoned, so he stipulates that seasoning is not relevant to the choice. When you ignore a stipulation, you are doing something that both destroys the point of the hypothetical, and makes you look stupid.

    Poster 4 is confusing a hypothetical case with an argument of a certain form. Being a strawman is a property of an argument, not of a hypothetical case. Hypothetical cases are not arguments. It is impossible for them to commit a fallacy, or be strawmen, or be right or wrong or true or false. What poster 4 thinks he is doing is heading off the threadstarter at the pass. He predicts that the threadstarter will use the results of the hypothetical in the following sort of argument:

    1. Your position on issue x is A.
    2. Your position on hypothetical p is B.
    3. Issue x is relevantly similar to hypothetical p.
    4. Position A and Position B conflict with one-another.
    5. Therefore, you ought to either take position B on issue x, or position A on hypothetical p.

    If Poster 4 thinks this is happening, there are two things he could do that wouldn't making himself look stupid. The best thing he could do is WAIT UNTIL THE FREAKING THREADSTARTER ACTUALLY MAKES THAT ARGUMENT TO CRITICIZE IT. If he just can't contain himself, though, he could explain his answer to the hypothetical, then explain to the threadstarter that he feels that the threadstarter intends to make the above argument, then explain why some premise of that argument is false (his quarrel will probably be with premise 3). Poster 4 should not just scream and yell and refuse to answer the hypothetical: doing so makes him look stupid.

    Poster 5 fails to grasp the basic, obvious fact that HYPOTHETICALS DO NOT HAVE TO BE REALISTIC. Of course, everybody knows this. Nobody, for instance, would refuse to answer the following hypotheticals because they are unrealistic:

    If you had a 6 foot vertical leap, what would be the first thing you'd jump over?

    If a genie gave you the choice of being a professional basketball player, or a world-class concert violinist, which would you choose?

    Obviously, these are unrealistic scenarios. That does not mean that we can't answer them, though! Hypotheticals are often unrealistic, because they often intend to isolate issues that are rarely isolated in real life. When you refuse to answer a hypothetical on the grounds that it is unrealistic, it makes you look stupid. There is a legitimate way, however, to argue over the realistic-ness of a hypothetical. You could, legitimately, say that the hypothetical is so unrealistic that you have no idea what you would do in the situation hypothesized. That would probably be a proper response to the following hypothetical, for instance:

    If you were omniscient and immortal, would you rather think about blueberries or raspberries on April 25th, 2500?

    It would be legitimate, in this situation, to say that you simply can't answer the hypothetical, because it is so far removed from your cognitive life that you have no idea what you'd do. Very few rhetorically useful hypotheticals will actually be like this though, and unless you want to make yourself look stupid, you should surely explain why the hypothetical is viciously unrealistic.


    That's all for now!

    Discussion points:

    1. Did you have the slightest clue what hypotheticals and stipulations were before this thread?
    2. Do you have said clue now?
    3. Did I miss anything?
    4. Do you disagree with anything I've said?
    5. What % of people who opened this thread do you suppose read the whole thing?
    6. How few responses will this thread get before it sinks to page 2 oblivion?
    7. Should "misuse of hypotheticals" be added to my previous thread on Most Annoying Argument Tactics?
    8. Does anyone have any speculation as to why otherwise rhetorically literate people so often make themselves look stupid when it comes to hypotheticals? Is it that they see, but do not want to face, their own inconsistency on some other issue?
    9. Any typos or thinkos?
    10. Anything else?
     
  2. Red Door

    Red Door Man of Mayhem

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    1. I had a slight clue, but not very much of one.
    2. I do now.
    3. I don't know.
    4. No.
    5. 25%
    6. 5 or 6
    7. Yes.
    8. Because they're stupid.
    9. No, I don't read good.
    10. Have my babies?
     
  3. Tycoon101

    Tycoon101 Loves being STRONG

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    1. Yes
    2. Yessir
    3. Not that I can think of
    4. Not in the slightest!
    5. 10%, because of mental defect.
    6. 15 or so, but I'll definitely link to it in my siggy!
    7. Yes, it should.
    8. Because they ARE stupid.
    9. Not that I can see.
    10. I freaking love you, fifty!
     
  4. philippe

    philippe FYI, I chase trains.

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    1: A bit, but i don't like them being used all the time, and i react like poster 5 just becuase you can make some hypothetical you almost can't disagree on and you feel forced to take a point you do not want.
    2: a bit more
    3: erik will add some stuff i guess
    4: You're Fifty, of course I can't disagree or I will find a horses head in my bed.
    5: considering how OT is these days, I'll say 206 viewers, 29 posts, and perhaps one infraction becuase someone said something stupid and you couldn't control yourself.
    6:answered in 5
    7: do it, and I'll watch out not to make myself look like an idiot when Erik comes along and bring some "sciency" hypothetical to annoy me becuase I'm so dumb.
    8: perhaps, or poeple just can be stupid too or "rebellious" I myself am a mix of three former ones.
    9: I'm a foreigner, not my job, want a taco?
    10: Hypotheticals are annoying little thingies and most poeple who make them should be hanged, drawn and quartered.
     
