Thought Experiments in the Law

37 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2022

See all articles by R. George Wright

R. George Wright

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Date Written: September 9, 2022


Our responses to thought experiments inform our understanding of, and our normative beliefs about, the law. Such thought experiments may involve, for example, the use of interrogational torture in the context of great public danger; desperately trapped amateur cave explorers; runaway trolleys, and other such scenarios. Law students and appellate advocates are invariably counseled, understandably, to accept, and thus not to fight, a posed hypothetical. As it turns out, though, for reasons explored herein, failing to intelligently fight the hypothetical at any point is generally a serious mistake.

Keywords: thought experiments, hypotheticals, torture cave explorers, Lon Fuller, trolley problem, habit, virtue

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Wright, R. George, Thought Experiments in the Law (September 9, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

R. George Wright (Contact Author)

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law ( email )

530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

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