Begging the Question

The phrase ‘begging the question’ is often used incorrectly in the media or in common utterance. What people often mean when they use the phrase ‘begs the question’ is ‘raises the question’. E.g. Given how obesity rates have been climbing despite the soda ban, this raises the question about the effectiveness of the law. 

‘Begging the question’ is actually a logical fallacy, a form of circular reasoning where basically the premise and conclusion are the same. Consider the video below:

Why did you find it funny or incredulous? Because the teacher’s conclusion (‘drugs are bad’) is the same as the premise (‘because they are bad for you’).

Have you ever heard your friends sometimes remark – often without having thought it through – how someone is good looking because they were handsome/pretty? Or how violent video games are harmful because they contained violence? Or how sometimes choices are presented in a very tautological way e.g. You can either wear black, or not wear black.

You know something is missing in the argument, and that’s often when it ‘begs the question’. Similarly, in your own essay arguments, do your premises (reasons) often merely repeat what the your argument is saying. This can often be quite subtle but still illogical nonetheless. E.g. The media is harmful because it is not good; capital punishment is immoral because it is evil.

So, look at your own essay and AQ arguments to examine if you often commit such errors in writing as well. Make sure your arguments have reasons that are not dependent on the argument being true in the first place. 

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