Talk:Begging the question

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Cause of confusion[edit]

This usage is the result of confusion over the translation of petitio principii, which literally translates as "assuming the starting point"

I believe this statement is the result of a misreading of the cited source.

I imagine that people began using the phrase improperly because "this begs the question" seems to mean that this begs us - asks us earnestly, entreats us - to raise and consider the question.

The actual origin of the phrase seems to come from a mistranslation of the Latin phrase the medieval logicians used to refer to an argument that assumes its own conclusion: 'petitio principii.' This is fairly literally translated as "assuming the starting point." But petitio also means "begging" (whence the English word 'petition').

So the confusion of "begging"/"raising" the question is actually said to be a result of a literal reading of the English phrase which itself originated as a misreading of the Latin. Which makes a lot more sense to me.

(Actually the sentence isn't necessarily wrong as the usage is indirectly a result of the translation, but definitely misleading). Gr8white (talk) 16:42, 10 April 2010 (UTC)

Some sources cite the source of the term as "Beggering the question" as in reduce to poverty, making the question worthless. Does anyone know if there is any truth in this? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:13, 27 May 2010 (UTC)

The problem is that the sentence that says it's a result of a mistranslation cites a source that says "misleading translation." Since "beg" does properly mean "raising" but also properly means "assuming," it's misleading, but it's wrong to call it a mistranslation. Regardless of whether anybody agrees, the statement should be consistent with the source cited. If the statement is to stand, the source should be changed. If the source is to stand (which it should) then "mistranslation" should be changed to "misleading translation." Hagrinas (talk) 19:55, 4 March 2014 (UTC)

The original phrase from which "beg the question" descends is a Greek phrase in Aristotle: τὸ ἐξ ἀρχῆς (or sometimes ἐν ἀρχῇ) αἰτεῖν, "asking for the initial thing". The meaning of this in Aristotle is closely tied to the type of dialectical argument Aristotle discusses in his Topics, book VIII: a formalized debate in which one party undertakes to defend a proposition and the other party undertakes to refute the defender by deducing an inconsistency from it. The person attacking plays the role of questioner, asking questions of the person defending the thesis. These must be questions that can be answered by a yes or a no. The person defending the thesis plays the role of answerer, giving answers to the questioner's questions. In this highly stylized form of debate, the proposition that the answerer undertakes to defend is "the initial thing" (τὸ ἐξ ἀρχῆς, τὸ ἐν ἀρχῇ). Now, one of the rules of the game is that the questioner can't simply take the thesis itself and ask that as a question to the answerer: that would give no interesting debate and be trivial. And that would also be "asking for the initial thing". (See Book VIII of Aristotle's Topics for our best source of information on the practice of dialectical argument he's writing about). Aristotle discusses this in the Prior Analytics passage cited in the article, though it's odd to cite that and not mention the more extensive discussions in the Topics and On Sophistical Refutations. At any rate, stylized dialectical exchanges as Aristotle knew them evidently included various rules for scoring the game, and one issue of importance was precisely the matter of "asking for the initial thing", which was understood to include not simply making the actual thesis adopted by the answerer into a question but also making a question out of a sentence that was judged to be too close to that thesis. It is not easy to say just what "too close" means, as Aristotle's own attempt at spelling that out in Prior Analytics II.16 shows (in my opinion). Removed from the context of dialectical argument as practiced in the fourth century BCE, the term loses some of its point. The Latin translation petitio principii literally means "asking for the starting point", which is not too far from the Greek source, provided you understand the history. You can also see the source of "beg the question" here: read "beg" as "ask for" and take "the question" to mean "the proposition under debate" (a usage close to one that survives in parliamentary practice). and "beg the question" can be read as "ask for the thing being sought". The problem with the meaning comes much later, in the 20th century, when English speakers unaware of any of this history misunderstand the obsolete English phrase. Incidentally, I am the author of published translations with commentary of Aristotle's Prior and Posterior Analytics (Hackett Publishing Co., 1989) and Topics I and VIII (Oxford University Press, 1997), so I do have an idea what I'm talking about. A final note: one source often cited on the web mistranslates τὸ ἐν ἀρχῇ αἰτεῖν as "in the beginning to assume". While that's not an utterly impossible reading of the phrase in isolation, it's wrong. It assumes that the definite article τὸ goes with the infinitive αἰτεῖν (rendered as "assume"). But the article actually goes with ἐν ἀρχῇ ("in the beginning" or just "initial"), ss is made absolutely clear by occasions when Aristotle uses two articles in sequence (τὸ τὸ ἐν ἀρχῇ αἰτεῖν): here the second article must go with "in the beginning" and the first with the whole infinitival phrase, so the only possible meaning is "asking for the thing in the beginning", i.e. "askkng for the initial thing" (with articular infinitive). --Robin Smith — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:08, 26 May 2014 (UTC)

Thank you and please, be WP:BOLD.—Machine Elf 1735 05:42, 26 May 2014 (UTC)

This explanation is wishful thinking[edit]

This usage is the result of confusion over the translation of petitio principii, which literally translates as "assuming the starting point".[ref name="Martin71"]Martin (2002), 71.[/ref]
This explanation of this new usage asserts that the problem is that those who use this phrase in this way misunderstand the latin. The footnote does not substantiate the assertion, via a survey for example. ( Martin | talkcontribs 21:04, 22 April 2010 (UTC))


The examples are still not very good. Circular reasoning is related to but distinct from begging the question. Circular reasoning is of the form "A implies B, and B implies A". Like the "God wrote the bible. We can believe this because it's written in the bible, which is the word of god" argument. Begging the question is where you pose a one way relationship "A implies B, therefore B is true" when "A" is an unexamined statement that could be false. If "A" is dependent on "B", it's a circular argument, not begging the question. If the argument is "A implies A", as in the opium example, it's simply tautological. Here's my own contribution of a terrible example, but hopefully one which is closer to the mark: "The best way to catch fish is to throw rocks at them. I have many rocks, and I throw them accurately, making me excellent at catching fish." A response would then be "This begs the question. We have no reason to believe that throwing rocks at fish is the best way to catch them". (talk) 06:00, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

"If we legalized Cannabis, it would no longer be illegal."
That's just a rephrase of: "If we legalized Cannabis, it would be legal." Parisstreatham (talk) 20:58, 8 December 2014 (UTC)
I read through this once and I still can't figure out what Aristotle or anybody else meant by begging the question. One big problem is that there are no examples. This article needs examples, but they must be from WP:RS, like everything else in Wikipedia. Doesn't Aristotle give examples? Don't the logic and rhetoric books give examples? --Nbauman (talk) 09:12, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

Loaded Questions[edit] (talk) 21:40, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
No, that is not begging the question. john k (talk) 02:42, 26 July 2010 (UTC)

Hi I'm the one who originally posted this question, I just forgot to login. The highly informative reply has just convinced me this is not the forum for my orignal question. In any case, what prompted me to pose the question was that the idea of proving your premise from a statement of your premise could be done interrogatively. Before I get called an idiot and end up cursing someone out because they don't understand my point, I just thought I'd remove the question I asked. Thanks for the highly informative reply. Peace. Daredevil1234 (talk) 06:48, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

