Sometimes there are questions where someone asks

Is this thing that I just described possible/plausible/credible?

For example: No hunger cry from birth, is it plausible?

The big problem for questions like this is that the answer is often one big rhetorical shrug along the lines of...

Yeah, sure, why wouldn't it be?

This is rather unsatisfactory and leaves the questioner hanging.

Ask the complement question

Most often questions like these are a case where it is easier to find out if it is not possible/plausible/credible; where the complement is easier to suss than the original.

  • The complement of "possible" is "impossible".
  • The complement of "plausible" is "implausible".
  • The complement of "credible" is "incredible"

Hence when someone asks: "Is this possible", ask yourself or the poster "Is it impossible?". If the answer to the complement-question is "No, this is not impossible", then the answer to the original question is "Yes, it is possible".

If however there are any showstoppers, that does make the thing in question impossible (there rarely are), say what these showstoppers are, so that the author can work around them.

Same with "Is this implausible?" If no, congrats, the concept works. If "yes", for what reason is it implausible?

Same with "Is this incredible?". If no, proceed with the writing. If yes, explain why this will put a strain on their reader's Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

  • $\begingroup$ The best way about it is to have some measure of details or knowledge on the matter at hand: your question is either like a lens or like a beacon. The lens will see better answers, though the beacon may attract more attention. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 10:30
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    $\begingroup$ What's the question here? If you want to propose a solution to what you feel is an issue, please post a question and a self-answer. That way, if the question is phrased appropriately, we can both argue that it isn't a problem, as well as propose alternative solutions. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 9:56

1 Answer 1


I fail to see how that makes any difference in the big rhetorical shrug. For example:

I want a world in which the reflecting telescope was invented in 500 BC, and they developed very advanced astronomy, saw all the planets, studied the sun, mapped stars we cannot see with the naked eye, and so on. Is that possible?

Answer #1 Sure, it's possible. Metal mirrors existed in 2000 BC, the first known glass mirrors in 100 AD. The mirror technology doesn't depend very much on previous scientific insights and could easily have been discovered 600 years earlier. The reflecting telescope is clever, but if an intellect like Newton, that taught himself all about optics, lenses and mirrors, had been a prince of some rich castle in 500 BC, with money, resources and curiosity to play: Why not?

Answer #2 It isn't impossible. [then same text as above, or a rhetorical shrug.]

I fail to see what contribution this makes or what question you are asking.

It seems more like you are trying to define an instruction manual for answering questions. If that is the case, this may be a mental trick that helps you in your thinking, but I don't see it as generally applicable.


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