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Begging the Question

petitio principii

(also known as: assuming the initial point, assuming the answer, chicken and the egg argument, circulus in probando, circular reasoning [form of], vicious circle)

Description: Any form of argument where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises.  Many people use the phrase “begging the question” incorrectly when they use it to mean, “prompts one to ask the question”.  That is NOT the correct usage. Begging the question is a form of circular reasoning.

Logical Form:

Claim X assumes X is true.

Therefore, claim X is true.

Example #1:

Paranormal activity is real because I have experienced what can only be described as paranormal activity.

Explanation: The claim, “paranormal activity is real” is supported by the premise, “I have experienced what can only be described as paranormal activity.”  The premise presupposes, or assumes, that the claim, “paranormal activity is real” is already true.

Example #2:

The reason everyone wants the new "Slap Me Silly Elmo" doll is because this is the hottest toy of the season!

Explanation: Everyone wanting the toy is the same thing as it being "hot," so the reason given is no reason at all—it is simply rewording the claim and trying to pass it off as support for the claim.

Exception: Some assumptions that are universally accepted could pass as not being fallacious.

People like to eat because we are biologically influenced to eat.

References:

Walton, D. N., & Fallacy, A. A. P. (1991). Begging the Question.



Registered User Comments

Krista Neckles
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - 01:59:10 PM
Hello Sir,

Could you tell me what fallacy(if there is one at all) occurs in the following passage please:
"Pigeons are forced to leave our city to battle for life. Their struggle is an endless search for food. What manner of person would watch these hungry creatures suffer from want of food and deny them their survival? These helpless birds are too often ignored by the people of our city, with not the least bit of compassion shown to them. Pigeons are God's creatures just as the so-called human race is. They need help".

Thank You Sir.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - 02:59:31 PM
Please post in forum

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Krista Neckles
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - 03:29:09 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Yes Sir sorry.

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Krista Neckles
Tuesday, April 09, 2019 - 02:59:52 PM
Hello again Sir,

I think that in the following passages maybe a begging the question,a complex question, and appeal to pity fallacy is made( I consider myself a compassionate person):

"How would you feel to see your children starving and have all doors slammed in your face? Isn't it time that all of us who believe in freedom and human rights stop thinking in terms of color and national boundaries? We should open our arms and hearts to those less fortunate and remember that a time could come when we might be born in a similar situation".

Are there any other fallacies I could be missing, if at all? Thank You Sir.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, April 09, 2019 - 03:04:46 PM
Isn't it time that all of us who believe in freedom and human rights stop thinking in terms of color and national boundaries?

This begs the question that all of us who believe in freedom and human rights are thinking in terms of color and national boundaries.

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Krista Neckles
Thursday, April 04, 2019 - 06:15:53 PM
Hello Sir,
I do not understand why the following is an example of begging the question(from a logic textbook):
"Exporting cigarettes[to Asia] is good business for America; there is no reason we should be prohibited from doing so. Asians have been smoking for decades; we are only offering variety in their habit. If the Asians made tobacco smoking illegal, that would be a different situation. But as long as it is legal, the decision is up to the smokers. The Asians are just afraid of American supremacy in the tobacco industries".

Thank You Sir. By the way, I am not a smoker.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, April 05, 2019 - 07:37:24 AM
I cannot make sense of that. To me, it appears as just a hodgepodge of claims and non-sequiturs.

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Krista Neckles
Friday, April 05, 2019 - 09:27:24 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: In the textbook I am reading, it states that it would also be correct to say that the "missing the point" fallacy is committed. I do not understand in general how the argument is fallacious.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, April 05, 2019 - 09:29:40 AM
@Krista Neckles: I can see missing the point if there are other reasons why exporting is a bad idea. There are a lot of assumptions in this statement.

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Krista Neckles
Monday, March 18, 2019 - 08:36:45 PM
Hello Sir,

I know that there is a fallacy in this passage, but can you tell me which kind please:
" Recent studies have shown that conventional food has the same vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other nutrients as organic food. Therefore, it's just as good to eat conventional food as organic food".