Indeed, wikipedia is not the forum to vent about personal grievances. john k (talk) 18:00, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
To be more specific about your original question, I don't see how asking a direct question can be begging the question, unless it is based on a premise that has not been proven. Given that everybody has a father (biologically, if nothing else), there was no assumed premise in asking "Did your father pass away?" Simply making an incorrect inference is not begging the question. john k (talk) 18:04, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Sorry to pop in so late, but I just ran across this. My understanding is that it would be begging the question to ask, "When did your father pass away?" if it hadn't already been established that your father was dead. JDZeff (talk) 08:59, 2 December 2014 (UTC)

Etymology of "beg": ask versus avoid[edit]

I am removing the second sentence of the text and its supporting citation. The original meaning of the word "begging" is exactly captured by the Latin "petitio", which has nothing to do with dodging or evading. The citation does support a later meaning of "dodge", but it serves the Wikipedia page better to use the original definition as the primary one. To beg a point means to raise a rhetorical petition for it to be temporarily granted, for the sake of argument. This expository strategy is only compatible with valid reasoning if one either a) later "gives back" what has been granted by returning to the topic and proving it, without recourse to anything that has been established in the meantime, or b) explicitly includes the begged point as a hypothesis of the stated theorem. If one never returns to the topic, though, nor acknowledges its unresolved status in the concluding remarks, then the question has been dodged rather than answered. That is how a word that means "to ask" has in some limited contexts come to be understood as "to avoid", by conflation, in the object of the verb, between the question itself and a certain (temporarily granted) answer. In particular, "dodge" is a later meaning, in a very particular context, whose existence is a consequence of and variation on the original meaning of "request". Tracy Hall (talk) 07:42, 28 August 2010 (UTC)

Modern Usage[edit]

I reverted recent edits in the modern usage section for three reasons which apparently haven't been understood or agreed with, since the revert was reverted. I will now explain in more detail before I revert it again, and invite user 271828182 to respond. Firstly, "Some English speakers use "beg the question" as though it meant the same as..." uses incorrect tenses- use is the present, and "as though it meant" is the past tense. Furthermore, the part of the sentence you removed had pointed to the fact that the incorrect usage relates to an assumption about what the phrase means, rather than an understanding of the actual definition. The third point is that your following sentence suggests that the incorrect usage is a result of people ignoring the proper definition. Such an assertion is not correct, since the majority of people who do use it in an incorrect way do so from ignorance- which is not the same as ignoring the proper definition. By the way, the use of the word "assumed" not only references a logical assumption, but a conscious adoption of the practice which would also cover the case where a person did know of the proper usage and nonetheless ignored it. User 271828182, your edit seems to add nothing of substance, and injects a tone of antagonism towards the improper usage which serves no purpose on the page. I invite you to explain your edit before I revert it again.Ninahexan (talk) 05:17, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

Speaking of "a tone of antagonism", I suggest you dial down your attitude, which is unwarranted given the content of your edit and your comments above. First, the past subjunctive is acceptable in an "as though" clause. Second, the removed text about "has been assumed by some" is written in the passive voice and attributes unknowable intentions to an unspecified "some" -- both bad form. Third, the verb "ignore" also includes ignorance, as in "he ignores the important issues". I will see if I can mollify your concerns with some slight modifications. 271828182 (talk) 06:12, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
No, the past subjunctive would have been correct if you had used the past tense ("some English speakers used..."), rather than the present, which is pretty straight forward. Please explain why the passive is "bad form" in this instance, and how "intentions" were attributed. Again, you will find "disregard" connotes a conscious rejection of the definition rather than ignorance. This attribution of cause is quite simply not backed up by any evidence. I invite you to look into the usages of the word "assume", rather than merely defend your position automatically. The section has been fertile ground for people to vent their annoyance that others use the phrase incorrectly, and for those who have strong opinions about English as a fluid language. Your edit did not add anything other than a superlative and a limitation of the cause for the usage, and removed a neutrally descriptive word relating to both the cause (not intention, by the way) and the action of adopting a particular phrase to mean something other than the definition (as in, an assumed name). I fail to see why my questioning those actions suggests that I have an "attitude". Ninahexan (talk) 07:43, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
I have offered my reasons and accepted some of your suggestions. Your lingering objections about the alternate meanings of "assume" and the supposed implications or connotations of "disregard" or "ignore" are captious and would not concern or confuse most readers of an encyclopedia, while the very awkward phrasing would. At this point, I am content to let the matter stand and ask interested editors to evaluate the two edits. First, your preferred text:
More recently, "to beg the question" has been assumed by some to mean the same as "to raise the question", and is sometimes used in such a manner: for example, "This year's budget deficit is half a trillion dollars. This begs the question- how are we ever going to balance the budget?" Using the term in this way has been deemed to be incorrect by usage commentators.
Second, my edit:
Some English speakers use "beg the question" as though it means "raise the question": for example, "This year's budget deficit is half a trillion dollars, which begs the question: how are we going to balance the budget?" Such usage disregards the established meaning of the phrase as discussed above, and hence usage commentators deem it incorrect.
I think the second edit retains all the information of the first while being considerably more concise and clear. I suspect a strong majority of editors will agree. Comments from other editors? 271828182 (talk) 17:02, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
That's better than your original edit, which I came close to reverting myself (I completely agree with Ninahexan's assessment with regard to adding nothing of substance and injecting a tone of antagonism towards the "improper" usage). But the original states the facts succinctly, and I don't see your suggested edit as an improvement. Also, "hence usage commentators deem it incorrect" seems to imply that all of them do so, while the references better support the contention that it "has been deemed to be incorrect". There may very well be other usage commentators who accept that the usage is part of the evolution of the language (though I personally cringe at that particular usage). Gr8white (talk) 22:26, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
I'm at a loss as to how the original is "succinct", unless awkward passive voice constructions became good form in the age of postmodernism. And "there may be other experts who accept it" is a huge weaseler -- if we applied that standard, Wikipedia would be festooned with pseudoscience and crankery. As I said earlier, produce the contrary experts who defend the erroneous usage. 271828182 (talk) 01:32, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
I carefully read through the edit history and the comments sections relating to this section before I made my edits, and was familiar with your point of view, and the back and forth. The wording I used relating to usage commentators was aimed at outlining that usage commentators that have covered the issue deemed it incorrect. That is very different from all commentators putting forth an opinion (which apart from being untrue, could never be supported with evidence). Your suggestion of an alternative wording would indeed be inappropriate, while the previous incarnation had no such problem. Hence, my objections to your edits. Ninahexan (talk) 05:07, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

Why would you need to produce a contrary expert who "defends" the usage to refute the implied contention that all commentators agree? I'm not even sure all usage commentators distinguish between correct and incorrect usage, certainly most linguistics experts don't speak of "correctness" in language. And I never suggested we should say that some commentators think it's correct in the absence of a supporting source, only that citing a few who deem it incorrect doesn't support ascribing that view to all of them. I don't know why sticking to the facts would lead to Wikipedia being "festooned with pseudoscience and crankery". Anyway you claimed you wanted to know what other editors thought so I did. Gr8white (talk) 16:02, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

User 271828182 please stop reverting without discussion. You asked for the opinions of other editors, and they did not agree with you. Wikipedia might have its frailties, but it is not helped by asking for the opinions of others then ignoring them. Please use the discussion sections. Ninahexan (talk) 03:24, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

