begging the question

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A marble sculpture of the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle (384–322 b.c.e., whose work Prior Analytics contained an early discussion of the logical fallacy of begging the question. The sculpture, a copy of a lost 1st- or 2nd-century bronze statue by Lysippos, is in the collection of the Louvre in Paris, France.



begging the question (uncountable)

  1. A logical fallacy in which a premise of an argument contains a direct or indirect assumption that the conclusion is true; offering a circular argument; circular reasoning.
    It is an instance of begging the question to argue that God can only do good deeds because God is good.
    • 1844, [Jonathan Edwards], “Misrepresentations Corrected and Truth Vindicated, in Reply to the Rev. Solomon Williams”, in The Works of President Edwards, in Four Volumes. A Reprint of the Worcester Edition, with Valuable Editions and a Copious General Index, volume I, New York, N.Y.: Leavitt, Trow & Co., 194 Broadway; London: Wiley & Putnam, OCLC 70347371, part III (Remarks on Mr. Williams's Reasoning), section VII (Begging the Question), page 263:
      But the thing which is called begging the question, is the making use of the very point, that is the thing in debate, or the thing to be proved, as an argument to prove itself. [] It is called begging the question, because it is a depending as it were on the courtesy of the other side, to grant me the point in question, without offering any argument as the price of it.
    • 2004, William [H.] Hughes; Jonathan Lavery, “Assessing Truth-claims”, in Critical Thinking: An Introduction to the Basic Skills, 4th edition, Peterborough, Ont.; Orchard Park, N.Y.: Broadview Press, →ISBN, page 133:
      We now turn to four particular fallacies that describe special kinds of unacceptable premises. The first two – begging the question and inconsistency – are important because they identify arguments where it is unnecessary even to ask whether its premises are acceptable. [] An argument begs the question when its premises presuppose, directly or indirectly, the truth of its conclusion. [] Begging the question is sometimes referred to by its Latin name: petitio principii. Begging the question typically arises when we want to defend some strongly held conviction, yet have difficulty in finding reasons that will persuade others of its truth.
    • 2008, T. Edward Damer, “Fallacies that Violate the Structural Criterion”, in Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-free Arguments, 6th edition, Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, →ISBN, page 63:
      The begging-the-question fallacies are flawed because they assume, in a variety of ways, the truth of the conclusion in their premises. Hence, the premises provide no good reason to accept the conclusion.

Usage notes[edit]

In common usage, begging the question has recently become synonymous with “raising the question”; this usage is often proscribed.


Derived terms[edit]


begging the question

  1. present participle of beg the question.

Further reading[edit]