The phrase “begs the question” gets used incorrectly more and more lately. I hear it on TV and read it in magazines and on websites.
Begs the question does NOT mean “raises the question.” For example:
Incorrect: My car broke down. That begs the question, should I have had it serviced last week?
Incorrect: Your mother is mad at me again. That begs the question, what did I do this time?
So what DOES Begs the Question Mean?
Begs the question is a phrase that comes from formal logic. It means that someone has made a conclusion based on a premise that lacks support. Wha?
OK, a few examples of statements that DO beg the question:
1. Speaking up for oneself is critical because it’s important to be heard.
“It’s important to be heard” doesn’t explain why “Speaking up for oneself is critical.” The two phrases merely make the same point in different words. This sentence doesn’t answer the question “Why is it important to speak up for oneself?” OR the question “Why is it important to be heard?” In other words, this sentence Begs The Question. It leaves the reader begging for an answer.
2. Chocolate is my favorite food because I like it best.
3. Vegetables are good for you because they make you healthy.
Do you see what I’m getting at in #2 and #3?
Note: My first-born son insists I’m wrong about all of the above: “Language evolves, so begs the question no longer means what it used to mean.” The following link is for him: http://grammarist.com/rhetoric/begging-the-question-fallacy/
(Apology: I tried to post the cartoon but it just wouldn’t come in here in any legible form)
And finally my favorite example from from someone whose handle is doubloons: (grammarist.com/rhetoric/begging-the-question-fallacy/)
“It’s important to use the phrase ‘begging the question’ correctly, because people should speak properly. But this begs the question, what is so important about speaking properly in the first place?”
I dunno. I just kinda like to talk and write good.