You reverted my edit without discussion, and only opened this discussion once I undid your revert. You and one other editor disagree with my edit. Seeking compromise, I have changed the edit several times to agree with your suggestions. But at this point I'm honestly perplexed and don't follow your (or Gr8White's) objections, which are murky at best. As a lifelong English speaker, I can't grasp why you defend
"to beg the question" has been assumed by some to mean the same as "to raise the question", and is sometimes used in such a manner
Some English speakers use "beg the question" as though it means "raise the question"
Can you present your objections to this particular matter of phrasing again? In clear and concise English? 271828182 (talk) 18:56, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

You removed information with your edit, and did not add anything new. "has been assumed by some" references an assumption that had been made about the meaning of the phrase, and also references the fact that the practice of using the phrase in a particular way had been adopted (as in an assumed name). The fact that I don't like this practice is irrelevant, which is why I didn't feel it necessary to use words loaded with judgement when I made the edits a while ago. This has been covered in clear and concise English in the preceding discussions, and your edits were not supported. The original wording worked well, and certainly was less clunky than "as though it means", which sounds slightly childish (pardon my candour). The point is that your edit brought nothing to the page, and took away something. It seems you just want to win this exchange, and don't really care about the fact that others came to a conclusion that your edits were not appropriate. That's not what wikipedia is about. Ninahexan (talk) 00:58, 23 September 2010 (UTC)

Indeed my edit was a removal, but not of information, only of awkward passive voice pedantry. If you like the word "assume", it is easy to accommodate, as I shall do forthwith. So your precious double meaning will be preserved. I don't care about "winning", merely clear writing, which your willful clinging to obfuscatory and cumbersome phrasing impeded. Since you have nothing else substantive here except the sort of public posturing you accuse me of, I will get on with making this encyclopedia better, rather contributing to leaden Talk pages. 271828182 (talk) 03:57, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
As a passerby I have to say I prefer "Some English speakers use "beg the question" as though it means "raise the question" ", it contains the same information but sounds a lot neater than the tangled "has been assumed by some". In either case we shouldn't be speaking vaguely about "some" people, but if we're going to let's at least do it eloquently. (talk) 07:59, 28 September 2010 (UTC)

Possible POV that will help editing[edit]

First, in full disclosure I must admit that I am a 35 year old US English speaker and until today I didn't know there was a controversy over this phrase and how to use it. I have always understood it to be used in what is being referred to here as the modern/incorrect usage. I am hoping that the "Ah Ha!" moment I just had might give others a possible way of editing this article to more general satisfaction. When I hear the phrase "begs the question", or "begging the question", I cannot help but wait for the implied following statement (picture ellipsis after the word question...) This is obviously the way the modern usage camp feels. It is also not an inaccurate way of interpreting those three English words in that order. However, my enlightenment came when I realized that the original latin old greek way of seeing it was that those three words are together a complete thought, a phrase that together and only when put together describes a previous statement or statements. Let me try and elaborate on this idea. Assume there is some set of statements written/spoken. A logician would laugh and say "no way you can say that, you are <begging the question>. In this way the phrase is not unlike others that are descriptive. <lifting the veil> <putting the cart before the horse> <applying the gamblor's fallacy>. This helped me a lot, because for the life of me when I read the article and this talk section, I could not see how you could give an example of the proper usage of "begging the question" without actually using that phrase in your example. Get it? I hope this helps (talk) 23:21, 15 February 2011 (UTC)Neal

"Modern Usage" Prescriptivism[edit]

As a linguist, I take great objection to the "Modern Usage" section's sneering tone (but what is to be expected from prescriptivists, after all?). Like it or not, most speakers are not exposed to this phrase (or derivatives thereof, usually "this/it/that begs the question") in the context of formal logic, but as a discourse-structuring marker. Removed from its original meaning--a rather narrow meaning that requires one to have some knowledge of what most consider to be an opaque discipline, mind you--the speaker is forced to analyze the phrase "this begs the question" element for element; the listener who parses it as "this[an established point in the discourse] seems to raise the desire for a question to be asked" can therefore be forgiven.

Furthermore, "experts" in "With rare exception, experts deem such usage incorrect" should fall into a weasel-word-like category. Experts in what? Correcting people's language usage? Linguists (not to be confused with pedants like the late great William Safire) agree that semantic change is a natural part of language. Want to argue what words like "decimate", "random", or "disinterested" should mean? Go right ahead. But then you're merely offering an opinion that has no bearing on what it does mean, out in the wild blue yonder of day-to-day usage. And to address these 'experts': Safire's job was to slap people on the wrist for failing to conform to his archaic views of what English should look and sound like; Kilpatrick and Martin are philosophers and not linguists, and therefore unqualified to correct grammar in statements not made within a philosophical argument (just as chemists and accountants who are not also logicians aren't qualified to correct propositional logic); and Follett's book was written 45 years ago, an ample amount of time for a new usage to shift from variable to categorical.

So for Pete's sake, let's rephrase this section to talk about the new meaning which this phrase has taken on, not to lambast everyday speakers for merely using their own language.

DelTribe 09:55, 20 May 2011 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by DelTribe (talkcontribs)

The linguistic activity of prescriptivists is also part of the "wild blue yonder of day-to-day usage", so your attempt to belittle such usage through rhetorical abuse, as "mere" pedantry, archaism, or philosophy (!) betrays the fundamental incoherence of your comment: you are attempting to prescribe usage. Unfortunately for you, the descriptivist dogma deprives you of any resources to make such an argument. 271828182 (talk) 02:53, 21 May 2011 (UTC)
With all due respect, you're confusing (or, to ascribe you more agency, confounding) language and metalanguage here. Of course the day-to-day words of prescriptivists constitute usage. This is why many linguists take such joy in isolating passages in prescriptive texts that violate prescriptivists' own edicts. Being a descriptivist does not mean, however, that I am powerless to legislate usage in more formal circumstances. On the contrary, I believe that philosophers such as the two cited as 'experts' in the final sentence have every right to dictate that the phrase 'begging the question' be used in the original sense in the context of philosophical argumentation. But once the phrase has made its way into a wider variety of contexts, including colloquial usage, it is no longer a philosopher's place to prescribe its usage. Moreover, as a descriptivist stance does not preclude the linguist from stating that the sentence "2 + 2 = 5" is false, it also does not preclude me from arguing for a factual correction to a Wikipedia article. Looking at usage for the sake of studying usage itself is a different matter entirely from relying upon it for the purposes of citation, so descriptivism does not mandate that I accept the substance of linguistic prescriptions. I cannot decide whether your logical fallacy is in conflating descriptivism with inability to evaluate truth value, or whether you are simply attempting to reduce descriptivism to linguistic nihilism (which it is definitively not).DelTribe 22:42, 23 May 2011 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by DelTribe (talkcontribs)

I've just reverted an edit to this section. I don't have a problem with the phrase "Many experts deem such usage incorrect": after all, there is a footnote naming four such experts. But saying "Experts deem such usage wrong" is an entirely different matter: it implies that all experts disagree with the modern usage, and I doubt that there's a reliable source out there stating such a thing. The notion that the modern usage is wrong needs to be represented in the article as an opinion, not a fact: see Wikipedia:Neutral point of view. Jowa fan (talk) 00:41, 21 June 2011 (UTC)

