Question

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Jacob

Question Begging

I read a book called “Crimes against Logic” and there was an interesting section about question begging.  

First, it occurred to me that complex question is question begging in the form of a question.  

Complex Question

What is gods plan for you?

Assumes god is real.  Assumes that if god is real he has a plan for you.  

Question Begging

God has a plan for you.  

Makes the same assumptions.  

I wondered if I was right about this?


Question Begging is strange to me because it involves assuming that what you believe is true, but of course you argue for that which you believe.  I assume the things I believe are true because I am pretty sure they are true.  I mean, if I say that rain falls to the ground because of gravity does this mean I am wrongly assuming that it is gravity and not magic which causes rain to fall to the ground?  And this is question begging?

 

The book, Crimes against Logic, made one interesting example of question begging as follows.   


In the abortion debate the pro and con sides often speak past each other.  The pro abortion side believes that women should have easy access to abortion on the basis of bodily autonomy.   This can lead pro abortion activists to assume that the anti abortion side is against bodily autonomy.  They wonder why the anti abortion side would willingly work against their own best interests and support a system which removes their freedom.  This happens because the pro and con sides are rarely friends with one another and do not understand the arguments of the other side.  The anti abortion side frames the problem not in terms of bodily autonomy but in terms of preventing the murder of “human beings”. Similarly, it would be question begging for the anti abortion side to assume that the pro abortion side is legitimizing the murder of children, because the pro abortion side does not consider it murder to “abort a fetus”.  

Thanks in advance for providing clarification.  I have found question begging and circular reasoning to be harder to grasp than other fallacies.  

 

 

.  

 

asked on Wednesday, Jul 29, 2020 10:27:39 AM by Jacob

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skips777 writes:

"assumes God is real" is question begging.... Because it assumes God is not real. So you make the same fallacy as the "God has a plan for you" crowd to point out a fallacy....that's not proof something is actually fallacious. I.e. it isn't logical..lol

So then we must ask, "Is it actually an example of begging the question?"...

posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 05:40:28 AM
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Jacob writes:
[To skips777]

Maybe it is question begging both to believe god is real and to believe that he is not real.  They are both assumptions.  Through my own study of the evidence I have decided that god is more likely a fiction than not.  

That's not the point though.  I believe statements are not wrong just because they contain apparent fallacies.  That would be the fallacy fallacy.  I have to make some assumptions for life to make sense.  I am an atheist so gods non existence is my presupposition.  

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 10:23:46 AM
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mchasewalker writes:

Aren't you conflating belief and non-belief? 

Hitchen's razor :

"What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence."

The God hypothesis has been scientifically discredited. One might assume such an extraordinary existence, but there is scant evidence to support it. So, it is not simply a matter of preference as you are wont to suggest, but a cold hard fact. 

Science is not some monolithic institution or a single body of work -- it is an investigative process whereby one postulates and proposes sound theories based on peer review, hard evidence, and predictive models.  “You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe.” 

~ Dr. Carl Sagan

posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 01:38:05 PM

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Answers

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mchasewalker
2

... if I say that rain falls to the ground because of gravity does this mean I am wrongly assuming that it is gravity and not magic which causes rain to fall to the ground?

Understandably, a petitio Principi can indeed have you running around in circles. I often find myself paying extra scrutiny to the problem and distinction between a begged question and a loaded question.

However, by drawing an equivalency between gravity and magic we encounter yet another logical fallacy of false equivalency.

While Gravity is a proven force of physics, magic is, of course, a non-existent, superstitious, and false teleological ideation. NO SUCH FORCE EXISTS outside of literary fiction, religion, superstition, and theologically-based epistemologies. Quantum Theory proves if there was such a force we would have predicted and detected it by now.

While arguments can be made that magic exists as an art form and an instrument of willful creation (Crowley) there is overwhelming evidence that it falls short of the scientific requirements of predictability, replicability, provability, and falsifiability. Magic fails in three of these while also proving to be eminently falsifiable.

So, no, you're not assuming Gravity exists but merely asserting a proven Law of Physics that meets all of the above scientific requirements that have been proven to be unfalsifiable.

