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Begging the Question

The truth of the conclusion is assumed by the premises. Often, the conclusion is simply restated in the premises in a slightly different form. In more difficult cases, the premise is a consequence of the conclusion. “To beg the question is to assume its truth or falsity without proof. This does not mean a direct assumption of truth or falsity but an indirect assumption reached in a circuitous manner by an appearance of logical reasoning. In logic this error is called petitio principi. It may appear in many different forms but the following are the most frequently encountered: A. Arguing in a circle. This error involves more than one syllogism. It begins by assuming the truth of a premise, next upon this premise a conclusion is built and then finally this very conclusion is used in an attempt to prove the premise with which the syllogism was begun. … B. Directly assuming the point at issue. In directly assuming the truth of the point at issue much language is employed which tends to conceal the lack of real proof. Stripped of their wealth of expression such so-called arguments appear as bare unsupported assertions.” (Ketcham, Theory and Practice of Argumentation and Debate, pp. 250-1)

  1. "There is one other argument so un-American and so inhuman that I am almost ashamed to quote it, and yet it has been used, and I fear is secretly in the minds of some who would not openly stand for it. A manufacturer standing near the furnace of a glasshouse and pointing to a procession of young Slav boys who were carrying the glass on trays, remarked 'Look at their faces, and you will see that it is idle to take them from the glasshouse in order to give them an education; they are what they are, and will always remain what they are.' He meant that there are some human beings—and these Slavs of the number—who are mentally irredeemable, so fast asleep intellectually that they cannot be awakened; designed by nature, therefore, to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. This cruel and wicked thing was said of Slavs; it is the same thing which has been said from time immemorial by the slave owners of their slaves. First they degrade human beings by denying them opportunity to develop their better nature; no schools, no teaching, no freedom, no outlook; and then, as if in mockery, they point to the degraded condition of their victims as a reason why they should never be allowed to escape from it." (Percival & Jelliffe, Specimens of Exposition and Argument)
  2. Since I'm not lying, it follows that I'm telling the truth.
  3. "Men ought not to steal: A. Because it is wrong. B. It is wrong because it is contrary to the Moral Law. C. It is contrary to the Moral Law because it is forbidden in the Holy Scriptures. D. It is forbidden in the Holy Scriptures because it is contrary to God's will. A. It is contrary to God's will because it is wrong. The more extended the circle, and the more involved the statement, the more difficult it is to detect this kind of fallacy." (Esenwein, How to Attract and Hold an Audience, p. 27)
  4. 1) Reality is limited to that which is directly perceivable through our natural senses or indirectly ascertained through the proper use of reason. 2) Truth is the degree to which a statement corresponds with reality. 3) Belief in the existence of God or souls is false.
Show that in order to believe that the premises are true we must already agree that the conclusion is true.