Begging the question

There are a few rhetorical (logical) fallacies that when mislabeled bothered me.  No, I’m not an expert on these, but I know some and of those “some” a few…  look at me, I’m wandering nowhere in the introduction (grin).

Begging the question is a frequently misused label.  I don’t think it’s intentional but rather the problem all ‘precision’ professional terms have when they get borrowed by everyone else.

Both the correct and (most typical) incorrect application of the label have something in question: they’re recognizing there is an obvious question which is unasked.  The difference is one is “next” and the other is “preceding”.

The incorrect (for logical terminology) application is “the obvious question that’s next in the sequence.”  Typically that “next” question overturns the series to which it’s applied.

The “correct” application is “preceding”.  To be a little more expansive, it’s pointing out that the start point of a sequence makes an unproven assumption.  Begging the question points out the shifting sand (or thin air) on which the house is built.

Because “English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary,” [JN] we should be unsurprised when it rifles its OWN pockets.  The so-called incorrect use is becoming as correct as the other.  For a while, however, it’ll still bother me.  And it’s useful to know both uses, regardless.


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