I've removed the word "experts" in this section, because it raises (begs?) the question of the nature of their expertise. "Philosophers and prescriptive linguists" makes it explicit. Also added the point of view of a well-respected linguist. Muspilli (talk) 10:44, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

Many (it would seem) American English speakers assume that their idioms are normative to the language. They overlook the fact that many hundreds of millions of persons who use English are not resident Americans and employ different idioms. I find the present-edited explanation of self-referential argument completely cogent, although it is at odds with the vernacular American usage. Setting William Safire aside, I am certain one can find all sorts of expressions and words that are misunderstood in vernacular American English. That hardly justifies those misunderstandings. Kevincof (talk) 02:28, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

The contradiction warning[edit]

So its a joke? I mean, I get it and all..It brings you to the circular reasoning page, which has one that brings you to the begging the question page...But is that really necessary? just doesnt seem appropriate for a wikipedia article. (talk) 10:08, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

Understandable to the layman[edit]

An encyclopedia should have a summary that is understandable to the layman with a reasonable education. I just read the first paragraph of this article, and I have no idea what it is talking about. And I do have an above average intelligence. I shouldn't have to do research in order to essentially understand a definition. Can someone provide an understandable summary? I expect some dogmatic soul to try and explain to me that overly complex explanations are the simplest it can get, but I will not believe it. In Wikipedia I am getting frustrated with SMEs who try to create the most detailed anal explanation possible to the complete disadvantage of laymen who come to Wikipedia to try to learn and understand. The great majority come here for a short explanation of something, not an exclusively SME only understanding. If people want in depth they can buy a book. Theshowmecanuck (talk) 03:00, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

I changed the lead aka hook aka summary. Is it better? --TimL (talk) 16:29, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
I agree, this article is both confusing and incorrect. Circular reasoning and Begging the Question are not related, and 'begging the question' as an English phrase has a specific etymology that affects how foreign translations should be made. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:52, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

Proposed merge[edit]

I propose that we merge circular reasoning with this article (with no preference of which title we use). There is barely any distinction between the two (if at all); both of the articles give exactly the same definition. If there is no objections, I'll go ahead with this in a few days. ItsZippy (talkcontributions) 21:31, 5 April 2012 (UTC)

Sometimes a distinction is made. It would seem the articles don't adequately reflect that? The two have been merged and un-merged several times, so I think it calls for a positive consensus rather than a lack of response for a few days.—Machine Elf 1735 07:59, 6 April 2012 (UTC)
Ok, sounds like a good idea. What is your opinion, Machine Elf? ItsZippy (talkcontributions) 14:01, 6 April 2012 (UTC)
Begging the question employs circular reasoning, but is not in and of itself the same as circular reasoning. I suppose "Begging the question could be made a subsection of circular reasoning perhaps? --TimL (talk) 15:56, 6 April 2012 (UTC)
That's what I thought. The two concepts are not completely the same, but there seems to be enough similarity for me to merge the two. ItsZippy (talkcontributions) 16:34, 6 April 2012 (UTC)
I think it is worth keeping them separate, seeing as they are distinct.Sylvain1972 (talk) 20:25, 6 April 2012 (UTC)
Historically they've been treated separately because Aristotle drew a distinction. Like much of Aristotle, there's more than one sense of the terms and it's a matter of debate what, exactly, he's saying. It looks like modern sources tend to offer a combined treatment. I suppose that approach might be more consistent, but at the same time, I'm dissuaded by the articles' underdevelopment, especially circular reasoning, and I wouldn't want to see ‘begging the question’ be made a subsection.—Machine Elf 1735 03:54, 7 April 2012 (UTC)
Circular reasoning certainly needs a lot of work doing. Would the merge perhaps improve the whole of circular reasoning? I guess some of the information & sources would benefit the article as a whole. ItsZippy (talkcontributions) 16:54, 7 April 2012 (UTC)

It would be a good idea to merge them. Begging the question (as historically understood) is very much the same thing as circular reasoning, because begging the question (as historically understood) is very much the same thing as circular reasoning. Matt Yeager (Talk?) 16:06, 9 April 2012 (UTC)

If something is reasoning, it´s not a fallacy.

If something is a fallacy, can not be considered a reasoning. Reasoning and fallacy are opposites. It's something that logicians are very clear. Reasoning and fallacy not look like, they not are similar.--Ammonio (talk) 12:32, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

except that "circular reasoning" isnt actually reasoning. its pseudo-reasoning. -- The Red Pen of Doom 12:59, 12 April 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps not, but it is regularly called circular reasoning (as the sources seem to show). I know that they're slightly different, but they seem to have enough in common. ItsZippy (talkcontributions) 16:40, 12 April 2012 (UTC)
Support. Enough similarity for me to merge the two, the differences can be discussed inner article. - Atfyfe (talk) 19:35, 12 April 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose, I think they are separate enough to be separate articles, and there is a risk that the content about misuse of "begging the question" would be lost. Stifle (talk) 07:41, 13 April 2012 (UTC)
  • I´m sorry, but I'm reading, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, fallacy of "circuar argument", not of "circular reasoning." In any reliable source said that circular reasoning is a fallacy. This is so since the time of Aristotle, discoverer of circular reasoning. There is some source that says the "circular argument" is a fallacy to Aristotle, but never, never, never mentioning the source. Why is that? Because they write without going to the sources. fallacy
Look for Aristotle.Prior Analytics II (part 5,6, and 7) to read about Circular reasoning. And look for Aristotle.Prior Analytics II (part 16) to read about Petitio principii here or here — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:02, 13 April 2012 (UTC) . Sorry, I´m --Ammonio (talk) 12:15, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

The fallacy of circular argument, known as petitio principii (“begging the question”), occurs when the premises presume, openly or covertly, the very conclusion that is to be demonstrated (example: “Gregory always votes wisely.” “But how do you know?” “Because he always votes Libertarian.”). A special form of this fallacy, called a vicious circle, or circulus in probando (“arguing in a circle”), occurs in a course of reasoning typified by the complex argument in which a premise p1 is used to prove p2; p2 is used to prove p3; and so on, until pn − 1 is used to prove pn; then pn is subsequently used in a proof of p1, and the whole series p1, p2,…, pn is taken as established (example: “McKinley College’s baseball team is the best in the association [ pn = p3]; they are the best because of their strong batting potential [ p2]; they have this potential because of the ability of Jones, Crawford, and Randolph at the bat [ p1].” “But how do you know that Jones, Crawford, and Randolph are such good batters?” “Well, after all, these men are the backbone of the best team in the association [ p3 again].”). Strictly speaking, petitio principii is not a fallacy of reasoning but an ineptitude in argumentation: thus the argument from p as a premise to p as conclusion is not deductively invalid but lacks any power of conviction, since no one who questioned the conclusion could concede the premise.

