The Etymology of Begging the Question

Posted on: October 19, 2009
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Begging the Question: Do I know what it is, what about you, do you know what it is?


By Rocky Reichman


When you Google begging the question, you get 10,100,000 results (interestingly, the more common [and commonly listed in dictionaries] beg the question only brings half that many.) After checking Webster’s New World Dictionary, I discovered that begging the question means either “to use an argument that assumes as proved the very thing one is trying to prove, or, loosely, to evade the issue.”

In short, begging the question is when someone tries to avoid, or get out of, the question. The origin of the phrase begging the question is for certain, but we know its been around quite a while. In 1908, a New York Times’ reporter’s headline brusquely read, “Begging the Question.” In the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898, in an entry for begging the questions, it’s written, “…Assuming a proposition which, in reality, involves the conclusion. Thus, to say that parallel lines will never meet because they are parallel, is simply to assume….”

Not to avoid the issue any further, let’s get to our next article.


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