Confused Expressions #7: Begging the Question

Very few things throw me more in a conversation than when someone says, “And of course that begs the question …”

In philosophy, “begging the question” is a technical term that means you’ve made the fallacy of assuming the truth of your conclusion in your premises: i.e., of arguing from point A to point A.

When they use that expression in conversation, though, most people aren’t accusing you of having fallen off the logic truck; they mean that you’ve raised an important question.

Why does the misappropriate use of that expression throw me? Because the term “begging” has a negative connotation. This works well in philosophy, where “begging the question” is a bad thing (or, to use the technical term for bad things in philosophy, a fallacy). But there’s nothing negative about a thought that raises a question, and such a thought deserves better treatment!

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