Thank you in advance.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 - 07:23:25 AM
I would say hasty conclusion because there is not enough information from this statement* to reasonably draw this conclusion. For example, it is possible that one of the two foods have different ratios of nutrients, etc. or it is possible that one of the two foods contains other ingredients not mentioned that affect health either negatively or positively.

* I am specifically addressing the fallaciousness of this statement and not the claim that conventional food is just as good to eat as conventional food. This is a complicated question where science has a lot to offer and is beyond the scope of this site.

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Krista Neckles
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 - 12:50:14 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Thank you Sir. I was wondering if the example was also an example of a weak analogy or begging the question fallacy.

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Bauta
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - 01:41:56 PM
Here is the full argument for reference from Stefan Molyneux's Universally Preferable Behaviour [UPB]...

1. Reality is objective and consistent
2. “Logic,” is the set of objective and consistent rules derived from the consistency of reality.
3. Those theories that conform to logic are called “Valid,”
4. Those theories that are confirmed by empirical testing are called “accurate,”
5. Those theories that are both valid and accurate are called “true,”
6. “Preferences,” are required for life thought, language and debating.
7. Debating requires that both parties hold “truth,” to be both objective and universally preferable.
8. Thus the very act of debating contains an acceptance of universally preferable behaviour (UBP)
9. Theories regarding UPB must pass the tests of logical consistency and empirical verification.
10. The subset of UPB that examines enforceable behaviour is called “morality,”
11. As a subset of UPB, no moral theory can be considered true if it is illogical or unsupported by empirical verification.
12. Moral theories that are supported by logic and evidence are true. All other moral theories are false.Here is the full argument for reference from Stefan Molyneux's Universally Preferable Behaviour [UPB]...

1. Reality is objective and consistent
2. “Logic,” is the set of objective and consistent rules derived from the consistency of reality.
3. Those theories that conform to logic are called “Valid,”
4. Those theories that are confirmed by empirical testing are called “accurate,”
5. Those theories that are both valid and accurate are called “true,”
6. “Preferences,” are required for life thought, language and debating.
7. Debating requires that both parties hold “truth,” to be both objective and universally preferable.
8. Thus the very act of debating contains an acceptance of universally preferable behaviour (UBP)
9. Theories regarding UPB must pass the tests of logical consistency and empirical verification.
10. The subset of UPB that examines enforceable behaviour is called “morality,”
11. As a subset of UPB, no moral theory can be considered true if it is illogical or unsupported by empirical verification.
12. Moral theories that are supported by logic and evidence are true. All other moral theories are false.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - 01:48:33 PM
No. It appears to just be two premises with no conclusion.

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Bauta
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - 02:15:53 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:

I tried to reply, but then accidentally double pasted a copying from a book I'm reading. So, please forgive me for the nuisance and mess above. I'm presently reading Universally Preferable Behaviour by Stefan Molyneux in attempts of going through every moral philosophy I can think of (or find) to learn from them and to avoid errors in my own works as I think morality is an important topic. This is the core argument for his theory found in Appendix A of his book;

1. Reality is objective and consistent
2. “Logic,” is the set of objective and consistent rules derived from the consistency of reality.
3. Those theories that conform to logic are called “Valid,”
4. Those theories that are confirmed by empirical testing are called “accurate,”
5. Those theories that are both valid and accurate are called “true,”
6. “Preferences,” are required for life thought, language and debating.
7. Debating requires that both parties hold “truth,” to be both objective and universally preferable.
8. Thus the very act of debating contains an acceptance of universally preferable behaviour (UBP)
9. Theories regarding UPB must pass the tests of logical consistency and empirical verification.
10. The subset of UPB that examines enforceable behaviour is called “morality,”
11. As a subset of UPB, no moral theory can be considered true if it is illogical or unsupported by empirical verification.
12. Moral theories that are supported by logic and evidence are true. All other moral theories are false.