Concluding that God and magic exist is fallacious while claiming Gravity exists is a fact of The Standard Model of Particles. 

As for the pro-life, pro-choice argument, it all comes down to the question of when fetal life begins. Most religions claim it begins at conception, while science argues it is much later. From a scientific position, the destruction of 150 or so cells far less complex than a fly's brain can not be murder because there is no life present in the beginning formation of cells.

So now we enter the treacherous domain of moral equivalency. Religionists claim a superior moral authority from a divine being, whereas science relegates it to a primitive imagination and cognitive mechanism adapted for evolutionary purposes (Dennett).

answered on Wednesday, Jul 29, 2020 11:29:33 AM by mchasewalker

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skips777 writes:

"the destruction of 150 or so cells no more complex than a fly's brain"....so 150 examples of DNA isn't complex...LMFAO

posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 05:48:54 AM
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mchasewalker writes:
[To skips777]

A three-day-old human embryo is a collection of 150 cells called a blastocyst.

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 01:10:40 PM
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Daniel writes:

I'm pretty sure there are much more than 150 cells at 6 months pregnancy. In fact, by 24 weeks the baby's organs are fully formed. Also the baby's DNA is completely different to the mothers, so it's not her body according to the scientific, biological understanding of what separates one person's body from another's.

posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 06:48:10 AM
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Jacob writes:

I believe you are saying that if there is enough scientific evidence for gravity then it is not question begging to assume it is true.  This is intuitive to me because I believe in gravity and do not believe in magic, but the definition of question begging is so broad that it includes all assumptions.  

Logical Form:

Claim X assumes X is true.

Therefore, claim X is true

When I look at this definition it looks as though all assumptions, even well established scientific laws are included as assumptions.  


Think of presuppositional naturalism: the idea that science assumes that all events have natural causes.  This is an assumption upon which all science is based, but it is still called a supposition.  When I say that gravity causes rain to fall to the ground I assume that events always have natural causes.  

I feel that you argue that question begging does not apply to scientific assumptions.  It only applies to non scientific assumptions.  This could be a kind of cherry picking.  

I believe evolution is true.  But if I say

Whales evolved from land mammals.  

I assume that evolution is true.  You say that's not question begging, but it does follow the definition of question begging.  

posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 10:39:29 AM
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mchasewalker writes:

as·sump·tion

1.
a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

2.

The act of taking for granted, or supposing a thing without proof; a supposition; an unwarrantable claim.

Gravity is a proven law of physics, so it is hardly an assumption. One might assume magic exists, but it is entirely and hopelessly without proof. 

posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 01:07:04 PM
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Jacob writes:
[To mchasewalker]

You are right.  My example isn’t a good one because gravity is an established fact.  I can think  of better examples based on value judgements which are harder to evaluate on a scientific basis.

The abortion debate is a good example.  Suppose you have two people: one who believes that life starts at six weeks pregnant and another who believes that life starts at birth.  I saw a video of a person like this the other day.  Trust me.  They are real.   The latter is a more extreme view on the left: that it is permissible to electively abort and presumable to kill a nine month old baby before it is born.  “It’s not born yet so it’s not a person.”  

The life-begins-at-6-weeks person says to the life-begins-at-birth-person, “Why would you kill a nine month old baby.”  LBAB person says, “ I am not killing a baby.  I am aborting a fetus.”  Is this question begging committed by the  LBA6W person?

Science won’t be able to save us from all cases of moral relativism.  Both sides commit the fallacy because there is not an objective truth.  

 

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 09:49:28 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD
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In my entry on Begging the Question I have an exception that explains assuming information that is universally acceptable would not be question begging (not fallacious). It also depends on who is conversing. For example, if Christians are speaking to each other, the question, "what do you think God wants from us?" is not fallacious or problematic. It is accepted among Christians that God exists and he wants something from us. So in short, this is a subjective and situational fallacy, just like most informal fallacies.

answered on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 11:20:55 AM by Bo Bennett, PhD

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Jacob writes:

Does that mean that if a Christian tells a known atheist that god has a plan for him then the Christian is begging the question?

