Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog

Aug 31 2009   1:21PM GMT

Begging the question or raising it?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

typing Which is correct?
Because cyberbullying occurs outside the school, the situation ______ the question of whether or not it falls into the school’s jurisdiction.
a. begs
b. raises

Answer: b

Explanation: The fact that cyberbullying takes place away from the school raises the question of whether it falls into the school’s jurisdiction.

To beg the question is to base an argument on an unproven assumption. Typically, the conclusion is just a rewording of the premise. For example: Information security is essential because our private information has to be safe.

Such an argument is also called circular reasoning. Here’s another example:

I know my daughter is not guilty of cyberbullying because she would never do such a thing.

Here’s an example from Mr. Hagin’s English Page:

A confused student argues: “You can’t give me a C. I’m an A student!”

Circular reasoning is problematic because the claim is made on grounds that cannot be accepted as true — because those very grounds are in dispute. How can a student claim to be an A student when he just earned a C?

To clarify, no one is an “A student” by definition. Grades are earned in every class and are derived from a variety of different methods. The requirements in one class are set by the school and the instructor, so the same class taught by a different teacher or in a different location should yield two very different results (final grades). Merely claiming to be an A student does not make the claim valid.

NOTE: The false authority fallacy also applies here — you cannot use yourself as your own authority with total certainty. A doctor is more qualified to diagnose your shoulder pain than you are; your teachers are better qualified to evaluate your performance than a student.

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