Begs a question

Dr.Appalayya

Senior Member
India;Telugu
Situation:

A person is migrating to far-off country to make money. While boarding the flight, if he says to his family members, 'for us, now money is not a problem and but to live better lives, I am moving. Spend money very frugally?

Query:

Can I say... he is the begging question. ? What is the specific occasion to use 'begging the queston?
 
  • elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I don't see how "begging the question" would fit in that context.

    To me, "begging the question" is saying something that makes a certain question appropriate or necessary.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    "Begging the question" is the name of a logical fallacy. It means giving an answer that merely repeats the data in the question. It is also called circular reasoning. Here and here, among other places, you can find examples and fuller definitions.

    One way of getting a good sense of such expressions is to use Google. Be sure to put the phrase you want in quotation marks. Here are the results I got for "begging the question".
    :)
     

    SweetSoulSister

    Senior Member
    American English
    When something "begs the question" they have done something that is strange/unusual/stupid and we need to ask them a question for clarification/deeper understanding.

    She decided to return to her abusive husband which begs the question, "what was her family life like as a child".
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I don't see how "begging the question" would fit in that context.

    To me, "begging the question" is saying something that makes a certain question appropriate or necessary.

    When something "begs the question" they have done something that is strange/unusual/stupid and we need to ask them a question for clarification/deeper understanding.

    She decided to return to her abusive husband which begs the question, "what was her family life like as a child".
    These are very interesting responses. I'm familiar with "begging the question" from the discipline of logic. I'm not sure that it is the same as "begs" the question, a phrase I'm not sure I've heard, actually.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I suppose there are two definitions, N-T's logical one (which I've heard of before but it wasn't the first thing I thought of), and my and SSS's "everyday" one (thanks for the expansion, SSS; indeed, something that begs the question could be either said or done).
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    These are very interesting responses. I'm familiar with "begging the question" from the discipline of logic. I'm not sure that it is the same as "begs" the question, a phrase I'm not sure I've heard, actually.
    That begs the question: Are nuns more likely than most to be well versed in the field of logic?

    :p
     

    SweetSoulSister

    Senior Member
    American English
    Very cute elroy :)

    Thanks NunTranslater, you are right, I suppose the "everyday" use did derive from a discipline of logic. I can easily see how. :)
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    These are very interesting responses. I'm familiar with "begging the question" from the discipline of logic. I'm not sure that it is the same as "begs" the question, a phrase I'm not sure I've heard, actually.

    The use of "beg the question" to mean "raises the question" is widespread, but some, if not many, consider it sloppy usage.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    What do those who condemn this "sloppy" use of "beg the question" suggest as a better alternative?
     

    Lemminkäinen

    Senior Member
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    "Begging the question" has indeed in later times come to be used as a synonym for "raises the question", but it takes a lot of flak from prescriptivists as bad and sloppy language.
     

    Lemminkäinen

    Senior Member
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    That said, what do those who condemn this "sloppy" use of "beg the question" suggest as a better alternative?

    That begs the question: Are nuns more likely than most to be well versed in the field of logic?

    That raises the question: [...]

    Nun-Translator's definition of "begging the question" as a logical fallacy is correct, and it used to be the only meaning of it until it also got the more "everyday" meaning of "raises the question".
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Just because a phrase acquires a new meaning does not make it sloppy usage.

    Didn't most idioms originate from literal references?

    I have a problem with unrealistic prescriptivism - finding fault with usage just for the sake of doing so.

    Furthermore, "that raises the question" does not sound as good to me as "that begs the question." So there. ;)
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    Just because a phrase acquires a new meaning does not make it sloppy usage.

    Didn't most idioms originate from literal references?

    I have a problem with unrealistic prescriptivism - finding fault with usage just for the sake of doing so.

    Furthermore, "that raises the question" does not sound as good to me as "that begs the question." So there. ;)

    No need to get defensive, grumpypants. I would never suggest that your usage is sloppy, but I think it's good to know that some - especially styleguide writers - would.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    That begs the question: What kind of life do these people lead? :rolleyes:
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    No need to get defensive, grumpypants. I would never suggest that your usage is sloppy, but I think it's good to know that some - especially styleguide writers - would.
    Indeed. I just wanted to make my position crystal clear.

