I’ve just notices Julian Baggini’s piece about hypothetical questions over at Butterflies and Wheels . Baggini observes the politicians often bat away questions they don’t want to answer by observing that the point is hypothetical. This is a disgraceful move by politicians, but its televisual ubiquity means that many people now seem to believe that hypothetical questions are, by their very nature, illegitimate. And bad though this belief is among the general public, it now seems to be spreading among philosophy undergraduates who don’t seem to appreciate that their subject would be impossible without such questions. I first noticed this phenomenon a few years ago, when sitting-in on a lecture my then-colleague Patrick Greenough. Patrick was running through some Gettier problems and had reached a familiar example involving a dog cunningly disguised as a sheep in a field (a real sheep being just out of sight behind a fold in the land). When Patrick asked whether the observer of the dog knows there is a sheep in the field, a hand went up in the audience: “Excuse me, isn’t that a hypothetical question?” Doh!