Logical Fallacies: Begging the Question

Internet comments are a treasure trove of logical fallacies. Argumentum ad hominem may be the most popular commenters’ fallacy. But “begging the question” or “begs the question” occupies a special place in the hall of fallacies for the many times the phrase has been misused.

Begging the question is typically seen in philosophy as a form of circular reasoning:

Begging the Question (also Circular Reasoning): Falsely arguing that something is true by repeating the same statement in different words. E.g., “The witchcraft problem is the most urgent challenge in the world today. Why? Because witches threaten our very souls.” A corrupt argument from logos. See also “Big Lie technique.”
_UTEP Fallacies

A form of circular reasoning in which a conclusion is derived from premises that presuppose the conclusion. Normally, the point of good reasoning is to start out at one place and end up somewhere new, namely having reached the goal of increasing the degree of reasonable belief in the conclusion. The point is to make progress, but in cases of begging the question there is no progress. _IEP Fallacies

An argument is circular if its conclusion is among its premises, if it assumes (either explicitly or not) what it is trying to prove. Such arguments are said to beg the question. A circular argument fails as a proof because it will only be judged to be sound by those who already accept its conclusion. __ Logicalfallacies.info

Begging the question, or assuming the answer, is a logical fallacy that occurs when the conclusion of an argument is used as a premise of that same argument; i.e., the premises would not work if the conclusion wasn’t already assumed to be true.[2]

It is often called circular reasoning, although sometimes it’s considered distinct with the distinction that circular reasoning is:

A implies B which implies A

Begging the question similarly takes the form:

A implies B and A is only valid because B is assumed. _RationalWiki

The phrase “begs the question” is often used by modern persons when the phrase “invites the question,” or “suggests the question,” would be more appropriate.

One reason for this “dumbing down” of logical language is that most students never learn basic logic — either formal or informal. These failings become particularly obvious at the level of politics and politically biased science, eg climate “science.” But the problems with irrational use of language by educated adults is far wider than that.

Discourse for the masses plays to the lowest common denominator. But we are beginning to see more and more boneheaded fallacies being used by successful authors and other prominent intellectuals and persons of responsibility. This problem can only be traced to failures at the level of parental upbringing and educational training — as well as a failure of the intellectual himself to study these issues on his own. And it suggests the resulting likelihood of poor decision-making in the future.

We will be looking at some prevalent logical fallacies in the future, but for now let’s take a quick look at the concept of “knowledge:”

  • Some or all knowledge is innate. (And then it is remembered later, during life.)
  • Some or all knowledge is observational.
  • Some or all knowledge is non-observational, attained by thought alone.
  • Some or all knowledge is partly observational and partly not — attained at once by observing and thinking.

__ IEP – Knowledge

There are limits to each person’s ability to know things, which is why we at Al Fin often caution against strong beliefs in things which were not witnessed at first hand.

We also caution against “ideologies,” which tend to be systems of interlinking beliefs, most of which were devised, assembled, and modified long ago and far away by persons having entirely different sets of priorities and concerns than most modern people do. Strong beliefs, and beliefs in ideology, tend to bias a person’s view of the world in many ways — and completely obstruct his view of the world in other ways.

Keep in mind that most internet discussion takes place far from the levels of ideas that are falsifiable, or supportable by solid evidence convenient to the discussants.

We will be back with discussions of other logical fallacies in the near future.

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