Do you know what it means to “beg the question”? While you’ve probably heard this phrase before, its meaning might not be obvious. We’ve put together a quick guide with some examples to help you understand what it means and how to use it. Read on.
What Is a Fallacy?
To understand the “begging the question” fallacy, we need to know what a fallacy is. A fallacy is an argument that’s flawed or misleading. It doesn’t include any real reasoning, making it an ineffective claim.
There are two types of fallacies: formal and informal. Formal fallacies are arguments that fall apart once scrutinized, while informal fallacies contain issues with how they’re presented, but their actual claim could still be proven true.
To Beg a Question
When you beg the question, you’re making a claim that’s based on the assumption of something being true without presenting a reason to believe it. The “begging the question” fallacy, then, is an informal fallacy because a statement that begs the question isn’t necessarily untrue, it’s just not persuasive.
Examples of Begging the Question
Does that all sound vague and a bit confusing? Let’s look at some examples to help clear things up.
Vintage furniture is better than new furniture because it’s usually made from real wood.
This statement relies on the assumption that real wood is the superior material for furniture. However, nothing in this claim explains why that’s the case, so it begs the question, “What makes real wood better than other materials?”
Certain topics shouldn’t be taught in school because they’re harmful.
This claim assumes that certain topics can be harmful for students to learn about, but it doesn’t provide a basis for that reasoning. It begs the question, “How does teaching certain topics harm students?”
Blueberries are good for you because they’re filled with antioxidants.
This sentence relies on the belief that antioxidants are good for you, which begs the question, “What’s the benefit of antioxidants?”
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The ocean is blue because the sky is blue.
When a child asks why the ocean is blue, a parent may provide the above answer. This leads to the inevitable follow-up of “why?” This is because this statement relies on the truth that the water’s color reflects the color of the sky, begging the question, “How does the color of the sky affect the color of the ocean?”
Pregnant women should avoid caffeine because there’s a correlation between caffeine use and pregnancy complications.
This one may seem like there is some evidence to back up the claim, but it makes the assumption that a correlation means a connection, which isn’t true. It begs the question, then, “How does caffeine use cause pregnancy complications?”
Conclusion: Begging the Question
People make statements that beg a question all the time. In everyday conversations, so much of what’s said is based on what’s unsaid – accepted beliefs and prior knowledge of context influence the way we communicate.
When you’re trying to make an argument, though, such as in an academic paper or debate, it’s a good idea to avoid begging the question and present your arguments using evidence. If you’re writing an argumentative essay, our editors will be happy to help you present your ideas clearly. That begs the question, though, “What makes our editors so great?” Try out a free sample of our service to find out!
Begging the Question FAQ
What’s another term for begging the question?
“Begging the question” is similar to circular reasoning, which is when an argument goes around in circles, relying on its conclusion being true rather than proof.
What is a fallacy?
A fallacy is a mistaken belief or misconception based on unsound reasoning.