Logical Fallacies 101: Begging the Question

Logical Fallacies 101 is a regular segment of the Skeptical Samurai blog that deals specifically with logical fallacies (an introduction to logical fallacies can be found here: https://theskepticalsamurai.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/logical-fallacies-101/ ).  It is my hope that Logical Fallacies 101 will help, you the reader, to both cultivate and expand your logic/reasoning skills and as a result become a better critical thinker. 

Today’s Logical Fallacy:

Begging the Question

This logical fallacy is often referred to as a “circular argument”.  It should be noted that some individuals (including historical figures such as Aristotle) consider “begging the question” and the “circular argument” to be separate fallacies.  However, it is common place in modern times to consider “begging the question” and the “circular argument” to be the same fallacy.  So with that in mind, for the purpose of this blog post, the phrases “begging the question” and the “circular argument” will be used interchangeably/considered the same type of logical fallacy.

Also, how can we not talk about the phrase “begging the question” without drawing attention to its current usage in modern language!?  “Begging the question” is often used as a synonym for the phrase “raising the question”.  It should be noted that when used in this manner the phrase “begging the question” has nothing to do with the discussion of logic/reason.  Some within the skeptical community are opposed to this usage of the phrase.  Personally, I say, do not sweat it!  Language changes and evolves over time and this is simply an example of that!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand!

In its simplest form, begging the question can be thought of as the argument for a conclusion that has already been presumed in the premise of a statement.  In other words, the premise being put forth is considered to be true (by the individual making it) without the claim being made being first proven true.

Umm…what!?

I must admit, that i found the definition of this logical fallacy a bit difficult to comprehend.  After reading several examples of this fallacy, i had no problem understanding it…

So with that in mind, let me present you with an example of “begging the question”.  The following is an example of a circular argument that i have heard many times when discussing the existence of god with religious individuals:

Person A: Do you believe in god?

Person B: Yes of course!

Person A: What proof do you have of god’s existence?

Person B: The bible!

Person A: How does the bible prove god’s existence?

Person B: Because the people who wrote the bible where divinely inspired by the almighty!

Person A: How do you know that?

Person B: Because it says so in the bible!

This type of “reasoning” is fallacious because simply assuming that a conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) in the premise of an argument does not constitute evidence for that conclusion.  Some cases of question begging are fairly blatant, while others can be extremely subtle.  An understanding of logical fallacies such as “begging the question” will help with your discussion/argument skills, and will allow you to point out when an individual is not using sound logic and reason to make a point.

This has been the Skeptical Samurai…

Working to serve through the process of inquiry…

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3 Responses to “Logical Fallacies 101: Begging the Question”

  1. Hmmmmm this is interesting… However I think that the person providing the argument for the existence of God as provided by person B may be the same individual (you) as person A… which begs the question: Are you putting your bias into person B’s obvious… well lets call it lack of debating skills.
    I’m not a religious person so do not totally disagree with your skepticism about organized religion… However maybe you should share some of your disdain for Christianity with Islam, Hinduism et. al. Say what you like about Christianity, at least they’re not cutting peoples heads off on the internet.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      Thanks for the comment/response!

      As i stated in the blog, I have had this EXACT conversation with individuals of the christian/catholic faith. I agree, in the example given in the blog Person B does not have the best debating skills, but once again, i have had this EXACT conversation of several different occastions. So to answer your question, NO i am not putting my own bias into Person B’s lack of debating skills.

      As is my habit with logical fallacies 101, i like to provide the reader with an example, and i did just that. Furthermore, as i mentioned in the blog, i found the definition of this logical fallacy a little difficult to comprehend the 1st time i read it. I found that an example was the easiest way to quickly gain an understanding of this particular logical fallacy. The example/situation given was the 1st one that came to mind so i used it. No sort of bias intended.

      Yes, i could have included some similar examples of different religions, and not just focused on christianity. However using that logic, in order to prevent singling out christianity i would have to provide an example of each and everyone known religion and that is simply not feasible.

      Additionally, your comment about “say what you like about christianity, at least they’re not cutting peoples heads off on the internet” is misplaced. While this comment is true, christianity is far from having blood on its hands. Do we need to bring up all of the scandals regarding priests and molestation?

  2. or the inquisition?

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