Monday, October 17, 2005

Raising the Answer About Begging the Question

Will Durst had a hilarious column about Harriet Miers at Working For Change on Friday, but he committed a diction error that’s becoming more and more common these days. Durst wrote Defending the selection of his longtime personal consultant, President Bush said; "I picked the best person I could find," which begs the question of how hard he was looking.

See the error? What Bush said doesn’t beg the question, it raises the question.

Begging the question has a specific meaning: It’s a philosophical fallacy akin to circular reasoning. For instance, if you believe George W. Bush has a sound foreign policy, and your reasoning for believing so is that it’s a foreign policy developed by George W. Bush, then you’re begging the question. (Notice how I’m refraining from saying how many other fallacies you’re committing.)

Anyway, it’s a simple mistake, a simple matter of choosing the wrong word. When you’re referring to something that’s been brought to light, you’re raising the question, not begging it. Pass the word.

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