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beg the question


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb philosophy, logic To engage in the logical fallacy of begging the question (petitio principii).
  • verb proscribed To raise or prompt a question.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Latin petitio principii, from Ancient Greek τὸ ἐν ἀρχῇ αἰτεῖσθαι (to en archē aetīsthae, "to assume from the beginning").


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  • "Begging the question" is a form of logical fallacy in which an argument is assumed to be true without evidence other than the argument itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.

    A simple example would be "I think he is unattractive because he is ugly." The adjective "ugly" does not explain why the subject is "unattractive" -- they virtually amount to the same subjective meaning, and the proof is merely a restatement of the premise. The sentence has begged the question.

    To beg the question does not mean "to raise the question." (e.g. "It begs the question, why is he so dumb?") This is a common error of usage made by those who mistake the word "question" in the phrase to refer to a literal question. Sadly, the error has grown more and more ubiquitous common with time, such that even journalists, advertisers, and major mass media entities have fallen prey to "BTQ Abuse."

    While descriptivists and other such laissez-faire linguists are content to allow the misconception to fall into the vernacular, it cannot be denied that logic and philosophy stand to lose an important conceptual label should the meaning of BTQ become diluted to the point that we must constantly distinguish between the traditional usage and the erroneous "modern" usage. This is why we fight.

    December 13, 2006

  • Here, here, u.!! :o) Unfortunately the relative lack of opportunity to use BTQ correctly is causing it to lose the race behind the plentiful opportunities of "raises the question" usage.

    BTW, BTQ bears a family resemblance to ipsedixitism

    December 21, 2006

  • "I think 'a' is 'x' because 'x' is 'a'." begs the question. "Fessbinder's a nerd because under "nerd" in the dictionary you'll find his picture."

    May 1, 2010

  • I'm afraid I've given up the fight - often I'll just use petitio principii to describe the logical fallacy.

    May 11, 2010

  • I am so relieved to read these comments. I thought I was losing my mind. Now I realize we are just losing the fight. MM

    March 15, 2012

  • Circular reasoning:

    May 25, 2013

  • I'm totally ok with the casual use of 'begs the question' .

    I really don't see why sticklers get worked up over 3 words used in a non-technical context.

    edit - Begging the questions has been part of English since the 1500's. The 'logical fallacy' crowd should really pick on a different phrase which isn't older then the modern language.

    May 25, 2013

  • Also see comments over on begs the question.

    June 15, 2023