Accused of a fallacy? Suspect a fallacy? Ask Dr. Bo and the community!

Quickly register to comment, ask and respond to questions, and get FREE access to our passive online course on cognitive biases!

one moment please...

Begging the Question

petitio principii

(also known as: assuming the initial point, assuming the answer, chicken and the egg argument, circulus in probando, circular reasoning [form of], vicious circle)

Description: Any form of argument where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises.  Many people use the phrase “begging the question” incorrectly when they use it to mean, “prompts one to ask the question”.  That is NOT the correct usage. Begging the question is a form of circular reasoning.

Logical Form:

Claim X assumes X is true.

Therefore, claim X is true.

Example #1:

Paranormal activity is real because I have experienced what can only be described as paranormal activity.

Explanation: The claim, “paranormal activity is real” is supported by the premise, “I have experienced what can only be described as paranormal activity.”  The premise presupposes, or assumes, that the claim, “paranormal activity is real” is already true.

Example #2:

The reason everyone wants the new "Slap Me Silly Elmo" doll is because this is the hottest toy of the season!

Explanation: Everyone wanting the toy is the same thing as it being "hot," so the reason given is no reason at all—it is simply rewording the claim and trying to pass it off as support for the claim.

Exception: Some assumptions that are universally accepted could pass as not being fallacious.

People like to eat because we are biologically influenced to eat.


Walton, D. N., & Fallacy, A. A. P. (1991). Begging the Question.

Registered User Comments

Sunday, December 10, 2017 - 08:31:48 PM
#1 Paranormal activity is going to be true if there is evidence and valid argument supporting the claim. There could be other explanations for strange experiences, explanations which have been passed over too quickly to get to the the conclusion: its PA activity.
#2 is a vacuous tautological statement which only tells us nothing new: "it is desirable because it is desired".

People like to eat (which seems a true statement) for a number of reasons including the one that they like to stay alive hence the "biologically influenced to eat". Is this an example of the Broken Compass fallacy? The premise can point to a number of possible directions including the one stated.

login to reply
1 reply
0 votes
Reply To Comment

Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, December 11, 2017 - 06:32:25 AM
Never heard of the Broken Compass fallacy, but your question gets to the heart of causality. There are often countless "reasons" for something, and different levels of reasons. If I said that I am hungry, and when asked why, I responded "Because I haven't eaten in 12 hours," then this is not fallacious, although I can also be hungry due to a much more scientific and complex biological answer. If I claimed that was the ONLY reason I was hungry, then this is simply not true.

login to reply
0 votes
Reply To Comment

Bill Shaw
Wednesday, March 08, 2017 - 02:47:59 PM
Boy this stuff is tricky! Why isn't the paranormal example like this:
I've experienced paranormal activity.
What I experience is real. (unstated assumption)
Therefore PA is real.
You can question the experience and require a precise definition of PA but is it circular?
Also, why isn't the elmo example not a simple tautology:
Everyone wants slap me silly elmo because everyone wants it.

login to reply
1 reply
0 votes
Reply To Comment

Bo Bennett, PhD
Thursday, March 09, 2017 - 06:48:01 AM
Begging the question / circular reasoning / tautology - all share similar characteristics. Your example works, as well.

login to reply
0 votes
Reply To Comment

Become a Logical Fallacy Master. Choose Your Poison.

Logically Fallacious is one of the most comprehensive collections of logical fallacies with all original examples and easy to understand descriptions; perfect for educators, debaters, or anyone who wants to improve his or her reasoning skills.

Get the book, Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett, PhD by selecting one of the following options:

Not Much of a Reader? No Problem!

Enroll in the Mastering Logical Fallacies Online Course. Over 10 hours of video and interactive learning. Go beyond the book!

Enroll in the Fallacy-A-Day Passive Course. Sit back and learn fallacies the easy way—in just a few minutes per day, via e-mail delivery.

Have a podcast or know someone who does? Putting on a conference? Dr. Bennett is available for interviews and public speaking events. Contact him directly here.

About Archieboy Holdings, LLC. Privacy Policy Other Books Written by Bo
 Website Design and Software Copyright 2018, Archieboy Holdings, LLC.