In this paper I argue against the received view that the anti-nativist arguments of Book I of Locke’s Essay conclusively challenge nativism. I begin by reconstructing the chief argument of Book I and its corollary arguments. I call attention to their dependence on (what I label) “the Awareness Principle”, viz., the view that there are no ideas in the mind of which the mind either isn’t currently aware or hasn’t been aware in the past. I then argue that the arguments’ (...) dependence on this principle is questionbegging on two counts. Unless this principle is defended, Locke’s arguments beg the question against Descartes and Leibniz because their nativism implies the denial of the Awareness Principle. And even when Locke defended the principle, his arguments remain questionbegging because they presuppose the empiricism they aim to prove. The disclosure of the question-begging status of these arguments debunks a seemingly powerful way of attacking nativism. (shrink)
I find (as others have found) that question-begging is formally valid but rationally unpersuasive. More precisely, it ought to be unpersuasive, although it can often persuade. Despite its formal validity, question-begging fails to establish its conclusion; in this sense it fails under a classical or foundationalist model of argument. But it does link its conclusion to its premises by means of acceptable rules of inference; in this sense it succeeds under a non-classical, non-foundationalist model of argument (...) which is spelled out in the essay. However, even for the latter model question-begging fails to link the conclusion to premises that the unconvinced would find more acceptable than the conclusion. The essay includes reflections on the conditions under which the circularity of mutually supporting claims can avoid question-begging and legitimately be persuasive. (shrink)
InMetaphysics Γ, Ch. 4, Aristotle speaks of both infinite regress and question-begging, but does not explicitly relate them. We get the impression that he thinks that to use one of these arguments to avoid the other is to jump from the frying-pan into the fire. This relationship is illustrated in terms of the ignorant belief that everything can be proved, and of attempts to prove the Law of Noncontradiction.
A number of epistemologists have recently concluded that a piece of reasoning may be epistemically permissible even when it is impossible for the reasoning subject to present her reasoning as an argument without begging the question. I agree with these epistemologists, but argue that none has sufficiently divorced the notion of begging the question from epistemic notions. I present a proposal for a characterization of begging the question in purely pragmatic terms.
The essay starts by presenting two accounts of begging the question, John Biro's epistemic account and David Sanford's doxastic account. After briefly comparing these accounts, the essay will study an argument suspected of begging the question and subsequently apply the epistemic and doxastic accounts to this test case. It is found that the accounts of Biro and Sanford do not analyse the test case adequately, therefore a new account is developed using the idea of a knowledge-base.
In this paper a dialogical account of begging the question is applied to various contexts which are not obviously dialogues: - reading prose, working through a deductive system, presenting a legal case, and thinking to oneself. The account is then compared with that in chapter eight of D. Walton'sBegging the Question (New York; Greenwood, 1991).
This paper studies some classic cases of the fallacy of begging the question based on appeals to testimony containing circular reasoning. For example, suppose agents a, b and c vouch for d’s credentials, and agents b, d, and e vouch for a’s credentials. Such a sequence of reasoning is circular because a is offering testimony for d but d is offering testimony for a. The paper formulates and evaluates restrictions on the use of testimonial evidence that might be (...) used to deal with such problematic arguments. One is called the Non-repeater Rule: in an extended sequence of argumentation based on testimony, once a source x has been appealed to at any given point in the sequence, that same source x must never be appealed to again at any next point in the same sequence. (shrink)
The fallacy of many questions or the complex question, popularized by the sophism ‘Have you stopped beating your spouse?’ (when a yes-or-no answer is required), is similar to the fallacy of begging the question orpetitio principii. Douglas N. Walton inBegging the Question has recently argued that the two forms are alike in trying unfairly to elicit an admission from a dialectical opponent without meeting burden of proof, but distinct because of the circularity of question-begging (...) argument and noncircularity of many questions. I offer a reconstruction of the many questions fallacy according to which it is just as circular as begging the question, concluding that many questions begs the question. The same analysis contradicts Walton's claim that questions can beg the question, drawing a distinction between questions as the instruments of question-begging, and as vehicles for categorical noninterrogative presuppositions that beg the question. (shrink)
I argue that the argument from zombies against physicalism is question-begging unless proponents of the argument from zombies can justify the inference from the metaphysical possibility of zombies to the falsity of physicalism in an independent and non-circular way, i.e., a way that does not already assume the falsity of physicalism.
This paper discusses Lippert-Rasmussen’s [Philosophical Studies 104, (2001) 123–141] claim that there are reasonable question-begging arguments. It is first argued that his arguments devalue the distinction between justifiable and justified beliefs, a distinction that is important for the fallacy theory. Second, it is argued that the role of the argument in the discussed cases can be questioned. In addition, the role of second order beliefs is discussed.
