Friday, June 04, 2010

Please, I'm begging you, have mercy; I've been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday.

Humans quite often misunderstand the concept of "Begging the Question."

People will be talking about a subject and someone will say, "That begs the question ..." and then offer up a related question.

For example: "Whenever a sequel comes out, it always begs the question, 'So is it as good as or better than the first one?'"

In other words, what they mean instead of "That begs the question ..." is "That raises a related question, which probably should be asked & answered."

"Begging the Question" is actually a reasoning fallacy and would be a criticism of what's just been stated. In such a scenario, begging question is really avoiding the/a question; it's NOT asking for the question. Confusing use of terminology, I know.

Begging the question presents a premise as though it's beyond question and uses it in making an argument. As part of the argument, a person uses as fact that which may be unproven or contested in order to prove a point or draw a conclusion.

For example, the guy who gets rejected when asking a girl out for a date is begging the question when he attributes her "No" response to her being stuck up or dumb or a female dog or whatever. Why? Because he's assuming he's a worthwhile individual in whom there is no flaw. So, it can't be something wrong with him. It must be a defect in her. The fact finder would challenge his questionable assumption, namely that he's not a loser.

Another example is all the environmentally friendly things we must do in order to have a planet left for our children and grandchildren. Yet, these assertions beg the question; what's disputed is the effect those things have on the environment. In other words, the question is avoided as to whether or not our fuel exhaust or factories actually affect climate change.

Want another example? Most of the impetus behind gun control laws beg the question. We need to ban all guns so there will be a safer America for our children. What's the question avoided? Do gun bans lead to reduced crime rates? Look at Chicago. Look at Washington, D.C. Look wherever you like. The reality is that studies will show law-abiding citizens bearing arms reduces violent crime rates. But the question is begged in order to get laws passed, etc. [cf. "Strict gun laws are about as effective as strict drug laws... It pains me to say this, but the NRA seems to be right: The cities and states that have the toughest gun laws have the most murder and mayhem." -Mike Royko, Chicago Tribune]

In Christian theology, one indicator of begging the question is when a writer prefaces his premise with "Clearly," as in, "Clearly, X, so then Y." More often than not, X is not really all that clear. In fact, it's probably fiercely debated, else everyone would already be on board with Y.

"Clearly" tries to convince you that everyone already believes it, so you should too, which will enable us to move on to my conclusion.

An example, would be citing John 5:24 and 1 John 5:11-13, to show that a Christian cannot lose his or her salvation and then saying, "Clearly, a Christian cannot lose salvation, so Heb 6:4-6 & John 15:6-7 can't mean that."

Although I agree that a genuinely converted and justified person will not become unsaved, the reasoning is faulty. Someone might just as easily go to Heb 6:4-6 and John 15:6-7 for a bit and then say, "Clearly, a believer can lose his or her salvation, so John 5:24 & 1 John 5:11-13 can't be universally eliminating the possibility."

So, back to terminology ... if a statement raises the question in your mind, say, "That raises the question ..." or "That brings to mind the question ..."

Otherwise, you're actually criticizing the other person's statement, accusing him or her of a logical fallacy and playing dirty, if intentional.

N.B. Begging the question is related to circular reasoning or making a circular argument, but not quite the same. An example would be fossil dating. That fossil is 30 million years old. How do you know? Because we found it in the 30 million year old rock. How do you know that rock is 30 million years old? Because of the dates of the fossils we found there, etc. Another example of circular reasoning would be to say that the reason drugs are illegal is because they are bad. And the reason drugs are bad is because they are illegal.

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At 06 June, 2010 18:07, Blogger Matt said...

Former athletes turned sports commentators are the most likely to misuse this phrase. Calvinists talking about justification are most likely to do it. XD


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