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?