What if an atheist tells a known Christian that he evolved from single cells bacteria?  Is the evolution-believer begging the question?

 

posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 12:45:12 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Jacob]

Does that mean that if a Christian tells a known atheist that god has a plan for him then the Christian is begging the question? 

Yes.

What if an atheist tells a known Christian that he evolved from single cells bacteria?  Is the evolution-believer begging the question? 

This just sound like the atheist is making a claim. If the atheist says to the young earth creationist (not just Christian), "Why do you think God chose evolution as the process for diversity of life?" then this would be begging the question/complex question (form or question begging).

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 12:51:49 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

I take back my first "yes" answer. I was thinking of your original post the way it was worded. Simply telling someone "God has a plan for you" is also just a claim.

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 02:04:35 PM
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Jacob writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

What about this one...

“The failing New York Times incorrectly said I was behind in the polls.”

Is this question begging?  Failing New York Times?

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 09:14:55 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Jacob]

No. We would need the argument's premises to assume the truth of the conclusion, instead of supporting it. Here we have an opinion followed by a claim.

 

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Jul 31, 2020 07:10:32 AM
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Kaiden
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Hi, Jacob!

          You have a good question. I have seen many people slip on the meaning of question begging. Question begging does not mean merely that an assumption is being made. Question begging refers to an informal fallacy that can only be committed by an argument or in the course an inference. An argument is question begging just in case the premises of the argument assume the conclusion; in order to accept the premises one would have to have already accepted the conclusion. With this in mind, there are three main steps you can take to identify a question begging argument. Ask yourself:


1. Is it an argument? If no, then it does not beg the question. If yes, proceed to step 2.
2. Analyze the argument, identifying every premise and conclusion. 
3. Is the conclusion assumed by the premises? If not, then the argument does not beg the question. If so, then the argument does beg the question.


          I welcome useful adjustments, especially because there are particular forms of question begging that may not be plain at first sight when run through the steps, such as the form of question begging called "incorrect definition". However, those steps may be seen as a rule of thumb for you, Jacob. Now, take your example: “God has a plan for you”. For this example, the answer to step one is "no". The example makes assumptions, but it is not an argument, let alone one that assumes its conclusion. "God has a plan for you" does not beg the question.


          A further nugget of insight about question begging is this: question begging does not occur just because the arguer believes the conclusion prior to delivering the argument. Just because a person believes a statement prior to arguing for it, does not mean that that statement features as a premise in the argument. 


          I hope the guide and insight help clarify the "strangeness", as you put it, of Question Begging. Let’s look at your next examples, about rainfall.


          Let's run your example about rainfall through the three-step guide. The answer to the first step is no, it is not an argument. This raises an opportunity to make another crucial clarification. The word “because” does not always indicate that an argument is being made. In this example about rainfall, if I am understanding you correctly, you have not made an inference to a conclusion, rather you have STATED that gravity is the cause of rain falling or explanation of why rain falls. In other words, the word "because" does not always function as a "therefore". The word “because” is serving to indicate a reference to an explanation or cause, not to suggest an inference. Similarly, “I tripped down the stairs because my toe caught a wrinkle in the carpet” is not an argument even though the word “because” appears. To answer your first question about this example, I do not think you are wrongly assuming that gravity rather than magic is the cause of falling rain. You are trusting the research of physicists, which seems to me a reasonable way for laymen to proceed, assuming you are a laymen regarding physics.


Thank you for this question, Jacob.


From, Kaiden

answered on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 01:35:54 PM by Kaiden

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mchasewalker writes:

"God exists, and has a plan for you".

From Dr. Bo

Subverted Support

Description: The attempt to explain some phenomenon that does not actually occur or there is no evidence that it does.  It is a form of begging the question.

Logical Form:

X happens because of Y (when X doesn’t really even happen)

How can God have a plan for me (Y), if God does not exist in the first place? (X)

posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 02:58:17 PM
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Kaiden writes:

[To mchasewalker]

"God has a plan for you" is not an argument and so it does not commit a fallacy in the sense in which I am talking about fallacies: a mistake or flaw in an argument that prevents it from fulfilling its rational persuasive task. Perhaps, Dr. Bennett tends to do his assessments with a broader application of "fallacy" than the application that I and the logicians I train with use. 

