Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Go ahead and beg the question all you want.

People say "oh, don't say something 'begs the question,' that's a logical fallacy, you should say 'raise the question.'"  People say this!  You will meet them in the streets every day!  But to that, I say two things:

Thing One: have you ever in your life actually used 'begs the question' to mean 'assumes the conclusion in the premise?'  If you're not a philosophy professor, I have my doubts!  But even if you have, it would be very obvious what you meant.  No one would be confused.  This is like when pedants say "oh, you shouldn't use 'decimate' unless you mean kill one out of ten."  When the hell do you have to talk about killing one out of ten people?  You don't, and if for some reason you did, the context would make it clear.  And if the context doesn't do that, then you have to accept that the 'original' meanings has been lost.  The way people use it ninety-nine percent of the time is always gonna win out.  Vox populi!  Language changes!  It's not the end of the world.

Thing Two: "Raise the question" is NOT synonymous with the supposed misuse of "Beg the question." "Raise the question" sounds neutral: there is a question.  That is all.  Whereas "begs the question" means more "DEMANDS that the question be answered."  It's stronger, and it's way more fun to say.  We have few enough fun things to do these days; don't try to take this tiny source of joy away from us!


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