I ask my friend Mido, mostly in jest. It's a question I pull out when conversation gets philosophical or speculative, and I don't want to answer the questions at hand.
Usually, what I get is an eye-roll or a quick laugh, and move on from there to new, less difficult ground.
But Mido said "That's a good question." Which stopped me cold. Because it actually is. We didn't say anything more, just stopped for a moment and thought while the baklava we were making sat half-finished on the counter in front of us.
Then we shook ourselves back to the present and talked about holiday parties, college applications, and baking. The question has stayed with me all week.
Because hypothetical questions, like philosophy, aren't purely the speculative domain of armchair intellectuals and teenagers intent on showing their wit. We need philosophy because we need meaning, and we need hypothetical questions because we make choices, and almost every choice is based on an examination of multiple potential futures. Without hypothetical questions, how would we choose? How would we even know we had a choice?