Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Don't Think That Means What You Think It Means



I love to do crossword puzzles, but I avoid the Friday New York Times puzzle. There’s no point. At most, I’ll get two. Do you know the Volstead Act opponents?

I love to watch TV, but I avoid the remote controls. I already know that whichever button I press will not produce a screen filled with Don Draper, Roger, and Peggy; it will produce either a blank blue screen or static.

And I love to write, but I avoid using the term “beg the question.” I don’t know exactly what “beg the question” means, but I do know that it doesn’t mean what I think it should mean.
It seems like it should mean “raises the question.”
For example: 

She doesn’t know how to use TV remote controls. That begs the question: how does she watch TV?

(Answer: “Honey, can you come here a sec? I have an emergency!”)

But it doesn’t mean that. According to Wikipedia, begging the question is “a type of informal fallacy in which an implicit premise would directly entail the conclusion. Begging the question is one of the classic informal fallacies in Aristotle's Prior Analytics. Some modern authors consider begging the question to be a species of circulus in probando (Latin, "circle in proving") or circular reasoning. Were it not begging the question, the missing premise would render the argument viciously circular, and while never persuasive, arguments of the form ‘A therefore A’ are logically valid because asserting the premise while denying the self-same conclusion is a direct contradiction.”

Now do you see why I avoid it?

13 comments:

the late phoenix said...

also, "begging", as in Federer's shots today were left begging, they weren't good shots, they were out or hit the net. i'm still sad about that, an entire tennis era seems to be over. that doesn't make any sense, the shots would never be left begging, they'd be too embarrassed to show their faces in public even for free money.

signed,
future street beggar...."Honey, that bum the late phoenix is at the door again..."

Shelly said...

I avoid begging in any form as much as possible.

Andrew Leon said...

I don't think I've even ever thought about using that phrase.

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

I almost kept up with you on this one! I have never had to say "beg the question"!

Teaching English with Mr. Duncan

Mark said...

There are a few words/phrases I don't use because I don't really understand them. Sometimes researching them does help though. I learned what the word "belie" truly means and so I didn't use it. I am absolutely no closer to knowing what "beg the question" means and I was sure it meant what you thought it did. That's how everyone uses it at least.

DiscConnected said...

This post begs the question, why use the phrase 'begs the question?'

Theresa Milstein said...

It begs the question, why does anyone use it?

Um, did I use it correctly?

Jemi Fraser said...

Oy! What a convoluted circle! I don't think I've ever used the expression - and I know I won't now :)

keppi baranick said...

It makes my head ache. And I love you.

WalksLikeAnEgyptian said...

What just happened...

Jo Antareau said...

I remember an English teacher expalining the use of that term when we were learning about logical arguments, and it left my head spinning then as it did now (but I still aced the exam, so it obviusly wasn't neccesary). Hey - spinning head during logic - is THAT circular reasoning?

anthony stemke said...

I would beg to differ but perhaps that would evade the question.

anthony stemke said...

I would beg to differ but perhaps that would evade the question.