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Begs The Question Meaning


What does the phrase “begs the question” mean, and how is it often misused?

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2 Answers

  1. The phrase “begs the question” is frequently misused in everyday speech and writing. Its proper meaning in logic and rhetoric is making a circular argument – where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises. For example, saying “The Bible is true because it is the Word of God” begs the question by assuming the Bible is divine in order to prove its truth.

    However, “begs the question” is commonly (and incorrectly) used to mean “raises the question.” For instance, one might say “The team’s poor performance begs the question of whether the coach should be fired.” Here, they do not mean the coach’s firing has been assumed, but rather that it raises that question.

    While this misuse is widespread, using “begs the question” when you mean “raises the question” is technically incorrect according to the strict logical meaning of the phrase. To avoid confusion, it’s better to use “raises the question” when that is what you intend.

  2. “Begging the question” is a logical fallacy in which an argument’s premise assumes the truth of the conclusion, instead of supporting it. It’s a form of circular reasoning where the conclusion is included in the premise, thus the argument goes in a circle and doesn’t provide actual evidence.

    Here’s a clearer breakdown:

    1. Circular Reasoning:
      • The argument takes for granted what it’s supposed to prove.
      • Example: “Stealing is wrong because it’s illegal.” This assumes that illegality is inherently wrong without providing further justification.
    2. Rephrasing the Conclusion:
      • The premise is essentially a rephrased version of the conclusion.
      • Example: “I’m trustworthy because I always tell the truth.” This assumes trustworthiness to prove trustworthiness.

    Examples of Begging the Question:

    • “Reading is essential for learning because it is a crucial part of education.” This statement assumes what it’s supposed to prove—that reading is crucial for education—without providing additional evidence.
    • “The death penalty is morally wrong because killing people is immoral.” This argument assumes that the death penalty is a form of immoral killing, which is the very point that needs to be proven.

    Misuse of the Term:

    It’s also worth noting that “begging the question” is often misused in everyday language to mean “raises the question.” For example, “His strange behavior begs the question of what he’s hiding.” While common in colloquial usage, this is not the correct logical meaning.