Why do we say "To beg the question"?

Well-Known Expressions

To beg the question

Meaning:

See below!

Background:

There are two meanings of this expression - the original version and how the expression has come to be used by many:

"Begging the question" derives from the Latin petitio principii - "a request for the beginning or premise". It describes an argument that is false because it relies on a conclusion that is assumed but not proven.

For example, to believe that a book is true because the author of the book says it is, would be an example of petitio principii or begging the question, because the premise on which you are basing your conclusion has not been proven.

Thus begging the question, is related to the circular argument (circulus in probando, "circle in proving"), although Aristotle, who was the first to define petitio principii treats them as separate concepts.

However, many, including members of the media, have come to use "beg the question" incorrectly as an alternative to "pose a question" - presumably on the basis that "beg" is a synonym of "ask". Because the correct use of this expression is not commonly understood, but the incorrect version is almost certain to irritate knowledgeable readers, many grammar sources simply suggest avoiding its use altogether.

Alphabetical list of expressions

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