Besides, I see no explanans or explanandum in the sentence "God has a plan for you", so I am not convinced that this is an instance of subverted support even under a broader notion of "fallacy". (You construe the sentence to mean that the existence of God (X) is explained by God having a plan for you (Y). However, that does not seem to be a plausible take on the sentence or on what a theist means when he claims that God has a plan for you.)

As for the claim that subverted support is a form of question begging, I do not see why this classification was made. If Dr. Bennett would like to explain, I welcome him to chime in. 

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 04:21:09 PM
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Jacob writes:
[To Kaiden]

Thank you for your detailed response.  I don’t agree that my examples are not arguments.  Question begging is tricky because it often involves statements disguised as arguments.  

Take a more specific type of question begging: the question begging epithet.  This involves calling someone an epithet, usually insulting.  

Mark is a jerk.  

it doesn’t look like an argument, but I have read that this is the same as saying, “I called mark a jerk, therefore he is a jerk, which is circular reasoning.  

From my understanding, language can be full of question begging assumptions even if there are no obvious arguments.  

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 06:49:05 PM
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Kaiden writes:
[To Jacob]

And thank you for your detailed response, too. However, what you have brought up is that a passage can contain an implicit argument. So far, you have given no reason to believe that the two passages you give as examples plausibly contain implicit arguments. 

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Jul 31, 2020 01:40:27 PM
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Kaiden writes:

[To mchasewalker]

In fact, it seems Dr. Bennett is working with a similar notion of fallacy as I am because he says that "A logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation . Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation." 

Very good. So, "God has a plan for you" is not fallacious even under his notion, Walker. For "God has a plan for you" is not an argument. In fact, I notice that Dr. Bennett himself said it was question begging when a Christian says it to an atheist, but then rescinded his answer earlier this afternoon, commenting that even when a Christian says it to an atheist, it is just a claim.

 

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 04:53:28 PM
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Jacob writes:
[To mchasewalker]

Your example was

God exists, and has a plan for you

Would  it still be question begging if it was just

God has a plan for you?

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 06:51:31 PM
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mchasewalker writes:
[To Jacob]

No, it's just a statement. 

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 07:42:55 PM
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mchasewalker writes:

As Dr. Bo explains it is a situational fallacy. Between Christians it is acceptable, but between a Christian and non-believers, it assumes what has never been proven.

Claiming 'God has a plan' assumes/qualifies God's existence because it explains the phenomenon that God interacts with Creation through plans, and thus offers subverted support to the unproven claim of God's existence. 

Y happens because of X, but there is no proof that X ever happened.

 

 

 

posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 04:44:38 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To mchasewalker]

The fun part of informal fallacies... arguments in themselves. In scouring the internet for examples of this fallacy I did not find any that match this format, which appears to be a claim. I think a reasonable response to “God has a plan for you” is “first demonstrate a god exists then we’ll talk plans” which does fit the spirit of the fallacy, but I don’t see this as a deceptive attempt on behalf of the Christian although it may be. I side with the most charitable interpretation.  

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 05:13:18 PM
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Kaiden writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

I join you in giving a charitable interpretation. And requesting a demonstration of God's existence prior to talking plans seems like a fair way for the atheist to proceed. I am in full agreement. Thank you, Dr. Bennett.

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 05:19:51 PM
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mchasewalker writes:

[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

See Logically Fallacious, Begging the Question, Subverted Support:

Subverted Support

Description: The attempt to explain some phenomenon that does not actually occur or there is no evidence that it does.  It is a form of begging the question.

Logical Form:

X happens because of Y (when X doesn’t really even happen)

God has plans (X) because God exists (Y)  (when X doesn't exist)

 

 

[ login to reply ] posted on Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 07:56:07 PM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To mchasewalker]

You can argue this, but I don't see it as a strong argument and here's why: There is no attempt to explain WHY God has plans for us... just the claim that he does. I think you would on firmer ground if the argument was:

God has plans for us because he is sovereign and all-knowing.