  5. Defiant47

    Defiant47 Peace Sentinel

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    :clap::goodjob:

    ...is all I have to say.

    I'm also going to provide a link to this thread to every thread I start that includes a hypothetical (if that's alright with you).
     
  6. brennan

    brennan Argumentative Brit

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    AFAIK people are free to answer in whatever manner they see fit, whether of not it fits the purpose the OP had in mind - so long as the answer is OT of course. To assume this demonstrates a lack of understanding of the OP is, uh, unnecessary.

    And threads about people who make themselves look stupid are trolls, no?
     
  7. Gogf

    Gogf Indescribable

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    Yes.

    Yes.

    Not as far as I know.

    No.

    25%

    I'd say about twenty.

    Yes.

    Well, I've done the "this isn't realistic so I refuse to answer" thing before. I guess the attitude is that if you ask a really stupid and obnoxious question that will never appear in real life (if you had to kill someone or rape them, which would you rather do?) they just don't deserve a response. Most of these questions seem to arise from people who see a hypothetical thread that's supposed to be similar to some sort of real-world political question, and then decide they're gonna make a similar hypothetical question that no longer has any basis in the real world whatsoever.

    No.

    No!
     
  8. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Of course they are free to answer however they want. My thread is a guide for people who want to both answer how they want and answer without looking stupid.
     
  9. JollyRoger

    JollyRoger Slippin' Jimmy Supporter

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    Can I name the apple Fiona?
     
  10. Defiant47

    Defiant47 Peace Sentinel

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    Just a side-note:

    Obviously random answers are acceptable when there is an "Other" option, especially if it asks you to specify.
     
  11. Ansar

    Ansar Détente avec l'été

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    Hypotheticals, yes. Stipulations, no.
    Yes.
    Not that I can think of.
    Not really.
    50%, but a smaller percentage will actually care about it.
    20 posts (at least, that's how it is for most people)
    Yes.
    Nah, they just want to be funny (or think they are).
    N/A
    See you in #fiftychat! :)
     
  12. brennan

    brennan Argumentative Brit

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    Ah, you mean this is an idiot's guide to responding to questions without annoying Fifty.

    Great.
     
  13. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    No, they aren't. I didn't cite any posters or actual threads as examples, and I never said that the people who use them are stupid. I think most people would agree that exhibiting a wildly incorrect understanding of a certain rhetorical tool makes one look stupid, and that most people would want to avoid that state of affairs. Furthermore, I welcome any and all disagreement over my points, if anyone in fact disagrees with them.
     
  14. Ayatollah So

    Ayatollah So the spoof'll set you free

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    Who was it that said "Civfanatics - where hypothetical questions go to die" :lol:

    4. No, I don't disagree with anything you've said.
    3. Here's something worth mentioning: it often makes good sense to say "this hypothetical question would have been a lot more interesting if we changed the part that says ... to say instead ...".
     
  15. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    No, its an idiot's guide to responding to questions properly. You would agree, wouldn't you, that, say, begging the question, or using a strawman, or arguing on the basis of personal attacks, or whatever, are intellectually bad things to do. This is another of those things. Its not as if its merely my opinion or my preference that, say, Poster 4 is doing something wrong, it is a fact, in the same general sense that an ad hominem is an informal fallacy. That is to say, one can (i.e. they physically can without violating the laws of nature) make an arguemnt ad hominem, but they can't do it while being intellectually honest, or persuasive, or rational, or whatever.

    I mean, do you actually disagree with anything I've said, or are you just being contrary for the heck of it?
     
  16. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    To sum up, I am well aware of what hypotheticals and stipulations are, and I try to answer the OP honestly in such threads; but I find it more constructive, usually, to try and discuss how real world circumstances would change my answer.
     
  17. Masquerouge

    Masquerouge Chieftain

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    Seems to me than more often that not, posters like 1, 2 and 3 are trying to be smart by giving an unique answer. Nothing to do with knowing what hypotheticals and stipulations are.

    Plus, I remember here a certain poster who advertised in his sig the proper way to answer a multiple-choice poll...
     
  18. brennan

    brennan Argumentative Brit

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    Well for a start I disagree with the rather odd assumption that people who answer the way they want to are stupid. It is only stupid to do this on an exam paper. Politicians make careers out of responding to questions in precisely the manner they want to, are they all necessarily stupid? (ok i'll grant you GWB.)
     
  19. IglooDude

    IglooDude Enforcing Rule 34 Retired Moderator

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    That was me. :D

    And while I'd generally concur with the OP, it's a waste of perfectly good keyboard input given that the folks that "mis-respond" to hypothetical question threads either are deliberately ricocheting off the particular given hypothetical framework or aren't much likely to read and remember the OP's guidance in the first place.
     
  20. Cheezy the Wiz

    Cheezy the Wiz Socialist In A Hurry

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    "You must be the change you wish to see in the OT" - Mahatma Fifty :love:
     

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