In this paper I argue against the received view that the anti-nativist arguments of Book I of Locke's Essay conclusively challenge nativism. I begin by reconstructing the chief argument of Book I and its corollary arguments. I call attention to their dependence on (what I label) "the Awareness Principle", viz., the view that there are no ideas in the mind of which the mind either isn't currently aware or hasn't been aware in the past. I then argue that the arguments' (...) dependence on this principle is questionbegging on two counts. Unless this principle is defended, Locke's arguments beg the question against Descartes and Leibniz because their nativism implies the denial of the Awareness Principle. And even when Locke defended the principle, his arguments remain questionbegging because they presuppose the empiricism they aim to prove. The disclosure of the question-begging status of these arguments debunks a seemingly powerful way of attacking nativism. (shrink)
The most powerful skeptical challenge to knowledge and justification is Pyrrhonian. It challenges nonskeptics to identify non-questionbegging warrant for their beliefs whereby they will not simply assume a point needing support in light of skeptical questions. The skeptical challenge is comprehensive, bearing on warranting conditions in general. Any answer given to such a comprehensive challenge apparently relies on a warranting condition being questioned. From this two questions emerge. First, is the skeptical challenge itself questionbegging (...) in a way that undermines its epistemic significance? Second, is questionbegging necessarily an epistemic defect? This paper answers no to the first question, and identifies the problem facing skeptics who presuppose an affirmative answer to the second question. The problem stems from the availability of certain conceptions of epistemic rationality that do not prohibit questionbegging unqualifiedly. (shrink)
The Consequence Argument has elicited various responses, ranging from acceptance as obviously right to rejection as obviously problematic in one way or another. Here we wish to focus on one specific response, according to which the Consequence Argument begs the question. This is a serious accusation that has not yet been adequately rebutted, and we aim to remedy that in what follows. We begin by giving a formulation of the Consequence Argument. We also offer some tentative proposals about the (...) nature of begging the question. Although the charge of begging the question is frequently made in philosophy, it is surprisingly difficult to pin down the precise nature of this dialectical infelicity (or family of such infelicities). Thus we offer some new proposals about the nature of begging the question with an eye to understanding what is going on in central cases in which the charge is legitimately made. We then defend the Consequence Argument against the charge that it begs the question, so construed. We contend that, whatever the other liabilities of the argument may be, it does not beg the question against the compatibilist. (shrink)
Meta-ontology (in van Inwagen's sense) concerns the methodology of ontology, and a controversial meta-ontological issue is to what extent ontology can rely on linguistic analysis while establishing the furniture of the world. This paper discusses an argument advanced by some ontologists (I call them unifiers) against supporters of or coincident entities (I call them multipliers) and its meta-ontological import. Multipliers resort to Leibniz's Law to establish that spatiotemporally coincident entities a and b are distinct, by pointing at a predicate F (...) () made true by a and false by b . Unifiers try to put multipliers in front of a dilemma: in attempting to introduce metaphysical differences on the basis of semantic distinctions, multipliers either (a) rest on a fallacy of verbalism, entailed by a trade-off between a de dicto and a de re reading of modal claims, or (b) beg the question against unifiers by having to assume the distinction between a and b beforehand. I shall rise a tu quoque, showing that unifiers couldn't even distinguish material objects (or events) from the spatiotemporal regions they occupy unless they also resorted to linguistic distinctions. Their methodological aim to emancipate themselves from linguistic analysis in ontological businesses is therefore problematic. (shrink)
The arguments for Bayesianism in the literature fall into three broad categories. There are Dutch Book arguments, both of the traditional pragmatic variety and the modern ‘depragmatised’ form. And there are arguments from the so-called ‘representation theorems’. The arguments have many similarities, for example they have a common conclusion, and they all derive epistemic constraints from considerations about coherent preferences, but they have enough differences to produce hostilities between their proponents. In a recent paper, Maher (1997) has argued that the (...) pragmatised Dutch Book arguments are unsound and the depragmatised Dutch Book arguments questionbegging. He urges we instead use the representation theorem argument as in his (1993). In this paper I argue that Maher’s own argument is question-begging, though in a more subtle and interesting way than his Dutch Book wielding opponents. (shrink)
A primary purpose of argument is to increase the degree of reasonable confidence that one has in the truth of the conclusion. A questionbegging argument fails this purpose because it violates what W. E. Johnson called an epistemic condition of inference. Although an argument of the sort characterized by Robert Hoffman in his response (Analysis 32.2, Dec 71) to Richard Robinson (Analysis 31.4, March 71) begs the question in all circumstances, we usually understand the charge that (...) an argument is questionbegging with reference to the beliefs of the person, or the sort of person, to whom the argument is directed. (shrink)
