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Beg the question

Posted by R. Berg on May 26, 2001

In Reply to: Beg the question posted by John Gall on May 24, 2001

: : The one meaning I find in the list is far different from whatI have been told this phrase means. Does anyone know another definition?

: Though I do not have a definition of the phrase "beg the question, " I have heard used entirely differently. I have generally heard it used when a question is avoided: that begs the question.

: When the question was asked for another definition to a phrase, my answer "begged the question" by not answering it. Since the meaning to the phrase (as I knew it) didn't match the meanings of the words, I looked up the definiton.

: I hope somebody can shed some light on this phrase.

"Begging the question" is the English translation of "petitio principii" (Latin). Defined by H. W. Fowler in "Modern English Usage" (2nd ed., 1965) as "the fallacy of founding a conclusion on a basis that as much needs to be proved as the conclusion itself. Arguing in a circle is a common variety of petitio principii."