Stop! Grammar Time! Begging the Question…

begging-the-questionWhat does it mean to “beg the question?” The phrase often appears where something like “raise the question” would be more appropriate, e.g. “Her jittery movements and obvious lack of focus begs the question of just how much cotton candy she has eaten today.” Really, it would be better to say this “raises” a question, because “begging the question” has a specific meaning among people who enjoy discussing logic (not that I hang out with people like that…)

To “beg the question” is to make an argument in which you have already assumed the truth of what you are trying to prove (see also circular reasoning). To use Wikipedia’s definition (which may bring up all new fallacies, but shut up), “begging the question” is:

a type of logical fallacy in which a proposition relies on an implicit premise within itself to establish the truth of that same proposition. In other words, it is a statement that refers to its own assertion to prove the assertion. Such arguments are essentially of the form “a is true because a is true” though rarely is such an argument stated as such. Often the premise ‘a’ is only one of many premises that go into proving that ‘a’ is true as a conclusion.

To give a few examples, via The Skeptic’s Dictionary: Continue reading