When someone presents a hypothetical on any given topic, you have two choices – to engage or not. If you choose to engage, it is my view you have a responsibility to engage with the given hypothetical in good faith. Here is what that means to me.
1. Take it at face value; accept the hypothetical as stated. In asserting a hypothetical, no one is necessarily saying it is true. You don’t need to like it, believe in it, or continue to engage with it five minutes in the future. Hypotheticals are thought experiments, and the person who presented it likely has a point they hope to get to or convey. It is best if everyone can be helpful and engage with what is given to aid the presenter in getting somewhere with the conversation.
2. Don’t try to alter or deviate from the hypothetical until it has been exhausted or until the conversation naturally shifts without rebuttal. The person who proposed the hypothetical stated it as such for a reason. It is not your duty to alter the conversation to suit yourself. Honor the person who had a reason to raise it. If you have questions, ask for clarification. If you have objections, try to work through what was presented first or mute yourself and simply listen. When the conversation lulls or ends, you can raise your objections and rationale.
3. You might learn something. If you challenge yourself to look outside of your typical framework, you might find faults in your own logic or clarify your stance. Even if your views don’t change, you may better understand someone else’s. You have nothing to lose by “playing pretend” with a thought for a few minutes.
Lastly, if you are not going to engage with the hypothetical in good faith and/or are not going to make an effort to put yourself in the thought experiment, disengage. Fighting the conversation benefits no one. You can state reenter the conversation later, but grant others the chance to work with the idea at hand.