Thursday, June 14, 2007

What do you mean by "beg the question?"

Hello, friends! I’m glad to be back with you. I was away for awhile because of a lot of dental stuff I had to do and then I went on vacation to Cape Cod.

So this blog is titled, “What do you mean by ‘beg the question’?”

There has been a severe outbreak lately of “begging the question.” Apparently it’s a very contagious ailment which may not respond to penicillin or other drugs. It affects many of our TV pundits, and we hope it can be cleared up without too many fatalities.

The thing is, these people don’t know what “to beg the question” means. It’s a device in rhetoric that involves taking the answer for granted within the question. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “to presuppose the conclusion in one’s argument.”

Examples of “begging the question” are:
- “Lying is wrong because we should always tell the truth.”
- “Democracy must be the best form of government because the majority is always right.”

(Source of examples:

When a student accuses a teacher of grading him unfairly because no matter how "excellent" his papers are, she never give him more than a C, this too is “begging the question” since he is basing his argument that she grades unfairly on the unproven premise that his essays are excellent. (Example found at

Only the most erudite among us should attempt to use the phrase in its proper form.

The way to avoid problems is to say “This raises (or gives rise to) the question: Why haven’t we done more about this?” or “Why have these methods not worked better?” or whatever your question may be.

TV pundits please take note!


RUTH said...

There certainly seems to be a new language called "Politic speak" that always makes me smile is "in real time"...this begs the qustions (LOL) "What is false time?"
Well done on another "makes you think" post.

Liz said...

Gosh, I never knew that. It's not a phrase I use so I'm not misusing it but I will listen out for it in future and remember what you've said.

Thank you.

I had a filling at the dentist's this morning. It was painless and I am a real scaredy-cat when it comes ot pain.

Hope your holiday was good.

Anonymous said...

I need more samples of how you use begging the question in real sentences!

Love, Josie