Winning Discussions: Begging the Question (Effective Pirating)

Winning Discussions: Begging the Question (Effective Pirating)

Logical fallacies are techniques that people use to make an argument appear convincing even when it is wrong. Learning how to identify and refute logical fallacies is one of the best ways to win in a discussion. Catching an opponent committing a fallacy will force him to retract his error or he will appear foolish or manipulative to his audience. There is a dark side to this. Once you learn to identify logical fallacies you will also be able to use it. Do not deliberately use them against fellow Pirates; it is extreme bad manners and you will most probably be caught out.

The Logical Fallacy – Begging the Question

This phrase ‘to beg the question’ is one of the most misunderstood phrases in the English language. Most people, including many journalists, think it means to raise the question. In the phrase the word be means to avoid, not to ask for or require. This wrong usage is so common that it might be better to use one of the other names related to the fallacy:

  • Circular Argument
  • Circulus in Probando
  • Petitio Principii
  • Vicious Circle

Begging the question means to assume the conclusion of an argument in the first place. In other words the point that is to be proved is contained in the argument, meaning the logic goes around in circles. What I say (A) must be true because of somehing (B) A -> B. That something (B) is true because of what I first said (A) – B->A.  Often it is hard to see the problem as the fallacy is hidden in a long chain of arguments.  A->B, B->C, C->D therefore A->B


A clear example is, “god exists because the scriptures say she does”. If we ask the question “how do we know that the scriptures are true?”  Now we can see the fallacy in its entirety.  “The scriptures are true because god says they are” .

One that is often used against UBI (Universal basic income): “If everyone got a basic income, people would stop working.”  How does that person know that would be the case?  In fact real life examples such as the Canadian Minicome experiment show quite the opposite.  The best counter to this argument is to ask  “If you had a basic income would you stop working altogether?”  Most people would not.



You can read more about the bandwagon  logical fallacy in a wikipedia post and logical fallacies in general in this wikipedia article.
Remember that just because someone commits a logical fallacy it does not mean their argument is necessarily incorrect. If you have the time and resources then use the principles of scepticism to test their reasoning objectively.

This article is a part of a series called Effective Pirating:
Winning Discussions: The Fallacy Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 09/01/15
Winning Discussions: The Gambler’s Fallacy (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: argumentum ad ignorantiam (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: post hoc, ergo propter hoc (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: Ad Hominem (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: Appeal to Fear (Effective Pirating) 21/10/14
Winning Discussions: Begging the Question (Effective Pirating) 17/8/14
Winning Discussions – The Bandwagon Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 11/8/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – Tu Quoque 24/7/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – The Straw Man 17/7/14
Effective Pirating: Choose your Opponents Carefully 7/7/14

Featured image: CC BY-NC Tom