No topic in informal logic is more important than begging the question. Also, none is more subtle or complex. We cannot even begin to understand the fallacy of begging the question without getting clear about arguments, their purposes, and circularity. So I will discuss these preliminary topics first. This will clear the path to my own account of begging the question. Then I will anticipate some objections. Finally, I will apply my account to a (...) well-known and popular response to scepticism by G. E. Moore. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to make it clear how and why begging the question should be seen as a pragmatic fallacy which can only be properly evaluated in a context of dialogue. Included in the paper is a review of the contemporary literature on begging the question that shows the gradual emergence over the past twenty years or so of the dialectical conception of this fallacy. A second aim of the paper is to investigate (...) a number of general problems raised by the pragmatic framework. (shrink)
This paper addresses the problem posed by the current split between the two opposed hypotheses in the growing literature on the fallacy of begging the question the epistemic hypothesis, based on knowledge and belief, and the dialectical one, based on formal dialogue systems. In the first section, the nature of split is explained, and it is shown how each hypothesis has developed. To get the beginning reader up to speed in the literature, a number of key problematic examples (...) are analyzed illustrating how both approaches can be applied. Useful tools are brought to bear on them, including the automated argument diagramming system Araucaria, and profiles of dialogue used to represent circular argumentation in a dialogue tableau format. These tools are used to both to model circular reasoning and to provide the contextual evidence needed to properly determine whether the circular reasoning in a given case is better judged fallacious or not. A number of technical problems that have impeded the development of both hypotheses are studied. One central problem is the distinction between argument and explanation. It is concluded that the best way to move forward and solve these problems is to reformulate the two hypotheses in such a way that they might be able to co-exist. On this basis, a unified methodology is proposed that allows each hypothesis to move forward as a legitimate avenue for research using the same tools. (shrink)
In a published exchange, Richard Robinson and Roy A. Sorenson debate the matter of whether begging the question is a fallacy; Robinson thinks it is not, but Sorenson argues that it is. Norman Ten attempts to resolve this debate by making a distinction between begging the question and fallaciously begging the question. While Teng is right to note that Robinson and Sorenson are talking past each other, he incorrectly diagnoses the source of this miscommunication. (...) In this paper, then, I offer what I take to be a more illuminating distinction 3; viz. that between logical and rhetorical fallacies 3; and employ that distinction to resolve the debate. (shrink)
According to John A Barker, whether an argument begs the question is purely a matter of logical form (Dialogue, 1976). According to me, it is also a matter of epistemic conditions; some arguments which beg the question in some contexts need not beg the question in every context (Analysis, 1972). I point out difficulties in Barker's treatment and defend my own views against some of his criticisms. In the concluding section, "Alleged difficulties with disjunctive syllogism," I defend (...) the validity of disjunctive syllogism against the views of Alan Ross Anderson and Nuel D Belnap, Jr., ask pointed questions about the notion of intensional disjunction, and suggest how my treatment of begging the question can be extended to deal with the so-called paradoxes of strict implication. (shrink)
This article answers John Biro's "Knowability, Believability, and Begging the Question: a Reply to Sanford" in "Metaphilosophy" 15 (1984). Biro and I agree that of two argument instances with the same form and content, one but not the other can beg the question, depending on other factors. These factors include actual beliefs, or so I maintain (against Biro) with the help of some analysed examples. Brief selections from Archbishop Whatley and J S Mill suggest that they also (...) regard reference to actual beliefs as essential to explaining begging the question. (shrink)
In a series of influential articles, the anti-realist Arthur Fine has repeatedly charged that a certain very popular argument for scientific realism, that only realism can explain the instrumental success of science, begs the question. I argue that on no plausible reading ofthe fallacy does the realist argument beg the question. In fact, Fine is himself guilty of what DeMorgan called the "opponent fallacy.".
Gold & Stoljar's argument rejecting the “explanatory sufficiency” of the radical neuron doctrine depends on distinguishing it from the trivial neuron doctrine. This distinction depends on the thesis of “supervenience,” which depends on Hume's regularity theory of causation. In contrast, the radical neuron doctrine depends on a physical theory of causation, which denies the supervenience thesis. Insofar as the target article argues by drawing implications from the premise of Humean causation, whereas the radical doctrine depends on the competing premise of (...) physical causation, the resulting critique of the neuron doctrine amounts largely to begging the question of causation. (shrink)
In this paper we shall try to understand what it is to beg the question, and since begging the question is generally believed to be linked with circularity, we shall also explore this relationship. Finally, we shall consider whether certain forms of valid argument can go through smoothly in anepistemio context without begging the question. We shall consider, especially, the claims of the disjunctive syllogism in this regard.
