Begging the question: circular reasoning as a tactic of argumentation

New York: Greenwood Press (1991)
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Abstract

This book offers a new theory of begging the question as an informal fallacy, within a pragmatic framework of reasoned dialogue as a normative theory of critical argumentation. The fallacy of begging the question is analyzed as a systematic tactic to evade fulfillment of a legitimate burden of proof by the proponent of an argument. The technique uses a circular structure of argument to block the further progress of dialogue and, in particular, the capability of the respondent to ask legitimate critical questions in reply to the argument. Walton analyzes the concept of burden of proof in argument, and provides chapters on the use of argument diagramming as a technique of argument reconstruction. This powerful method of argument analysis developed therein is then applied to more than 100 case studies of circular argumentation where the charge of begging the question is or has been thought to be an appropriate criticism. Throughout this work, Walton throws light on the relationship between the problem of circular reasoning and broader issues in the critical analysis of argumentation. Ground-breaking use is made of the pragmatic theory of argument as interactive dialogue. Rules for several kinds of dialogue framework provide standards of good reasoning to validate or to refute the criticism that a particular argument begs the question. This book is directed to students and professionals in the fields of speech communication, philosophy, linguistics, logic, dispute mediation, and education.

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Douglas Walton
Last affiliation: University of Windsor

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