Some people can't think of any hypothetical 'what if' situations. They always ask for real life examples. Real life example don't always match with hypothetical scenarios. Then the conversation gets ruined.

How to teach them about hypothetical situations?

Most importantly, how to deal with them?

  • Can you be a bit more specific (real life example ;-P) -- I find it hard to believe anyone can't think of any hypotheticals. E.g. What if you found yourself in a tank full of sharks?
    – Annika
    Apr 5 at 20:48
  • In general facing real people in real life, why are you trying to teach them based on hypothetical 'what if' situations? Lots of fraud schemes are based on nice fool proof sounding hypotheticals, perhaps except idealized mathematics and theories, contemporary people are naturally and rightfully skeptical of arbitrary non real life hypothetical examples... Apr 5 at 20:55
  • It's usually a good idea to have real world examples of a hypothetical idea. People don't need to be taught about hypotheticals, mostly everyone knows what a fictional story is and is capable of understanding the idea of a hypothetical scenario. If you are making an argument based on a hypothetical, then it makes sense to ask for a example of such a hypothetical- because if you base a argument on an impossible hypothetical-you haven't really demonstrated anything of interest. If 1 = 0, then I am a Donkey. Apr 5 at 21:46
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    @Michael Carey, instead of trying to prove 'I am a donkey' from that, you can prove other things that is more 'imply-able'. I am yet to find if 1=0 leads to anything useful, but this type of thinking gave birth to modulo operations in mathematics. By thinking about 2=0, you get binary number system. By thinking about 8=0, you get base-8 number system.
    – Kawrno
    Apr 6 at 6:58
  • Which ppl? Which scenarios? This is too hypothetical a question on hypotheticals!
    – Rushi
    Apr 6 at 7:27

1 Answer 1


the difficulty/inability of some people with hypothetical reasoning is not much a matter of philosophy as it is of psychology and cognition, and there's a bit of research about it, from the super classic wason test detecting some such difficulties and companion studies on relevance of context to more recent ones on the relationship between the subset of counterfactual reasoning and certain cognitive processes, but it's all rather complicated, so i wouldn't get my hopes up for a 'recipe' to teach anyone how to do it...

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