Many (all?) Stack Exchange sites include an off-topic question category that reads:

you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”

I read this as referring specifically to questions that set up a hypothetical scenario, but don't ask about any specific result from that scenario, as opposed to referring to hypothetical questions in general.

(1) "What sort of results would result if _?" fits this bill.

(2) "Suppose that _. In this scenario would _ result?" does not fit this bill. Although it sets up a hypothetical scenario, it is not open-ended, since it asks about one specific result.

Is this a correct reading of this rule?

  • Of course, option (2) may run afoul of other off-topicnesses, but it doesn't seem to me that it violates this one.
    – Him
    Sep 13, 2019 at 17:54
  • 2
    Most sites want practical, concrete problems their asker's are experiencing. If you only have a hypothetical, then chances are good there are not enough details to properly answer it in the first place.
    – fbueckert
    Sep 13, 2019 at 19:39
  • 1
    An easy example of open-ended, hypothetical question (and also Primarily Opinion-Based) from Anime.SE: "Goku vs. Luffy, who would win?" While this is a fun question to ponder, unless this really happens in official works, everything could happen depending on the poster's imagination and nothing came useful from any of the answers. Pick one: Goku won, Luffy won, both tied. Every answer is too subjective and possible... Sep 15, 2019 at 13:42
  • @MetaAndrewT. this is interesting... I guess "asks about one specific result" is insufficient to distinguish open-endedness or not. I am more attuned to the science-y stack exchange sites where hypotheticals can be a necessity, but it's usually fine if your question is focused. Probably the site that gets it the most is physics where hypothetical situations are almost a norm (nobody is actually experiencing a practical, concrete problem with a black hole).
    – Him
    Sep 16, 2019 at 14:43
  • @Scott note that some sites have an explicit policy about hypothetical questions, like on Meta Physics.SE, though you're probably mixing "hypothetical" with "theoretical". Sep 16, 2019 at 15:01
  • @MetaAndrewT. in scientific parlance the difference between the two terms is nuanced. Your linked question specifically asks about "questions about situations that can't happen in the first place." [emphasis mine] On the other hand many physics questions are "questions about situations that could happen, but not in any practical sense." e.g., and are therefore still, in some very real sense, hypothetical.
    – Him
    Sep 16, 2019 at 17:42
  • @MetaAndrewT. But your link definitely shows that there is some odious type of question out there. I'm simply trying to pinpoint what that exact quality is.
    – Him
    Sep 16, 2019 at 17:45


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