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Begging the question

Whenever I come across someone using beg the question, it seems to be mostly used incorrectly.

For many, the phrase seems to mean invites the question or raises the question. But that is not the right usage.

That Alibaba is a Chinese company has important implications and begs the question: Will China become the next Silicon Valley, a breeding ground for the next generation of technology giants?
CNN.com: It’s meteoric rise begs the question: Will China become the next Silicon Valley?

History and meaning

The term “begging the question” (Latin petitio principii) originated in the 16th century and translates as assuming the initial point.

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“Begging the question” is a form of logical fallacy in which an argument is assumed to be true without evidence other than the argument itself. It does not mean “to raise the question.”
–begthequestion.info, everything you need to know about begging the question

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Examples

From Grammarist:

  • Freedom of speech is important because people should be able to speak freely.
    • This example begs the question, Why is it important for everyone to have a voice?
  • The death penalty is wrong because killing people is immoral.
    • This example begs the question, Why is killing people, and by extension the death penalty, immoral?

Characteristics of begging the question

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A person starts off by stating that a certain thing is true, then they do not give any real evidence for that. Instead, they restate the same general information. So, no evidence is really given. No progress is made in the argument. A parent saying you have to listen to me because I said you should listen to me uses this fallacy.
–Study, Characteristics of Begging the Question

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Think twice before using “begging the question”

Here’s an example of a begging the question that might well be correct – circular argument, the premise and conclusion given with no evidence – by well-known South African business journalist Bruce Whitfield:

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South Africa has one of world’s lowest rates of social mobility which begs the question – If you’re born poor in this country, is there an overwhelming probability of you dying poor?
–CNBC Africa, Tonight With Bruce, 24 June 2015

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Bruce Whitfield with another example, but this time the fallacy’s incorrect usage:

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Bruce Whitfield:
That implies this could have been going on for years.
June Tudhope:
It could well have. Until you know, we have done the work and finished the investigation, we won't know.
Bruce Whitfield:
Which begs the question as to why it wasn't picked up earlier?
–iAfrica, Law blow, 23 May 2008

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