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Monday, February 20, 2012

Logic 101

Posted on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 11:41 AM

Dear journalists, politicians, anonymous online pundits, and anyone else who writes or speaks to the public with the expectation of being taken seriously;

"To beg the question" does not mean what most of you appear to think it means. It is not synonymous with "to ask, raise, or provoke the question". It does not imply that the question begs to be asked. It means something completely different. It is an overly literal translation of the Latin “petitio principii”, which is more accurately rendered as “assuming the initial point”.

If you take the conclusion of your argument (that would be the point you're trying to prove), reword it, and then use that statement as a premise in defense of your argument (in effect, if you try to use your conclusion to prove itself), you will have committed the logical blunder of "begging the question".

An example: "Stephen Harper is a fascist because he exhibits all the characteristics of a fascist leadership model." See what I did there? I didn't defend my assertion that Stephen Harper is a fascist with any actual information. I made it sound good by throwing around some big words. But I didn't define the characteristics of a fascist leadership model, and I didn't describe any of the ways in which Stephen Harper exhibits those characteristics. In effect, I merely said that Stephen Harper is a fascist because he is a fascist. THAT'S begging the question. Clear? Good.

That is all. —Pedantic Troll is Pedantic

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