Also Known as: Circular Reasoning, Reasoning in a Circle, Petitio Principii.


Begging the Question is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true. This sort of "reasoning" typically has the following form.

Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).
Claim C (the conclusion) is true.

This fallacy occurs when the premises are at least as questionable as the conclusion reached. Typically the premises of the argument implicitly assume the result which the argument purports to prove, in a disguised form. Often, the conclusion is simply restated in the premises in a slightly different form. In more difficult cases, the premise is a consequence of the conclusion.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because simply assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) in the premises does not constitute evidence for that conclusion. Obviously, simply assuming a claim is true does not serve as evidence for that claim. This is especially clear in particularly blatant cases: "X is true. The evidence for this claim is that X is true."

Some cases of question begging are fairly blatant, while others can be extremely subtle.

Complex Question (This is the interrogative form of Begging the Question. One example is the classic loaded question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?")

   Two otherwise unrelated points are conjoined and treated as a single proposition. The reader is expected to accept or reject both together, when in reality one is acceptable while the other is not. A complex question is an illegitimate use of the "and" operator.

   You should support home education and the God-given right of parents to raise their children according to their own beliefs.
   Do you support freedom and the right to bear arms?
   Have you stopped using illegal sales practises? (This asks two questions: did you use illegal practises, and did you stop?)
   The question presupposes a definite answer to another question which has not even been asked. This trick is often used by lawyers in cross-examination, when they ask questions like:
"Where did you hide the money you stole?"
    Similarly, politicians often ask loaded questions such as: "How long will this EU interference in our affairs be allowed to continue?" or "Does the Chancellor plan two more years of ruinous privatization?"
Another form of this fallacy is to ask for an explanation of something which is untrue or not yet established.

Rebuttal: Identify the two propositions illegitimately conjoined and show that believing one does not mean that you have to believe the other.


Bill: "God must exist."
Jill: "How do you know."
Bill: "Because the Bible says so."
Jill: "Why should I believe the Bible?"
Bill: "Because the Bible was written by God."

"If such actions were not illegal, then they would not be prohibited by the law."

"The belief in God is universal. After all, everyone believes in God."

Interviewer: "Your resume looks impressive but I need another reference."
Bill: "Jill can give me a good reference."
Interviewer: "Good. But how do I know that Jill is trustworthy?"
Bill: "Certainly. I can vouch for her."


Show that in order to believe that the premises are true we must already agree that the conclusion is true.