Beg The Question

Meaning of “Beg the Question”

The phrase ‘beg the question’ or ‘begs the question’ has been borrowed from Latin ‘petitio principia’. It means to use a previous principle to claim that the argument is true but has not been raised. In other words, it generally means that the truth cannot be proved even if there is a piece of existing evidence. One must always cover all the grounds.

Origin of “Beg the Question”

The phrase “beg the question” is taken from Latin as stated earlier. However, in the English language, its use has been traced to William Clarke used in 1581 as; “Ffiij, I say this is still to begge the question.” Since then, it has been used in the same send with standardization of spellings.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Beg The Question by Lee Mack

Those gods jilted and those sainted
Lotteries of better life designs
Chance satisfying as luck
-And luck divines any pleasure fulfilled
Will that choice of nature versus spirit
Define whose shoulders bear
A poet’s poem -begs the question.

The above lines talk about the confusing and disturbed state of the world. The poet comments on the role of religion in life, loss of religious beliefs, rise of capitalism and the role of chance and luck in careers. He argues putting a question about whether nature and spirit would define the poetry. He then uses this phrase to prove that it is so. The phrase has been used as a title of the poem to show that this argument does not need evidence as they are enough to prove it.

Example #2

So Alone by The Offspring

At all of the people
Still you’re so alone
So alone
If I could, I’d make a suggestion

Without sounding preachy
Or begging the question
Melt with your minds
Melt with each other

Don’t be surrounded
Don’t be so alone

The singer is giving a suggestion to his beloved. Despite the presence of the people, she is feeling lonely. Here, he is not “begging the question”. It means that he is not covering all the grounds or thinking about the possibilities. He is encouraging her to feel loved and belonged even if she is alone. Therefore, she should mingle with the people and align her mind with them to end this loneliness.

Example #3

Tidal by Protest the Hero

There’s got to be something more than this
It sounds so deceiving
Begging the question “why?”
Begging the question “why?”
Why do we work until we are unable?
Why do we work until we die?

These lines show that the singer wants to see something more than what is in front of him. His argument is not deceptive but already proven. He poses questions to prove that it is valid about sacrificing happiness for work. His argument as his last two questions point to the meanings of the phrase “begging the question.”

Example #4

Logical Self-defense by Ralph Henry Johnson and J. Anthony Blair

We can no summarize begging the question and present its conditions. There are two species to be recognized. In one, the premises contain the conclusion, either expression identically or stated in a logically equivalent form. The first version of the fallacy is usually found in long compound arguments. The question-begging premise tends to occur in a subordinate argument; the conclusion it begs is one or more steps removed. In the second kind of begging the question, the guilty premise is plausible or reasonable only if one already accepts the conclusion.

The writers focus on the logical fallacy of ‘begging the question’. According to them, it has two premises and the second premise is presumably based on the first premise. The authors have used the phrase to explain it’s argumentative value.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “Henry had a valid point in his argument. Shannon is the sole survivor of the family after the accidents, which begs the question, how did she manage to survive?”

Example #2: “Clara claims that she has helped her cousin many times, which begs the question why she had left him at the daycare without taking any responsibility.”

Example #3: “Kyle often beats his siblings for fun does not beg any questions. They too play with him without any complaints. So, he is not a violent person.”

Example #4: “His statement about the torture and abuse of his rights seems to beg the question. If had broken the law, he is guilty.”

Example #5: “The judge went through all the evidence and heard the witness. However, there is a need to beg the question, if John was guilty. The fact that the stolen goods were not found at the accused’s apartment.”