They get tossed around alot in Ethics, and are often used as a kind of proof. Plato and Descartes seem overly fond of them as well, probably a boatload of well known philosophers have used them for various purposes…

My question is, do they really prove anything, or are they some kind of extended metaphor, or something else entirely? One could argue religion as being hypothetical, and point to its proof in its ‘resonance’ with believers.

Or is it unfair to pretend some objective relationship as possibly being shared with a subjective construct?

Thought? Opinions?

pretend situations using pretend rules answering to pretend gods…

make believe doesn’t get much more objective or real


I love the one that people talk about from Quine with the Xeno-anthopologist trying to understand the utterance that might signify “rabbit.”

Hypotheticals usually create a marvelous anecdote. It’s a quick and emotionally pleasing way to present an abstract idea. It might be considered as something of an appeal to common sense. A hypothetical adds a bit of humanity to an otherwise dry concept.

It is pleasing but is it good for us? I think it can be beneficial in illustrating a principle. It can make the obscure more salient.

Also your audience is a factor. For a concrete thinker some hoity-toity abstraction is going to register as insignificant gibberish. They need to know what practical difference it makes.