I thought it might help to go ahead and quote that here.—Machine Elf 1735 12:47, 13 April 2012 (UTC)
The source says Aristotle considered the concepts "absolutely different." Even if Aristotle was totally wrong, we cannot undo classical literature. I am removing the {{Merge}} tags. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 02:58, 22 May 2012 (UTC)
Aristotle may have considered them different, but last I checked, this is an encyclopedia, not a series of concepts as imagined by a certain ancient philosopher. Also, we work by consensus and not by saying "I disagree with you, but you just THINK you're right, I really am right" which is what you seem to be doing by removing the tags and therefore declaring yourself the "closing moderator" or whatnot. A normal way to close a mostly informal discussion like this would be to say that "unless anyone disagrees, I'll remove the tags because I don't think there's a consensus to merge". That is the normal thing we do in the encyclopedia. I respect your right to disagree but you are not the sole judge of when the discussion in fact has concluded... a discussion which I have no opinion on, by the way. (Circular reasoning is the same as begging the question, because circular reasoning is the same as begging the question, right?) Matt Yeager (Talk?) 16:14, 23 May 2012 (UTC)

The circular argument it´s the same as begging the questión. The circular reasoning isn't-- (talk) 09:29, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

Usage clearly shows you can beg the question without making a circular argument. Their extensions are quite different. 271828182 (talk) 22:34, 30 May 2012 (UTC)


Here's one from modern finance:

(Reuters) - Greece's central bank governor George Provopoulos told parliament on Friday the Greek banking system was well regulated, otherwise it would have collapsed.

Sources discussing question begging vis-à-vis anthropic principle would be good too (to clarify a somewhat similar difference).—Machine Elf 1735 21:20, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

Should women be allowed to vote? Well, let's admit at the start that we all know they should. ( Martin | talkcontribs 00:15, 25 March 2013 (UTC))

Bad usage of "more generally"[edit]

It seems the article uses "more generally" incorrectly.

QUOTE: The fallacy of petitio principii, or "begging the question", is committed "when a proposition which requires proof is assumed without proof", or more generally denotes when an assumption is used, "in some form of the very proposition to be proved, as a premise from which to deduce it"

If you say (A), or more generally (B), then all instances of (A) should be instances of (B). i.e., A is a subset of B. With that interpretation, the article claims that "assuming a proposition which requires proof without proof" is an instance of circular reasoning.

The article needs some examples to meaningfully clarify the usage of the definition. For instance, from

What we are saying here is that every 2 days a juvenile is arrested and it begs the question, "What is really happening to our parents?"

This would be improper use, because, the question is not a request for a proof of a proposition assumed. On the other hand:

Scientists in 1996 found evidence of life in a meteorite from Mars. But that begs the question "How did a meteorite from Mars get to Earth?"

This question is a request for evidence of an assumed proposition, but it is not an example of circular reasoning. JDoolin (talk) 11:00, 1 January 2013 (UTC)

There appear to be at least three different ideas we ought to distinguish.

  1. rejecting an argument based on Circular reasoning, (which is definitely begging the question, according to the Wikipedia article)
  2. Questioning an argument because it assumes a proposition that requires proof without proof (which may or may not be begging the question, based on the Wikipedia article, because of a lack of clarity)
  3. accepting the original argument but then asking another question which seems to naturally follow. (which is definitely NOT begging the question, based on the Wikipedia article)

JDoolin (talk) 11:24, 1 January 2013 (UTC)

Right you are about the sloppy use of "more generally"... furthermore, (B) is a trivial tautology of circular reasoning... but if a proposition "to be proved" appears as a premise, it's emphatically not begging the question... (it's explicitly taken as given).
The mars example is bad too: the extraterrestrial providence of a genuine life sign would be the "question"... not how to get to Earth meteorically. It's not clear if it's meant to show a "raises the question" blunder... but, of course, the question or request shouldn't be taken literally and it must pertain to an essential assumption, not just any accidental feature (see principle of charity).
  1. Well, if so, then the article is definitely wrong. The premises of any valid argument entail the conclusion: there's never anything to be gained that wasn't there to begin with... in some form. Because the logical validity of all deductive arguments are circular in this sense, while not trivially viscous, it could never be grounds to reject such an argument. Again, by the principle of charity, the argument itself is a mere formality: what one typically rejects is an interpretation of whether or not the all the premises actually obtain, as a matter of fact.
  2. Nothing wrong with that... any rational person entertaining a valid argument would agree that the conclusion must follow given the premises... the conclusion is therefore no less plausible than the premises, but in order to find this persuasive, one would have had to have been convinced, already, of the truth of each premise, whilst heretofore overlooking what that entails in regard to the conclusion.
  3. Of course, an argument doesn't need to be formally valid in order to be rhetorically persuasive... inductive arguments, for example, are sassy like that... but whatever their quasi-rational merits and short comings, they'd be valid were they circular and, for sure, people who are ignorant of the correct meaning mistakenly say "begs" instead of "raises"... like ironically, even people attempting to use it correctly can like sometimes, screw it up... totally.—Machine Elf 1735 13:56, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

I think I see what you mean. "Begging the Question" is by definition, a formal fallacy, so if any use of the phrase "Begging the Question" does not point out an actual formal fallacy, then it is being used incorrectly.

But much like most other words and phrases, this phrase has many common usages, and multiple meanings. Some people do not mean to imply a formal fallacy when they say this phrase. And rather than say "That's incorrect usage of the phrase," it might be fairer to say "This is usage of the phrase does not identify a formal fallacy." JDoolin (talk) 14:07, 7 January 2013 (UTC)

Underlying this disagreement about begging the question is a more fundamental disagreement, which may also just be differences in what people mean by words. Theskepticsguide says that "Valid logic applied to one or more false premises... leads to an invalid argument." while Wikipedia says "What makes ... a valid argument is not that it has true premises and a true conclusion, but the logical necessity of the conclusion, given the two premises. The argument would be just as valid were the premises and conclusion false."

That calls into question whether a "false premise" is a fallacy or not. Do we have a better word to describe the set of ALL mistakes that can lead to a false conclusion? For most people, if you say "this is a valid argument. There are no fallacies in it," most people would think you meant the conclusion was true.

For those people, "begging the question" i.e. pointing out a false premise, would be considered a fallacy, since it invalidates the conclusion. For logisticians, though, pointing out a false premise may invalidate the conclusion, but it does not invalidate the argument, so it is not a formal fallacy. JDoolin (talk) 15:35, 7 January 2013 (UTC)

