# begging the question

## Information about begging the question

In logic, begging the question describes a type of logical fallacy, petitio principii, in which the conclusion of an argument is implicitly or explicitly assumed in one of the premises.[1] Stephen Barker explains the fallacy in The Elements of Logic: "If the premises are related to the conclusion in such an intimate way that the speaker and listeners could not have less reason to doubt the premise than they have to doubt the conclusion, then the argument is worthless as a proof, even though the link between premises and conclusion may have the most cast-iron rigor".[1] In other words, the argument fails to prove anything because it takes for granted what it is supposed to prove.

Begging the question is related to the fallacy known as circular argument, circulus in probando, vicious circle or circular reasoning. As a concept in logic the first known definition in the West is by the Greek philosopher Aristotle around 350 B.C., in the Prior Analytics.

Outside of logic, "begs the question" is commonly used to mean "raises the question," i.e., "begs the question be asked"—using a more common sense of the word , rather than the rarer sense "assume without proof" that the technical term uses.[1]

## History

The term was translated into English from the Latin in the 16th century. The Latin version, Petitio Principii (petitio: seeking, petition, request; principii, genitive of principium: beginning, basis, premise of an argument), literally means "a request for the beginning or premise." That is, the premise depends on the truth of the very matter in question.

The Latin phrase comes from the Greek εν αρχή αιτείσθαι (en archei aiteisthai) in Aristotle's Prior Analytics II xvi:
"Begging or assuming the point at issue consists (to take the expression in its widest sense) in failing to demonstrate the required proposition. But there are several other ways in which this may happen; for example, if the argument has not taken syllogistic form at all, he may argue from premises which are less known or equally unknown, or he may establish the antecedent by means of its consequents; for demonstration proceeds from what is more certain and is prior. Now begging the question is none of these. [...] If, however, the relation of B to C is such that they are identical, or that they are clearly convertible, or that one applies to the other, then he is begging the point at issue.... [B]egging the question is proving what is not self-evident by means of itself ... either because predicates which are identical belong to the same subject, or because the same predicate belongs to subjects which are identical."

Fowler's Deductive Logic (1887) argues that the Latin origin is more properly Petitio Quæsiti which is literally "begging the question" as opposed to "petitioning the premise."

A generalization, assuming a point at a(n) issue(s).

## Examples

As noted by Simon Blackburn in A Dictionary of Philosophy, describing something as "begging the question" can be problematic because such arguments are logically valid. That is, the conclusion does in fact follow from the premises, since it is already contained in the premises. All circular arguments have this characteristic: the proposition to be proved is assumed at some point in the argument. This is why begging the question was classified as a material fallacy rather than a logical fallacy by Aristotle and, similarly, is classified as an informal fallacy today. For one person, to whom the premises obviously contain the conclusion, an argument might beg the question, but for many people the connection may not be so apparent and thus the argument might be enlightening. Only in the case where the premises formally contain the conclusion can a case of begging the question be definitively be said to arise.

Consider the following: X is a computer because it correctly performs mathematical operations. To someone who knows the usual meaning of the word "computer", such an argument appears to beg the question; however, to someone who does not understand how the word computer is usually used, it does not. Absent some formal definition of the word "computer", whether or not the argument begs the question cannot be settled.

## Variations

In a related sense, the phrase is occasionally used to mean "avoiding the question." Those who use this variation are explaining that the argument lacks a premise, and they have missed the self-circularity of the argument because of it.

Fowler's Modern English Usage classifies begging the question in a somewhat different fashion (from, for example, the meanings from Merriam-Webster, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the American Heritage Dictionary). Fowler's states that it is "[t]he fallacy of founding a conclusion on a basis that as much needs to be proved as the conclusion itself." This is more commonly known as the fallacy of many questions.

## Related fallacies

Though "begging the question" and "circular reasoning" are often used interchangeably, some textbooks maintain that this is not quite correct in the strictest sense. In this view there is the following difference between them: Circular Reasoning is the basing of two conclusions each upon the other (possibly with one or more intermediate steps). That is, if you follow a chain of arguments, the conclusion of some argument is used as a premise in one of the earlier arguments that eventually led to that conclusion. Begging the question can occur within one argument; on this understanding, begging the question occurs if and only if the conclusion is implicitly or explicitly a component of an immediate premise.

## Contested modern usage

More recently, "begs the question" has been widely used as though it is equivalent to "invites the question," "prompts the question," "raises the question," or to indicate that "the question ought to be addressed." In this usage, "the question" is stated in the next phrase. For example: "This year's budget deficit is half a trillion dollars. This begs the question: how are we ever going to balance the budget?" This usage has met with substantial resistance among prescriptive grammarians.[2][3][4][5][6] . Argument over whether this usage should be considered "incorrect" is an example of the debate between linguistic prescription and description.

## References

1. ^ Barker, Stephen [1965] (2003). ""Chapter 6: Fallacies"", The Elements of Logic, Sixth Edition, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, pp. 159-161. ISBN 0-07-283235-5.

Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος logos; meaning word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason, or principle) is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration.
A fallacy is a component of an argument that is demonstrably flawed in its logic or form, thus rendering the argument invalid in whole. In logical arguments, fallacies are either formal or informal.
Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος logos; meaning word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason, or principle) is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration.
The term ancient Greece refers to the periods of Greek history in Classical Antiquity, lasting ca. 750 BC[1] (the archaic period) to 146 BC (the Roman conquest). It is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western Civilization.
Philosophy is the discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics); what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic).
Aristotle (Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great.
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Prior Analytics is Aristotle's work on deductive reasoning, part of his Organon, the instrument or manual of logical and scientific methods.

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Simon Blackburn (born 1944) is a British academic philosopher also known for his efforts to popularise philosophy. He attended Clifton College and went on to receive his bachelor's degree in Moral Sciences (i.e. philosophy) in 1965 from Trinity College, Cambridge.
validity as it occurs in logic refers generally to a property of deductive arguments, although many logic texts apply the term to statements as well (a statement is a sentence that “has a truth value,” i.e., that is either true or false).
A conclusion is a final proposition, which is arrived at after the consideration of evidence, arguments or premises.

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In discourse, a premise (also "premiss" in British usage) is a claim that is a reason (or element of a set of reasons) for, or objection against, some other claim. In other words, it is a statement presumed true within the context of the discourse for the purposes of arguing
A fallacy is a component of an argument that is demonstrably flawed in its logic or form, thus rendering the argument invalid in whole. In logical arguments, fallacies are either formal or informal.
A fallacy is a component of an argument that is demonstrably flawed in its logic or form, thus rendering the argument invalid in whole. In logical arguments, fallacies are either formal or informal.
Aristotle (Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great.
An informal fallacy is an argument pattern that is wrong due to a mistake in its reasoning. In contrast to a formal fallacy, the error has to do with issues of rational inference that occur in natural language; which are broader than can be represented by the symbols used in formal
computer is a machine which manipulates data according to a list of instructions.

Computers take numerous physical forms. The first devices that resemble modern computers date to the mid-20th century (around 1940 - 1941), although the computer concept and various machines
A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, often referred to as Fowler's Modern English Usage or simply as Fowler's, is a style guide to British English usage, written by Henry W. Fowler, and first published in 1926.
Many questions, also known as complex question, presupposition, loaded question, "trick question", or plurium interrogationum (Latin, "of many questions"), is an informal fallacy.
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In linguistics, prescription can refer both to the codification and the enforcement of rules governing how a language is to be used. These rules can cover such topics as standards for spelling and grammar or syntax; or rules for what is deemed socially or politically correct.