Saturday, March 29, 2008

That Begs the Question

I do not have particularly good grammar. Anyone who reads my wife’s blog can read about how my pre-school age daughter has corrected me on the correct use of “either” and “neither” (and their pronunciation). One thing that for no good reason irritates me is the use, particularly in the media, of the phrase, “that begs the question” to lead from a person’s statement to an obvious follow-up question. I think the reason it grates on me is that television interviewers are ostensibly out to broadcast the truth, and in some cases convince us of it. If that’s the case, they should speak correctly, I believe. Whether or not anyone but debate team members get up in arms about this improper use of a logical statement is up in the air, but I for one am ticked.

The correct usage is to describe an argument that utilizes the initial supposition to prove itself. For example:

Lawyers always lie.

That lawyer is speaking.

Therefore, he must be lying.

While in this simple illustration it’s easy to see that it is not the case, logically it seemingly proves the point without actually proving it. In a more complex argument, a good double-talker can seem to arrive at a point of proof, without actually satisfying the burden of evidence. At that point, some astute student of logic can step up and say, “That begs the question, you haven’t proven anything.”

So if you’re in the habit of using this phrase incorrectly, I hope I’ve helped to straighten you out. I hope you will also join me in shaking your fist, angry-mob-style, at the television when some manicured journalist uses the phrase incorrectly to lead to the next question in their smarmy, drawn out interview. </hate tv>


  1. ummm no, that actually just confused me even more. I wish I was smart like you guys,

  2. you removed me? I wasn't poking fun. Well, maybe a little, but not to be unkind.

  3. I only deleted the comment because I fixed the error it was referring to. Heart you. - Mister


Keep it clean...