Really no 'more fundamental disagreement', it's just poorly written... But rejecting a premise is not begging the question, and although it's correct that one or more false premises don't invalidate an argument, that makes a valid argument unsound (inconclusive). However, when an essential premise is missing altogether, the conclusion does not follow from the premises, which means it's an invalid argument... and one can't charitably offer the missing premise if that would be tantamount to taking the conclusion for granted (thus begging the question).—Machine Elf 1735 22:46, 4 February 2013 (UTC)
This is incorrect. An argument which is circular is never logically valid; it may appear as such when first principles or certain axioms are granted exception to otherwise universal ratiocination, but to conclude that this makes circularity valid simply does not follow; if it did, any proposition could be made valid, valid meaning sound, well-founded, and propositions based on circularity, given the basic elements of logic, are exactly not sound, not well-founded, save for those falling into the exceptions aforementioned. Randomocity999 (talk) 05:18, 15 February 2013 (UTC)
  1. Were A an axiom, "A therefore A" would be a poor example of circular reasoning because it wouldn't even require the premise.
  2. Clearly, it's neither a syllogism nor a statement in first-order logic equipped with a quantifier that would allow you to read it as a "universal ratiocination".
  3. Even more obvious, you're under no obligation to grant that A is true, but were you to do so, you could not possibly deny A without contradicting yourself.
  4. It is the argument that can be valid or invalid, not the propositions.
  5. If by "well-founded" you mean to read it as an inductive argument, no inductive argument is valid and there are no "exceptions"... deductive validity applies to deductions only.
  6. There is no implication either way that the argument must be sound or must be unsound: if A is true, it is sound and if A is false, it is unsound.
  7. While it could hardly lack relevance, in no way could it be considered persuasive... thus it can be considered an informal fallacy despite it's formal validity.
Machine Elf 1735 22:14, 15 February 2013 (UTC)
Machine Elf 1735:
  1. Your wrote: “Were A an axiom, "A therefore A" would be a poor example of circular reasoning because it wouldn't even require the premise.” This was never under contest; you’re simply restating exactly the same thing I expressed, probably in effort to make it appear as if your declarations have more original validity than they merit. Again, like I stated before, “A therefore A” is only valid if “A” is treated as an axiom or otherwise granted logical exemption; my exact point was that if it were so treated, it would NOT be an example of circular reasoning, but to state that ALL “A therefore A” statements are not examples of circular reasoning is patently fallacious.
  2. You wrote: “Clearly, it's neither a syllogism nor a statement in first-order logic equipped with a quantifier that would allow you to read it as a "universal ratiocination".” This is an irrelevant remark meant to distract from the issue at hand; in fact, the only thing it does is favor my position, since if the “A” in question is not established as logically exempt (i.e., granted axiomatic or first principle privilege), then it does not follow that the statement “A therefore A” is valid.
  3. You wrote: “Even more obvious, you're under no obligation to grant that A is true, but were you to do so, you could not possibly deny A without contradicting yourself.” Again, irrelevant distraction: the question at hand is whether or not the establishment of “A” is valid, and unless, as stated numerous times before, it is granted logical exemption, it does not follow that the establishment of “A” follows from itself. “A therefore A” is ONLY valid if “A” has been granted axiomatic or first principle exemption. The conclusion that "A's" validity follows from "A" itself only holds if "A" is ALREADY valid, either hypothetically assumed as such or actually granted exception; therefore, to state "A therefore A" is universally valid does not hold (I would be willing to accept an edit that clearly states that if "A" is TAKEN as valid to begin with, whether or not it is or isn't, then "A therefore A" holds- this is how it was explained to me by my professors).
  4. You wrote: “It is the argument that can be valid or invalid, not the propositions.” Exactly true, and “A therefore A” is NOT a valid argument unless A attains truth axiomatically or through first principle exemption. It seems you’re not actually arguing the issue at hand- either that or your misunderstanding my position entirely.
  5. You wrote: “If by "well-founded" you mean to read it as an inductive argument, no inductive argument is valid and there are no "exceptions"... deductive validity applies to deductions only.” There are exceptions- first principle assumptions and axioms abound in logic; “valid” indicates well-founded, in this case founded on the rules of logic; “A therefore A”, unless qualifying for exception, is NOT well founded, i.e., INVALID.
  6. You wrote: “There is no implication either way that the argument must be sound or must be unsound: if A is true, it is sound and if A is false, it is unsound.” The very point in question is whether or not the validity/truth of A can be established via itself, not whether A is indeed true (your statements here contradict your statements in number 3 above); establishing validity through reference to that which is to be established in not logically valid, period.
  7. You wrote: “While it could hardly lack relevance, in no way could it be considered persuasive... thus it can be considered an informal fallacy despite it's formal validity.” There is no formal or informal validity unless “A’s” truth is taken as a given via one of the exceptions referenced above; therefore, to state categorically that “A therefore A” is valid is NOT true. Nothing in your arguments up to this point establishes anything beyond what your initial position already indicated. Randomocity999 (talk) 03:02, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

Excessively long quotations, suboptimal examples[edit]

There are examples, but they are somewhat buried in the text and not explained. I think that the article would draw much profit from at least one eye-catching example chosen to be as clear as possible, with its structure presented and analysed, as in other articles about fallacies. I don't think that the current state of the article is very helpful to the lay reader seeking to understand the fallacy. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 18:36, 4 February 2013 (UTC)

Introduction question regarding "A therefore A"[edit]

The statement "this statement is false" is a prime example of self-reference: "this" refers to the whole which "this" is part of- it is self-reference defined. Similarly, "A therefore A" is another example of self-reference: the validity of the conclusion is supported exclusively by reference to the premise, which is itself, i.e., the conclusion. It is not a logically valid expression unless it is granted axiomatic exception (taken to be self-evident and therefore valid in and of itself) or designated as first principle, which, similarly to axiomatic exception, demands no independent validity. Randomocity999 (talk) 04:37, 15 February 2013 (UTC)

And just to be even clearer, when 'A' is used itself to establish the truth, validity, etc., of 'A' itself, this is self-reference: 'A' is referencing itself to establish itself. Self-reference does not have to come in the form of the standard "this statement is false" type, in which a part references the whole it is part of; self-reference can very well arise when the whole references the whole: both are examples of self-reference, and without the aforementioned exceptions, it is NOT logically valid. This is part of the reason why it has been suggested, and rightly so, that this entire article be merged with Circular Reasoning. Randomocity999 (talk) 14:30, 15 February 2013 (UTC)
Lastly, I would like to note that whether or not "A therefore A" is ultimately labeled as "self-referential" or not, it does not change the fact that the statement does not hold logically: "therefore" indicates "because of" or "in consequence of", and as such, the statement communicates that "A" is so because of itself, i.e., "A." As mentioned above, this only holds if "A", whatever it is, is given axiomatic or first principle exception. To provide an example, our senses, generally speaking, are given axiomatic exception, unless we have reason to question them (e.g., I see light, therefore, I see light- semantics notwithstanding, such sensory data is generally taken as valid in and of itself, and hence, despite self-reference, still holds. But to generalize this to ALL things, that is, anything that "A" could be, does not logically hold.) Randomocity999 (talk) 16:23, 15 February 2013 (UTC)
The statement "A therefore A" does not prove A, whether or not it is logically valid. I've added this note in the introduction and cited it; I believe it is important because "logically valid" can potentially imply that the proposition has proven itself, which is not a logically valid conclusion. I've distinguished between these two with a few short words- any objections, please let me know. Randomocity999 (talk) 03:27, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
Well done.—Machine Elf 1735 04:43, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
That is what I understood from my professors; if you agree with the way the intro is now, I don't understand the reason for your last revert. This way, both statements are expressed while the coherence of the opening is maintained. Randomocity999 (talk) 04:46, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
In the former, I hadn't noticed, and you didn't mention, that you were no longer omitting the logical validity of "A therefore A" and weakening "never persuasive" to "unpersuasive per se"... Whereas in the latter, I thought you hadn't omitted once again the location of Aristotle's treatment of circular reasoning in the Prior Analytics... In any case, it's good to add sources, so well done. Something like "circular arguments" or "such arguments" could be substituted for the "it" in:
"...for any statement is indeed equivalent to itself, though it does not, despite logical validity, prove itself."
in order to clarify what admits of logical validity and proof.—Machine Elf 1735 09:18, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
So do you now agree? Can this be unprotected? If we unprotect and you resume edit-warring, an admin will probably either block both of you or protect the page for a longer period of time. Nyttend (talk) 22:37, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
I believe the dispute is over, but the original protector of the page may still feel that the page should remain guarded. Randomocity999 (talk) 23:03, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
If Machine Elf agrees, I don't mind unprotection. Drmies (talk) 14:42, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
Drmies, I'm optimistic we'll soon reach consensus, but perhaps it's best not to put the cart before the horse.
Nyttend, WP:NOTBATTLE: let's stay focused on content, not the contributors. I haven't changed my mind about any of it, but if there are no concrete proposals apart from the currently protected change to the lede, then I'd like to go ahead and suggest the following draft as a concrete proposal to both integrate that change and address my specific concerns.