This introduces the distraction/misdirection part... the focus is now on the reason while the claim tends to be accepted by default.

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Jul 31, 2020 06:53:11 AM
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mchasewalker writes:

[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

Excellent, Doc, thank you.

I was more intent on examining and discussing Jacob's OP query about Petitio Principi and how equating gravity and magic was a false equivalence. The former being a proven Law of physics, and the latter clearly being a discredited (unwarrantable) product of imagined teleology. My focus was on the ambiguity of the term assumption. Assuming magic as an interacting universal force is not the equivalent of asserting gravity is - for obvious reasons.

Now, this evolved into other claims about God, and pro-life v pro-choice, and what constitutes a classic petitio.

I found the example of 'God exists and has a plan for you' to be circular because it assumes the latter action to be true when the former one remains as yet unproven or even entirely discredited.

Moreover, the claim that God exists and has a plan for us is a veiled (deceptive) attempt to explain a phenomenon that is yet unproven or in all probability never happened. Thus, I found it to be an ample representation of your own definition and logical form for 'subverted support' and subsequently constitutes a petitio.

While I agree the argument is not ideal, I don't agree that the OP claim 'God exists and has a plan for you' is not inherently and hopelessly circular on its face. 

How can it be otherwise?

I should add that your further clarifications regarding situational fallacies to be especially informative and accurate.

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Jul 31, 2020 12:56:08 PM
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Jacob writes:
[To Bo Bennett, PhD]

I have two books on logic which say that question begging does not have to occur in the form of an argument.  In both books I took pictures of the sections on question begging.  One is from a book called “With Good Reason” and the other for a book called “Crimes against Logic”.   Both of these books seem to have broader definitions then those in Logically Fallacious.  Both books say that even the names of organizations can be question begging.  Crimes against Logic gave the historical period of the Reformation as question begging because it was presumptive to suggest that anything was really reformed.  I think another example would be the “Ministry of Truth” from the book 1984.  This organization was the propaganda arm of the Government.  The name asserts what is in dispute.  

Of course, as has already been said in this thread, perhaps begging only occurs if the protagonist questions the truthfulness of the ministry of truth.  Maybe all other brainwashed fictional characters in the book do not question the name so it is not question begging for them.  

I assume that “Ministry of Truth” is question begging to the readers of 1984 because they know the nefarious purpose  of the institution.  

Similarly, I have on occasion disagreed with activist types who have said that I was wrong and needed to educate myself.  I don’t want to say what it was so as not to distract from my point, but their suggestion that I needed to educate myself, I thought, was question begging, because I was educated on the issue and still assiduously disagreed.  The activists postilion was that I did not agree and was therefore not educated.  I think that was question begging.

Anyway I was hoping you would read these pages in the google drive and tell me if you agree/disagree.   

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Ag1oIWa6_85X2WbGFnxgPrFvrYgJexYH

[ login to reply ] posted on Saturday, Aug 01, 2020 09:39:28 PM
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DrBill writes:
[To Jacob]

Congress often votes on legislation with similar ambiguity in the bills' titles to make it palatable (and for "virtue signalling"), with preamble-words like  "reform", "affordable".  

Your experience with activists is similar to mine and is an example of Ad Hominem (Circumstantial)  and multiple variants of the sort.  If it persists, the conversation is over.   

[ login to reply ] posted on Sunday, Aug 02, 2020 11:15:09 AM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Jacob]

Take “Ministry of Truth.” You say the name asserts what is in dispute. But isn't that just disagreeing with a claim? How about "Jumbo shrimp?" Is that a fallacy if we disagree they are "jumbo?" Virtually anything could be "begging the question" by that definition including beauty queen, large fries, hot chocolate, a place called "Relax Spa," etc.

You will undoubtedly find definitions out there that are more liberal with the label "fallacy." Back to "God has a plan for you." Without question, the statement assumes at the very least that God exists, but that is not what it is trying to prove. I don't see any error in reasoning or clear deception, which is why I don't call it a fallacy. I certainly am more flexible on the "argument" criteria, since virtually anything can be an argument when you allow for implied arguments.

Hope that answers your question/concerns.

[ login to reply ] posted 14 hours ago