". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Begging the Question

The misuse of this phrase is one of my pet peeves. I wrote about it almost six years ago and obviously the people who should have read my post didn't because the situation has only gotten worse.

I was talking to my adult son the other day, and he pointed out an example of begging the question (the real thing, not the thing that people incorrectly call begging the question) that is cropping up quite a bit of late. It is happening in the debate over same sex marriage, which is coming to the fore as the Supreme Court hears several cases on the issue.  We keep hearing from those who favor same sex "marriage" that marriage is a civil right that should be equally available to all citizens. But this begs the question because it builds the desired conclusion into the premise. The point of contention is not whether anyone who wants to get married should be able to. The point of contention has to do with how we as a society define marriage. Is marriage by its definition something that a same sex couple can participate in? Those who subscribe to the Judeo-Christian view of marriage would say no. So the very use of the phrase "same sex marriage" assumes an agreement regarding terms that in fact does not exist. Question, meet unsupported premise, begging for validity.

If you, like I, are annoyed by the misuse of this phrase, maybe this example will come in handy. On the other hand, maybe it will just heighten your frustration since most of the offenders are television talking heads whom we will never have the opportunity to instruct!


Rosie said...

Thanks for the post, Cheryl! I remember a philosophy professor trying to explain this concept to our class. It was evident that many were not following. Finally she said, "If you can't wrap your mind around this, please refrain from using the phrase." Simple enough! :)

Cheryl said...

Rosie, you are welcome! And good for that philosophy professor!