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Definition: To Beg the Question


The phrase "to beg the question" has become much more popular outside of philosophical circles. In almost all cases, it is being used incorrectly. When you hear someone say the phrase, then follow it with a question, they are <i>doing it wrong</i>. Consider the following cartoon about Obama's involvement in the Blagojevich scandal: <img src="{att_link}sc081212.gif" align="center" class="frame" caption="Stuart Carlson - Obama, Republicans and Blagojevich"> In this case, the reporter actually means, <iq>which <b>raises</b> the question</iq>. It is common practice for people to dress up their language to make what they're saying sound more professional---one hears it in interviews all the time as people throw words outside of their normal vocabulary willy-nilly into sentences in a desperate attempt to impart sophistication, but they instead invariably detract from their overall point. In that light, it is hard to understand why "begging the question" is increasingly preferred over "raising the question". Begging the question is to <iq>assume the truth of the very thing being questioned</iq>. For example, introducing oneself to a girl---or a guy---in a bar by asking what they like for breakfast is "begging the question". The asker has made an assumption about how the rest of the evening will go that <iq>would not be accepted by any reasonable person</iq>. That is, the asker is <iq>founding a conclusion on a basis that as much needs to be proved as the conclusion itself</iq>. In this case, the <i>conclusion</i> is that the asker and the askee will be eating breakfast together the following morning, but it assumes the <i>basis</i> that the asker and askee will be waking up together the following morning. The etymology is thought to be that questions to which the answer is assumed were said to "go begging" because such a question has effectively been replaced with an assumed statement of fact. In that sense, the question had to "beg" for its right to be asked instead of for its answer to be assumed. Brought to you by the LAFCEL (League Against the Further Corruption of the English Language). <hr> <n>All cited definitions come from <a href="" source="" author="">Begging the question</a>.</n>