    Grumpily,
    elroy
     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    I just searched the New York Times website for the combination "begs the question", and, inluding the quotation marks, got 327 hits. A far as I can tell, most articles appear to be written by NY Times staff, and none deal with logical fallacies.:)
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I just searched the New York Times website for the combination "begs the question", and, inluding the quotation marks, got 327 hits. A far as I can tell, most articles appear to be written by NY Times staff, and none deal with logical fallacies.:)
    Yes, it seems I have gone over to the old fogies' side. :( It had to happen one day, I suppose. I will admit this new, populist usage of "begs the question" to mean "raises the question", but without excluding the original meaning of one of the common logical fallacies and without prejudice to my right to grumble about it!
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    I just searched the New York Times website for the combination "begs the question", and, inluding the quotation marks, got 327 hits. A far as I can tell, most articles appear to be written by NY Times staff, and none deal with logical fallacies.:)

    Well, I doubt this would ever happen at The Wahington Post:

    People use "beg the question" to mean "raise the question." It's a distinction worth enforcing. To beg the question is to commit the logical fallacy of assuming the truth of what you're trying to prove: "God exists because he is all-powerful." Bill Walsh, copy chief, The Washington Post


    And no, Venerable Nun-Translator. You have not gone over to the old foggies' side. You are on the side of reason.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    In common parlance "begs the question" effectively means "makes you wonder".

    It joins other words/phrases whose original meanings have gone west.

    Celibate used to mean "unmarried" . The celibate clergy took a vow not to marry - it went without saying that they were sexually continent [to use a very old-fashioned phrase!]
    Now celibate is used to mean "I didn't manage to score last week-end".

    Decimate originally meant to reduce by 10% - now you see it used to mean destroy.

    The exception proves the rule originally meant "The exception puts the rule to the test". Now people used it to mean that it confirms the rule.
     

    Victoria32

    Senior Member
    English (UK) New Zealand
    Situation:

    A person is migrating to far-off country to make money. While boarding the flight, if he says to his family members, 'for us, now money is not a problem and but to live better lives, I am moving. Spend money very frugally?

    Query:

    Can I say... he is the begging question. ? What is the specific occasion to use 'begging the queston?
    Begging the question is a term in philosophy/rhetoric, which means assuming something to be true, while that thing is still in argument! So many people use it in the sense of "causing (me/us) to ask the question"
     

    Victoria32

    Senior Member
    English (UK) New Zealand
    "Begging the question" has indeed in later times come to be used as a synonym for "raises the question", but it takes a lot of flak from prescriptivists as bad and sloppy language.

    I suppose that makes me a prescriptivist then! I join you Sister, and will accept the mantle of grumpy old pedant if necessary... :)

    (My son certainly claims that I am!)

    VL
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Well, I doubt this would ever happen at The Wahington Post:

    People use "beg the question" to mean "raise the question." It's a distinction worth enforcing. To beg the question is to commit the logical fallacy of assuming the truth of what you're trying to prove: "God exists because he is all-powerful." Bill Walsh, copy chief, The Washington Post


    And no, Venerable Nun-Translator. You have not gone over to the old foggies' side. You are on the side of reason.

    It is unreasonable to use language in such a way that your intended readership will not understand it.

    I question whether it is wise to continue to use "beg the question" in the logical-fallacy sense when writing for a readership which is unlikely to understand your point. Stating, "That begs the question" is quite likely to lead to the average reader to ask "So, why did you stop? What question exactly does it raise?" On the other hand, I don't recall ever having encountered a use of "beg the question" in the sense of "raise the question" where the reader was likely to misunderstand the intended meaning, even if he was personally opposed to that use of "raise the question."
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I agree, mplsray. My readership, however, would tend more to the logical-fallacy school, than the "begs-meaning-raises" school. As a reader, I would not immediately understand the "begs-meaning-raises" variant, but that is probably because I have not lived in an English-speaking environment for over twenty years.

    (On the other hand, I read extensively in English. I guess the material I read is in a different register.)

    I question the necessity of an either-or solution. In most cases, I imagine, context would give the intelligent reader the clue as to which sense is intended. In any case, I don't see logicians changing their terminolgy at this point. ;)
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I question the necessity of an either-or solution. In most cases, I imagine, context would give the intelligent reader the clue as to which sense is intended.
    :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

    This is basically what I tried to say over a dozen posts back when I said there were two definitions. Why must we limit ourselves to one or the other when both meanings are obviously pretty widespread and effective if used appropriately?
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Here are some "begs the question" from Australia's ABC, our National Broadcaster.

    But that begs the question: why would you want to deliberately infect yourself with a potentially fatal disease? The answer is simple: .....

    But of course it begs the question of whether or not the people seeing the program in the United States or in Europe or in Japan will actually make a decision to come to Australia ...

    It begs the question. Is this simply part of a longer natural cycle, or are the cycles being altered by the arrival of new factors?
     
    Top