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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

DadGUMmit, That's Not "Begging the Question!"

I write with the hair smoldering right off my scalp, which it always does when someone says or writes "That begs the question," when what they mean is "That RAISES the question."

To "beg the question" is not for a question to arise as a logical consequence of previous words. It is a specific logical error:
To "beg" the question is to ask that the very point at issue be conceded, which is of course illegitimate.


Any form of argument in which the conclusion occurs as one of the premises, or a chain of arguments in which the final conclusion is a premise of one of the earlier arguments in the chain. More generally, an argument begs the question when it assumes any controversial point not conceded by the other side.
I know, I know: picayune stuff to get annoyed about, right? But I hear this one with some frequency, and dadgummit, people oughtta know better...

People do actually commit the error of begging the question, you know. Not so long ago, I witnessed it being done vis-a-vis the supposed right to homosexual marriage and the fourteenth amendment. It annoys me to hear someone talk about raising a question but saying "That begs the question," because when someone does actually beg the question and you point out the error, he just looks at you like you're a lunatic.

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