Grand Rants

Not a beautiful or unique snowflake

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[What Ben Knows] Begging Your Pardon

I have to get something off my chest, and it’s petty and trite just as all
my little pet peeves are. Consider it a public service
announcement: “Begging the question” and “raising the question” are not the
same, and normally when people say the former, they mean the latter.

Begging the question means to assume the very conclusion that you are
trying to prove. Here’s this example from the Wikipedia entry:

"To allow every man an unbounded freedom of speech must always be, on the
whole, advantageous to the State, for it is highly conducive to the
interests of the community that each individual should enjoy a liberty
perfectly unlimited of expressing his sentiments.”

Basically the above quote is saying “Freedom of speech in society is good
because it is good to have a society with free speech.” The argument begs
the question of what makes free speech good in the first place. It is
circular reasoning.

I don’t fault and don’t correct people who use “begs the question” to
mean “raises the question”. I used to do it as well until relatively
recently. Now that I’ve been set right, when I hear it, and how often I
hear it, it grates on me; just as fewer v. less and who v. whom are like
sandpaper to my eardrums when I hear them. It’s just personal, and I’m a
grammatical jerk (uh… to coin a phrase).

Filed under grammar nazi