Monday, August 15, 2005

Real answers hypothetical questions

Is there such a thing as a real answer to a hypothetical question?
At first this seems like a ridiculous "of course there is" you may think.

But is that the case?

For example let’s say I made a simple proposal "If I was god the universe would be different" or if I wish to avoid religion "if I was you I would act differently"
But what exactly do I mean by "if I was you"? Do I mean if I looked like you? Or if I was standing where you are? This reflects the first problem with hypothetical it is almost impossible to properly define them. This means that almost any hypothetical you can describe will not have a clear answer.

This of course doesn’t mean that there is not an approximate answer or a real situation an example might be "if I work harder I will earn more" and that may be true largely becaue it so closely matches, and will be forced to match by the listener, real events. It may also have some potential for learning but there is no reason to believe this MUST be the case in every example. This means that hypotheticals are almost useless for “proving” anything no matter how hard moral philosophers try. It is quite possible that there is no answer at all to the hypothetical even though there is no clear reason why it is impossible. Or the hypothetical might imply something that is not true.

A further argument relies on the fact that most hypothetical have not happened for a reason. Thus to raise the hypothetical is like writing an equation with an error in it and trying to solve it for an answer for example
x = x+1
x = -x
As soon as there is ANY error at all in the equation there ceases to be a real answer to the equation. Similarly as soon as there is an error in a hypothetical there ceases to be a real answer to the hypothetical. Furthermore it should be possiuble to prove almost anything with a hypothetical (although certain hypotheticals will be rejected intutively by people when htey recognise the flaws that exist in it).

The fact that it is a hypothetical as opposed to describing a real current or future event implies and according to some may well insure that it has no "real" answer.

3 Comments:

Blogger Crunchy Weta said...

Can there be a "real" question..
The fact that it is a hypothetical as opposed to describing a real current or future event implies and according to some may well insure that it has no "real" answer.
So let me see, how can a question ask about a current event? Surely that particular moment in time will have passed before the question can even be presented.
Secondly, what is the difference between a hypothetical question and a " real future event'?

3:52 PM  
Blogger Genius said...

Well in part the assertion is philosophical -

You cant know if your question is valid. BUT obviously you can be very confident it is valid - for example if I said "what if the current government won the election - what would their policies be?" The conclusion would make sense. But if I was to do what a lot of philosophers do and say "how many angels can sit on the head of a pin" it would make alot less sense (since as far as I know angels dont sit on pins).

Hypotheticals of various worth lie in a continum between those that directly reflect reality and those that are entirely detached from it.

1:50 AM  
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9:16 AM  

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