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Begging the question (Latin petitio principii, "assuming the initial point") is a type of informal fallacy in which an implicit premise would directly entail the conclusion. Begging the question is one of the classic informal fallacies in Aristotle's Prior Analytics. Some modern authors consider begging the question to be a species of circulus in probando (Latin, "circle in proving") or circular reasoning. Were it not begging the question, the missing premise would render the argument viciously circular, and while never persuasive, arguments of the form "A therefore A" are logically valid[1][2][3], for any statement is indeed equivalent to itself, though it does not, despite logical validity, prove itself. because asserting the premise while denying the self-same conclusion is a direct contradiction. In general, validity only guarantees the conclusion must follow given the truth of the premises. Absent that, a valid argument proves nothing: the conclusion may or may not follow from faulty premises—although in this particular example, it's self-evident that the conclusion is false if and only if the premise is false (see logical equivalence and logical equality).[4]

  1. ^ "Fallacy". Britannica. Strictly speaking, petitio principii is not a fallacy of reasoning but an ineptitude in argumentation: thus the argument from p as a premise to p as conclusion is not deductively invalid but lacks any power of conviction, since no one who questioned the conclusion could concede the premise. 
  2. ^ Walton, Douglas (1992). Plausible argument in everyday conversation. SUNY Press. pp. 206–207. ISBN 9780791411575. Wellington is in New Zealand. Therefore, Wellington is in New Zealand. 
  3. ^ The petitio principii or Begging the question is studied in Prior Analytics II, 64b, 34 – 65a, 9 and it is considered a material fallacy. Circulus in probando, or circular reasoning, is explained in Prior Analytics II, 57b, 18 – 59b, 1. Some authors consider begging the question to be a form of circular reasoning, for example: Bradley Dowden, "Fallacies" in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  4. ^ The reason petitio principiipetitio principii is considered to be a fallacy is not that the inference is invalid (because any statement is indeed equivalent to itself), but that the argument can be deceptive. A statement cannot prove itself. A premiss [sic] must have a different source of reason, ground or evidence for its truth from that of the conclusion: Lander University, "Petitio Principii".

Machine Elf 1735 21:08, 18 February 2013 (UTC)

  • I just need to hear one thing, from both of you: you won't edit-war. That's all. Good luck with it, Drmies (talk) 23:20, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Then it can elapse, I won't indulge a preoccupation with edit warring.—Machine Elf 1735 00:28, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Yes check.svg Done Drmies (talk) 02:58, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
I will make every reasonable attempt not to engage in or incite an edit war; regarding your proposed revision above, Machine Elf 1735, I do not see a real substantive difference between the stricken elements and their intended replacements; the latter may be needlessly protracted expressions that the former communicates much more succinctly. However, if you feel strongly enough about the exact wording, I do not object to a potential revision with the concrete proposal indicated above. Randomocity999 (talk) 05:58, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
Good, I'd say the integration went well if there's really no substantive difference to be seen. For my part, no concern with exact wording per se, but it all depends on the word, of course. In regard to 'needlessly protracted': good choice, agreeing to disagree's probably for the best, much obliged.—Machine Elf 1735 17:59, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
  • FYI -- if anyone is awaiting further input from Random, give him a little time and don't take his silence as anything more than silence, as for the moment he is blocked for edit warring (at another article).--Epeefleche (talk) 23:58, 23 February 2013 (UTC)

removing section "An easily understood definition"[edit]

This is about edits added by user: [1]

  1. How is that any easier to understand? It sounds more complicated.
    • "that the 'question' is sitting there under scrutiny" .. how can a question 'sit' anywhere?
    • "original question watches and learns" .. how can a question 'watch' or 'learn' anything?
  2. Unreferenced. This seems to be original research. While it may not be, reliable sources will be needed to show that it is not. R00m c (talk) 23:19, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
How can a question be begged. I had hoped this example would have helped , through the visual analogy of begging a personified question. The article lacks any kind of laymanesque and accesible defense of the phrase 'begging the question'. In its obscurity, it encourages confusion about 'begging the question' and 'raising the question', and thus is counterproductive and runs contrary to the aims of wikipedia.
As for references, it comes from "Speech of the Hon. Horace Binney, on the Question of the Removal of the Deposites" (talk) 20:27, 5 June 2013 (UTC)
Further, I don't think the meaning of 'begging the question' is the same as 'petitio principii' . It is enough to look through 18th and 19th century examples of its usage.... The phrase begging the question is almost exclusively used in political and parliamentary debate, in those times when logic was an important part of politics. Begging the question was literally about petitioning the original question, as though it was a member of the parliament or jury. The phrase was used as a form of ridicule. eg "Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that he is begging the very question which the House has to decide? He is making an assumption as to what the House will decide the law to be, which it can do only at the end of the debate. " (talk) 20:57, 5 June 2013 (UTC)
In fact, if I think about it more, 'circular argumentation' is not the same as begging the question at all. One is a logically valid, but useless, argument (circular), whereas the second is a form of parliamentary deception. I think this subtlety is lost and the article is completely wrong. (talk) 20:57, 5 June 2013 (UTC)
Good work at listing the source. Given that a source is found I would consider that this analogy might be worth including in this article, too.
It may be true that the article can be improved by using less technical terms early on. I would even suggest that the lead could be improved to getting to the point a little quicker. The current form of the lead talks more about how Begging the question is categorized and not so much explaining what Begging the question is. However, I still hold the view that the article does not need some odd analogy that is harder to understand than the concept it's self. R00m c (talk) 21:07, 5 June 2013 (UTC)
Intuitively I felt that the meaning of 'begging the question' was presented in too broad terms. I researched and have found quite a thorough logical examination of where that intuitive doubt might be coming from : Note also earlier comments emphasising distinction between circular arguments and begging the question. Begging the question is an epistemic issue, according the examination I mention, but I believe the main usage of the phrase is debate. (Whom is begged? Whom is petitioned? The question! ) I think this meaning is not conveyed.
What however is a little more disturbing is the results of foreign language translations. I looked through some of those, and the translators tried to find the closest matching concept given the description of the logical fallacy. Begging the question is NOT circular argumentation. The translations have gone ahead , unfortunately, on this basis. Begging the question is an English phrase and if there is an equivalent, I do not know of it. (talk) 21:22, 5 June 2013 (UTC)

