Begging the Question: Circular Reasoning as a Tactic of Argumentation

By Douglas N. Walton | Go to book overview

7
Revising the Textbooks

In chapter six, section four, ten faults of argument often confused with the fallacy of begging the question were identified and described. A glance at the treatments of begging the question in the logic textbooks will reveal a confusing multiplicity of different classifications, terminologies, and descriptions of this fallacy. At present, the treatments given by the various textbooks are inconsistent with each other, superficial, and problematic. Such problems are not the fault of the textbook authors (who have often been very creative)--a coherent, systematic theory of begging the question to guide them is simply lacking.

Among the most prominent dubious assumptions accepted by many textbooks are the following: (1) that circular reasoning is inherently fallacious; (2) that arguments with one or more unproven assumptions as premises are fallaciously question-begging; and (3) that as soon as an argument is shown to be circular, or even to have an unproven assumption as a premise, there is no further need to study it or gather evidence in order to show that it begs the question.

All these assumptions were shown to be serious obstacles in the way of evaluating cases of begging the question in chapters five and six. Now we must turn to bringing some order to the kaleidoscopic treatments of begging the question in the textbooks, in order to set out reasonable requirements for a theory of begging the question that could make a unified and adequate theory of this fallacy possible.

In undertaking this task, we will put to use the case study techniques developed in the previous chapters in making some recommendations on how the texts should (or should not) treat petitio principii. The most general of these recommendations is that there should be a burden of proof on any critic (notably including criticisms made in logic textbooks) who would charge that an argument is question-begging, to back up the charge with specified kinds of textual and contextual evidence. Two rules for burden of proof on a critic are formulated.

Several pseudo-fallacies are identified--these are phenomena of argumentation that are commonly but wrongly identified with the fallacy of begging the question.

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Begging the Question: Circular Reasoning as a Tactic of Argumentation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Philosophy ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Note xv
  • 1 - Origins, Preconceptions, and Problems 1
  • Notes 33
  • 2 - Contexts of Dialogue 35
  • Notes 85
  • 3 - Argument Diagramming 87
  • Notes 123
  • 4 - Shorter Case Studies 125
  • Notes 180
  • 5 - Longer Case Studies 183
  • Notes 212
  • 6 - Fallacies, Faults, Blunders, and Errors 215
  • Notes 246
  • 7 - Revising the Textbooks 249
  • Notes 283
  • 8 - A Theory of Begging the Question 285
  • Notes 325
  • Bibliography 327
  • Index 335
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