once said that it is not we who speaks language but language that speaks us.
One might respond to such a remark by declaring that this begs the question that if this is correct why did humans invent language? It does not,
however, beg the question but does serve to prove Heidegger's point. Heidegger's declaration certainly raises the question, or impels the question
and many more, but it does not beg the question.
If you tell me that I cannot have
my cake and eat
it too, this begs the question as well as raises the question as to why I would want
to have cake if I cannot eat it? This grossly misused axiom that wants to make the point that you can have one or the other but you cannot have both,
is properly said: You cannot eat
your cake and have
it too. When we say it as it is all too often said: You cannot have
cake and eat
it too, this is yet another example of language speaking us and us not speaking language, as well as an example of
, where the key idea, which is having
cake is placed before the next
key idea, which is eating
cake placing more attention on the have
than the eat
. It is ironic misuse of hysterion proteron in
that placing the have
before the eat
, only because when spoken properly: "You cannot eat your cake and have it too", the clear
operative is on the have, not the eat, but to say it as a hysteron proteron, it merely begs the question.
Begging the question?
Any assertion that states that a
is true because a
is true is begging the question. If the CDC tells us that HIV causes AIDS because HIV causes AIDS, this begs the question, not to mention raises or
impels several questions. If the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) tells us that climate change is caused by humans because it is
humans that are causing climate change, this begs the question. If the state tells us that we do not have the right to drive because they said we do
not have the right to drive this begs the question. If the IRS says that everyone must pay taxes on their income because all taxpayers
liable for a tax on income, this begs the question.
The fallacy of petitio principii, or "begging the question", is committed "when a proposition which requires proof is assumed without proof",
or more generally denotes when an assumption is used, "in some form of the very proposition to be proved, as a premise from which to deduce it".
Thus, insofar as petitio principii refers to arguing for a conclusion that has already been assumed in the premise, this fallacy consists of
"begging" the listener to accept the "question" (proposition) before the labor of logic is undertaken. The fallacy may be committed in various
It is ironic, this Wikipedia article on begging the question, particularly when you keep reading this article and get to this:
Academic linguist Mark Liberman recommends avoiding the phrase entirely, noting that because of shifts in usage in both Latin and English over the
centuries, the relationship of the literal expression to its intended meaning is unintelligible and therefore it is now "such a confusing way to say
it that only a few pedants understand the phrase."
The irony is that Liberman has begged the question! We should avoid using the phrase beg the question because it is so misused that no one, except
for a few pedants, understands the phrase, is begging the question. Liberman may as well be saying we should avoid using the phrase because I am a
linguist and I say it should be avoided. Wikipedia quotes Liberman on this matter, and it was only a matter of time that such a sentiment would be
echoed in other mediums, in other articles, such as The Phrase
You're Probably Misusing:
Because of the phrase's widespread misusage, academic linguist Mark Liberman has suggested abandoning it entirely. He reasons that because of all
the shifts in language and language meaning over the years, the relationship of the phrase's literal meaning to its figurative meaning is
unintelligible, and now only serves to confuse people.
Corbett also notes that "the phrase is so widely misused, some readers may be confused even when it's used correctly."
In fairness to Zoe Triska, she is not advocating Liberman's dubious advice, merely parroting it for her article. The problem with avoiding a phrase
simply because it has led to so much confusion is that it certainly does not clear up the confusion, but worse, it ensures we will never be trained in
recognizing the fallacy of petitio principii. I'm inclined to argue that if more people were versed in the actual meaning of begging the question
then when the CDC states HIV causes AIDS because all AIDS patience have HIV, people will understand that such a statement begs the question, and they
will understand the profound problem with a government agency perpetuating such a logical fallacy. HIV may very well cause AIDS, but if it does,
there is no need for the use of petitio principii. Current climate change concerns may very well be caused by human activity, but if this is so there
is no need to beg the question.
When we understand the problems with begging the question it becomes easier to understand when someone is begging us to accept their question (premise
or proposition) as true. Truth needs no beggar's on its behalf, and what is true is so because of a series of observable and/or experimental
conclusions that make it true, not because someone somewhere declares it true.