Logical fallacies are flaws in reasoning. Begging the Question is one example of a fallacy you should avoid in debates and academic discourse.
This begs the question, what does Begging the Question Fallacy mean? This guide will show you the definition of this fallacy and some examples of arguments to avoid.
What Does it Mean When One Begs the Question?
The phrases “one question begs an answer” and “a question that begs to be answered” have been famous since the 1960s. According to Merriam-Webster, the term means to elicit a specific question as a response or reaction.
The correct usage of the phrase can be in an informal or formal sense.
The informal meaning of begging the question is asking the obvious question or getting to the point already. You’ll see this phrase in entertainment news, TV shows, and other casual writing pieces.
These sentences use the phrase beg the question:
I think it’s a very big misconception that people believe we exist separately on the internet. We are an extension of the internet all the time. But that begs the question: What do you do when you’re walking your Shiba down the street and someone refers to it as a doge, rather than a dog? [Grid].
Whether you agree with Michail Antonio’s statement or not – it begs the question of how much Liverpool will suffer with the loss of their Senegalese forward or even thrive off of his replacements. [Fan Nation].
Begging the Question Fallacy
Begging the question is also one of the most basic logical fallacies. It’s a type of Fallacy of Presumption that assumes the conclusion or claim in the first place. Other people say that this type of statement is comparable to Circular Reasoning.
When one begs the question, they are making an incoherent argument. They use the point they try to prove as an argument or piece of evidence itself. You’ll often find this fallacy in political arguments among people who cannot exert effort in establishing a conclusion.
This fallacy can also mean an argument where the unstated premise is essential to the conclusion. It does not necessarily mean the hypothesis is identical to the conclusion.
One can commit a fallacy by making a statement using concrete terms. Then, they create an identical claim in abstract terms.
Begging the Question is not associated with formal logic since it’s not a formal fallacy. Instead, it’s an informal fallacy because the argument is unpersuasive but still logically valid.
Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher, introduced this logical fallacy. He originally calls the dialectical argument “asking for the initial thing” in his Topics, book 8. Begging the Question was phrased as the Latin term “petitio principii” after his work got translated into Latin.
Until now, Aristotelian logic has had a significant influence over the philosophical world. Even modern lawyers use it to create sound arguments.
How to Use “Begs the Question”
The correct use of the phrase is in response to statements that show the fallacy. For example, your friend states that pancakes are the best food ever. That statement begs the question of how they form that opinion.
In response, your friend should support their claim through independent evidence or reasons. They might discuss the fluffiness of pancakes, health benefits, and more.
Begging the Question Synonym
Other alternative names for when one makes a flawed argument by begging the question include the following:
- Circular argument.
- Circulus in Probando.
- Circulus in Demonstrado.
- Chicken and the Egg Argument.
- Petitio Principii (Latin phrase).
- Vicious Circle.
Note that these terms are not synonymous with the fallacy of begging the question. Instead, they have similarly problematic reasoning based on poor premises.
What is a Fallacy?
Fallacies are false, flawed, or misleading arguments that reasoning can prove wrong. You’ll hear them in classrooms, debates, speeches, and arguments with people. They can also be divided into two:
- Formal fallacies, where the premise and conclusion don’t hold up to scrutiny.
- Informal fallacies, where the error is found in the context, form, or structure.
Aside from the Fallacy of Begging the Question, Appeal to Biased Authority is another example. Here, one automatically assumes that a person of authority is more knowledgeable on the matter. Ad hominem arguments and an open-question argument are other examples.
Main Difference Between Begging the Question and Circular Reasoning
The Fallacy of Begging the Question and Circular Reasoning are two fallacies you should avoid.
In the Fallacy of Begging the Question, Claim A assumes A is valid. Therefore, A is correct.
But in Circular Reasoning, Claim A proves B. Therefore, Claim B proves A.
Ensure you also avoid ad hominem arguments, ignorance fallacies, and other types of fallacies. Doing so helps you create a more convincing argument.
Examples of Begging the Question Fallacy
Here are some classic examples of scenarios or statements that use the Fallacy of Begging the Question.
Government Intervention vs. Freedom
“We would all be free to do the right thing if only the government got out of the way. That’s because every day people are intelligent enough to make their own choices.”
It may not be obvious, but this form of argument begs the question. The fundamental argument is that the country would be better if the government restricted it less. But it instantly assumes that citizens always make the right choices.
If you look at the statement from a broader perspective, the controversial premise is being used as evidence to support itself.
War on Terrorism
Another good example of this fallacy is the actions of the US government in the war on terrorism. Here’s a quote from a discussion forum made by someone about Abdullah al-Muhajir, who’s allegedly planning to drop a “dirty bomb”:
“I know that if a dirty bomb goes off Wall Street and the winds are blowing this way, then I and much of this part of Brooklyn are possibly toast. Is that worth possible violations of the rights of some psycho-violent street thug? To me, it is.”
The government declares him an “enemy combatant,” meaning he engages in hostility in an armed conflict based on faulty premises. This declaration already deems him a threat to people without needing proof in an impartial court.
Therefore, the entire declaration commits the fallacy of Begging the Question since the assumption is also the conclusion.
Suppose a pro-life person says, “abortion is the whole nation’s problem since it includes the destruction of human beings.” In this type of debate, many people are concerned with whether a “human being” is being destroyed or not.
Therefore, the pro-lifer is making a conclusion based only on their assumption of what abortion is, which is a public matter. They are committing a fallacy of reasoning, specifically begging the question fallacy.
The speaker also assumes that abortion is never a private matter between a person with a womb and their body.
“You believe taxes should be lowered since you’re a Republican.” This logic shows an identical statement to the first one. It’s also an example of an ad hominem fallacy that rejects someone’s claim because of the person.
“No company makes better phones than Apple does. Therefore, it’s the best smartphone.”
This statement is making a conclusion by simply rephrasing the purported claim or original phrase. The original sentence structure “No company makes better phones than Apple does” is simplified to “It’s the best smartphone.”
This quote is from Morris Engel’s with Good Reasons:
“Free trade will be good for this country… Isn’t it obvious that unrestricted commercial relations will bestow on all sections of this nation the benefits which result when there is an unimpeded flow of goods between countries?
In this statement, Engel justifies free trade by merely defining the process of free trade as “unrestricted commercial relations.”
“Affirmative Action is always unfair and unjust. You cannot repair injustice by committing another.”
This quote from a forum is an excellent example of a circular argument. One claims that injustice cannot be fixed by injustice. They then conclude that affirmative action is never fair or just.
Many religious people beg the question because of their devotion to the truth of their doctrines. Such commitment may hinder them from recognizing that they instantly assume their religion is a reality when proving something.
Here’s an off-repeated example. Some people avoid making a sound argument simply because it says in the Bible that God is real. And because the Bible is God’s word, God exists since everything in the book is true.
This is a significant issue with religious people. They might find it challenging to differentiate between self-evident and non-self-evident claims.
Build More Compelling Arguments
Begging the Question is a common fallacy when the premise is used to support a conclusion. Never assume your conclusion is already confirmed by circling back to it when giving proof.
Be attentive to logical fallacies in your and other people’s writings. Avoiding them in your arguments helps you become more credible, ethical, and reasonable.