Not circular reasoning[edit]

Based on this sentence: "The fallacy of petitio principii, or "begging the question", is committed "when a proposition which requires proof is assumed without proof"" it is clear to me that Begging the question is not the same as Circular reasoning. What can be said is that every Circular reasoning is a Begging the question fallacy, but not vice versa. In Begging the question the proposition does not have to be the same as the conclusion, it can simply be some premise that is assumed without proof while in Circular reasoning the conclusion has to circle back to be the same as one of the premisses. Or did I misunderstand something?--StojadinovicP (talk) 13:12, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

Did you misunderstand? Not sure. How could you rationally explain gibberish? So I'm not paying much attention. If you see that the article is full of contradictions and bad writing, then surely you caught the gist. If bad communication is bad writing... then this is one of the best examples around. For example:
    "Begging the question means "assuming the conclusion (of an argument)""
    "Literally petitio principii means "assuming or postulating the premise" or "assuming the original point"."
It wasn't until I got to the history section that I could make heads or tails of the definition; when it was word-by-word translated. IMO, everything before the History section should be deleted and re-written afresh. (To heal, amputate.) That's where I stopped reading, but I suspect after glancing; that the whole article is infused with less than rational writing. I suspect too many authors & not enough deletion, —that's the polite suspicion. The article does not come close meeting wiki standards, it's still an embarrassment.
-- (talk) 19:52, 8 March 2014 (UTC)Doug Bashford

Move To[edit]

Since the only people who use the original meaning are philosophers, logicians, grammarians and lawyers this should be renamed "petitio principii" and everyone else can use the modern definition without interference.
-- (talk) 18:09, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

   It's a cute proposal (tho BTW IMO it has a false premise, and it would be a dreadful idea, even if it weren't for the number of people who know the original meaning but have never heard of petitio principii). But taking that proposal seriously would be way beyond the scope of WP.
   (On the other hand, its having been attracted no comment for 5 months is an encouraging sign that there's no need to put this talk section in a box, and to label it as spam that interferes with WP's actual tasks.)
--Jerzyt 05:35, 9 August 2014 (UTC)
   I am afraid I agree with the OP. In my 35 years in Britain, I have heard the modern phrase used far more often than the philosophical definition, but I found no mention of it until the very bottom of the article, which was confusing. The English language is supposed to be defined by usage, not elitists. This article could be considered guilty of the same false argument that it itself describes! I would support splitting this into two articles and having a clear disambiguation page.
-- (talk) 18:24, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
The second paragraph of the introduction clearly mentions modern vernacular usage. Mindmatrix 19:07, 3 November 2014 (UTC)

Multi-article strategy[edit]

   Often there are 2 meanings of a term (in this case "begging the question") that are both worthy of being covered, but constitute 2 different topics. The accompanying article as presently written deals with 2 clearly encyclopedic topics:

  1. Pretending to prove a statement by simply asserting something else -- as if it were never seriously in question -- that is equally unproven, but if true would logically establish that first statement
  2. Minimizing (whether intentionally, or just impatiently) the significance of the matter under discussion by raising a related issue.

And there's a third, not so clearly encyclopedic, topic, which IMO currently distracts and detracts from handling the other two, by being part of the same article:

 3.  the confusion that arises (marginally for a reader -- who is free to re-read rather than struggling to remember and perhaps missing irretrievably the next idea or two -- but) especially when a speaker
  • fails to acknowledge (or perhaps doesn't even realize) that there are two senses, and thus
  • leaves it to each listener to sort out "on the fly" the speaker's intent.

   I'm not counting on substantial response, and anticipating that, i propose to do two things:

  1. While perhaps others are perhaps beginning to weigh this, roughly describe the approach i have in mind.
  2. Then pretty quickly (say 36 hours, if i can pull it together that fast?), treat silence as evidence that the very idea is not by itself a hot matter of WP interest, and make this proposal more fairly concrete by first describing my further thots about the scopes of the articles embodying the preceding ideas, and then delivering a set of drafts.

--Jerzyt 05:35 & 05:49, 9 August 2014 (UTC)

   Some of the above by now seems to me a hasty analysis more worthy of replacement, rather than just the further tunings i was intending to make via additional omit-and/or-replace notations. The first two topics correspond to two situations:
  1. Implicitly making a claim (not necessarily "pretending", as i wrote above!) to prove statement B, by simply asserting (as if it were never seriously in question) statement A, where A and B are so closely related as to make it seem likely that A should logically establish the truth of B, but without offering any reason why A is any less in doubt than B. An observer or fellow disputant of the writer or speaker usually identifies with wording like "you just begged the question by ...."
  2. Engaging in discussion, and addressing a point that another discussant, making the claim, regards as neglecting an aspect more important than those already discussed. This second discussant retorts in effect that the issue previously addressed lacks importance, except to draw attention to the un-discussed additional "question" that so far just "begs for" attention.
--Jerzyt 13:17, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
Oppose move, tl;dr.—Machine Elf 1735 15:16, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
Wp:tl, wp:TL, hmm...? wp:dr? OK, i suppose you intend at some point to [d]iscuss with the other party. There might be a dispute that deserves resolving, once you arrive at readiness to discuss it.
--Jerzyt 06:32, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
I oppose per Atfyfe: Your 36 hour timeline was running out so I didn't want you to spin your wheels needlessly...—Machine Elf 1735 14:58, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
Oppose, people using the phrase and coming to the entry on it need to see both uses and have both explained to them. It is extremely valuable to keep the discussion of both senses in the same entry.-Atfyfe (talk) 16:22, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
WP is not a dict, which implies that claims about everyone who uses the same sequence of words having to be satisfied with one article are a bit laughable. I suppose that response can make perfect sense if your position is prescriptive, bcz anyone interested in the phrase but not in problems of philosophy is just misguided. But there is an ambiguity, reflecting an additional article-worthy topic or two, and what approach the philosophical article takes is irrelevant to the navigational issues.
   BTW, i'm inclined to agree that the philosophical topic is primary, but i probably won't be the one bothering to trying to overcome the presumption of equal disambiguation, in light of the circumstances.
   Anyway, i'm proceeding with creating the two articles that you don't see the need for, and may see no need to muck with the content that you're so invested in.
--Jerzyt 06:32, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
See WP:POVFORK.—Machine Elf 1735 15:04, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

Proposed solution to article issues[edit]

The Rational Wiki has a very simple and clear description of begging the question. This article (and much of the discussion here) makes the issue far more complicated than it should be. To copy directly from the Rational Wiki ( on the core of the matter:

It is often called circular reasoning, although sometimes it's considered distinct with the distinction that circular reasoning is:

A implies B which implies A

Begging the question similarly takes the form:

A implies B and A is only valid because B is assumed.

Circular reasoning is fallacious because reasoning and justification must start with the known and then determine the unknown - in the case of circular reasoning, it starts with the known and ends up with the equally known, thus it proves nothing.

The examples from the Rational Wiki are similarly illustrative. This article needs to link to circular logic to help folks understand the similarities. It would also be useful to address its antonym in tautology. I'm happy to go to work, but considering the state of the article and this talk page, clearly we need some consensus building! :) --Musides (talk) 22:13, 23 February 2015 (UTC)