The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fallacy: Begging the Question

Also Known as: Circular Reasoning, Reasoning in a Circle, Petitio Principii.

Description of Begging the Question

Begging the Question is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true. This sort of "reasoning" typically has the following form.

  1. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).
  2. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because simply assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) in the premises does not constitute evidence for that conclusion. Obviously, simply assuming a claim is true does not serve as evidence for that claim. This is especially clear in particularly blatant cases: "X is true. The evidence for this claim is that X is true."

Some cases of question begging are fairly blatant, while others can be extremely subtle.

Examples of Begging the Question

  1. Bill: "God must exist."
    Jill: "How do you know."
    Bill: "Because the Bible says so."
    Jill: "Why should I believe the Bible?"
    Bill: "Because the Bible was written by God."

  2. "If such actions were not illegal, then they would not be prohibited by the law."

  3. "The belief in God is universal. After all, everyone believes in God."

  4. Interviewer: "Your resume looks impressive but I need another reference."
    Bill: "Jill can give me a good reference."
    Interviewer: "Good. But how do I know that Jill is trustworthy?"
    Bill: "Certainly. I can vouch for her."

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