The statements don't seem to make much sense to me in proving his model (which is hardly even defined in the book) and premise eight holds a tu quoque fallacy [conflating being hypocritical with being contradictory], which doesn't necessarily mean the entire table is wrong but also doesn't prove it to be correct. So I've been going through fallacies to try to figure out what may be wrong for further understanding.

Thank you for the quick response, it is greatly appreciated!

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Stefan
Monday, September 17, 2018 - 04:40:43 PM
Hi, I'm currently in an online discussion with a Christian. This is his argument: "Everything in the cosmos tactions on the LOI and LNC. both impact everything. Only God has the ontic capacity to account for LOI/LNC." Is this begging the question?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, September 17, 2018 - 05:09:37 PM
I don't know what "tactions", "LOI and LNC", or "ontic capacity" mean.

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Stefan
Monday, September 17, 2018 - 06:04:47 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: That makes two of us. Anyway, could you please answer my question whether his argument is begging the question as he assumed that "God" exists and is the only explanation for whatever he talked about?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, September 17, 2018 - 06:22:32 PM
@Stefan: Yes, because God must exist to be the only one who can... whatever. Now if he rephrased this to say that "a being that has the characteristics of God is the best explanation" then that would be much better, because we are now working with the hypothetical and not making any claims to God's existence or that he is the ONLY one who can do whatever.

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Stefan
Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 05:47:31 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Thank you. Btw, I found out what LOI and LNC mean. LOI is the law of identity and LNC is the law of non-contradiction.

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Anthony
Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - 10:37:56 AM
The first example could also be categorized as 'an argument from ignorance'. Correct?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - 02:28:40 PM
Perhaps more so if worded as "Paranormal activity is real because I have no idea how what I experienced could be natural."

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Bill Shaw
Wednesday, March 08, 2017 - 02:47:59 PM
Boy this stuff is tricky! Why isn't the paranormal example like this:
I've experienced paranormal activity.
What I experience is real. (unstated assumption)
Therefore PA is real.
You can question the experience and require a precise definition of PA but is it circular?
Also, why isn't the elmo example not a simple tautology:
Everyone wants slap me silly elmo because everyone wants it.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Thursday, March 09, 2017 - 06:48:01 AM
Begging the question / circular reasoning / tautology - all share similar characteristics. Your example works, as well.

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David Salzillo Jr.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 10:53:16 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:
But what about the first part of Bill's comment?

"I've experienced paranormal activity
What I experience is real (unstated assumption)
Therefore PA is real."

To me at least, the argument really rests on that unstated assumption. It doesn't really seem to beg the question at all. Can you explain that?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Thursday, July 12, 2018 - 01:29:42 AM
@David Salzillo Jr.: Claim X assumes X is true. -> to say that one has experienced PA, is to assume PA is true, otherwise, they would say "I experienced something really strange."

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NJH
Sunday, December 10, 2017 - 08:31:48 PM
#1 Paranormal activity is going to be true if there is evidence and valid argument supporting the claim. There could be other explanations for strange experiences, explanations which have been passed over too quickly to get to the the conclusion: its PA activity.
#2 is a vacuous tautological statement which only tells us nothing new: "it is desirable because it is desired".

People like to eat (which seems a true statement) for a number of reasons including the one that they like to stay alive hence the "biologically influenced to eat". Is this an example of the Broken Compass fallacy? The premise can point to a number of possible directions including the one stated.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, December 11, 2017 - 06:32:25 AM
Never heard of the Broken Compass fallacy, but your question gets to the heart of causality. There are often countless "reasons" for something, and different levels of reasons. If I said that I am hungry, and when asked why, I responded "Because I haven't eaten in 12 hours," then this is not fallacious, although I can also be hungry due to a much more scientific and complex biological answer. If I claimed that was the ONLY reason I was hungry, then this is simply not true.

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