Responding rationally to the information that others disagree with one’s beliefs requires assessing the epistemic credentials of the opposing beliefs. Conciliatory accounts of disagreement flow in part from holding that these assessments must be independent from one’s own initial reasoning on the disputed matter. I argue that this claim, properly understood, does not have the untoward consequences some have worried about. Moreover, some of the difficulties it does engender must be faced by many less conciliatory accounts of disagreement (and, more (...) generally, by accounts of rationally responding to evidence of one’s epistemic malfunction). (shrink)
In his famous essay "The Ethics of Belief," William K. Clifford claimed "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." (Clifford's essay was originally published in "Contemporary Review" in 1877; it is presently in print in Madigan (1999)). One might claim that a corollary to Clifford's Law is that it is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to withhold belief when faced with sufficient evidence. Seeming to operate on this principle, many religious philosophers—from St. (...) Anselm to Alvin Plantinga—have claimed that non-believers are psychologically or cognitively deficient if they refuse to believe in the existence of God, when presented with evidence for His existence in the form of relevant experience or religious arguments that are prima facie unassailable. Similarly, many atheists fail to see how believers can confront the problem of evil and still assert their belief in a benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient Creator. In this paper, I propose to explain why religious arguments so often fail to persuade (I take the term 'religious argument' to include arguments whose conclusions are either assertions or denials of religious claims). In doing so, I first offer an account of persuasion and then apply it to religious arguments. I go on to argue that at least some religious arguments commit a form of question-begging, which I call "begging the doxastic question." An argument begs the doxastic question, on my account, when a subject would find the argument persuasive only if she antecedently believes the argument's conclusion. This form of questionbegging is not, strictly speaking, a case of circularity and thus, is not a fallacy; rather, it would explain why one coming to the argument would fail to be persuaded by it unless he already accepted its conclusion. This has the effect, when applied to religious argumentation, that religious arguments are rarely persuasive, which raises the further question: what good are religious arguments? I end by suggesting some non-persuasive functions of religious argument. Finally, I suggest that a full understanding of religious argumentation should give evidentialists pause, for religious beliefs look less like belief states that are sensitive to evidentiary states and more like framework principles or fundamental commitments. (shrink)
This paper objects to treating begging the question as circular reasoning. It argues that what is at issue in the argument is not to be confused with the claim or position that the arguer is adopting, and that logicians from Aristotle on give the wrong definition and have difficulty making sense of the fallacy because they try to define it in terms of how an argument is defined by logical theory - as a sequence consisting of premises followed (...) by a conclusion. That the problematic about begging the question depends on treating an argument as a context-less sequence of statements seems to be anticipated by the pragma-dialectical approach. The paper offers a critique of this dialogical approach, as exemplified by Douglas Walton in his recent book on begging the question, on the grounds that it raises more problems than it solves. It concludes with the suggestion that what is really at issue in discussions of begging the question is the need for a theory of fallacy. (shrink)
The young Hegel was entranced by the notion of intellectual intuition, and this notion continues to entrance many of Hegel’ commentators. I argue that Kant provided three distinct conceptions of an intuitive intellect, that none of these involve aconceptual intuitionism, and that they differ markedly from Fichte’s and Schelling’s conceptions of intellectual intuition. I further argue that by 1804 Hegel recognized that appealing to an aconceptual model, or to Schelling’s model, or to his own early model of intellectual intuition generates (...) inevitable and insoluble problems of question-begging. By incorporating several important points from Kant’s Transcendental Ideal into his reinterpretation of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction and Refutation of Idealism, Hegel’s mature discursive and conceptual account of ‘absolute knowing’ performs some of the functions Kant assigned to the intuitive intellect, though without invoking any such intuitive intellect. I discuss several of these functions. (shrink)
What are philosophical intuitions? There is a tension between two intuitive criteria. On the one hand, many of our ordinary beliefs do not seem intuitively to be intuitions; this suggests a relatively restrictionist approach to intuitions. (A few attempts to restrict: intuitions must be noninferential, or have modal force, or abstract contents.) On the other hand, it is counterintuitive to deny a great many of our beliefs—including some that are inferential, transparently contingent, and about concrete things. This suggests a liberal (...) conception of intuitions. I defend the liberal view from the objection that it faces intuitive counterexamples; central to the defense is a treatment of the pragmatics of ‘intuition’ language: we cite intuitions, instead of directly expressing our beliefs via assertion, when we are attempting to avoid begging questions against certain sorts of philosophical interlocutors. (shrink)