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   Begging the Question

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  • From: Andrew Layman <andrewl@microsoft.com>
  • To: "'xml-dev@lists.xml.org'" <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2000 15:28:07 -0800

Several recent posts have used the phrase "beg the question" when the poster
evidently meant something more like "raise the question."  

"Beg the question" is a valuable term from logic, identifying a certain
logical fallacy.  It is also known in the Latin as petitio principii. To
quote from Modern English Usage by Fowler,

Arguing in a Circle: The basing of two conclusion each upon the other.  That
the world is good follows from the known goodness of God; that God is good
is known from the excellence of the world he has made.

Petitio Principii or Begging the Question: 'assumption of the basis'.  The
fallacy of founding a conclusion on a basis that as much needs to be proved
as the conclusion itself.  Arguing in a circle (see above) is a common form
of p.p.  That foxhunting is not cruel, since the fox enjoys the fun & that
one must keep servants because all respectable people do so, are other
examples of begging the question or p.p., in which the argument is not

While the evolution of language is natural and in some cases harmless, we
may in the future -- perhaps even on this discussion list -- have a need to
use the term in its function of identifying a logical error, so this concept
and its name are worth preserving.


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