What does "beg the question" mean?

To beg the question simply means that a statement naturally raises a follow-up question. Perhaps the original statement is unobvious or controversial, and so another issue needs to be addressed before the statement can be accepted. Perhaps the statement has clear consequences that need to be discussed.

A simple example would be, "Cosmologists say that the Universe began with the Big Bang, but that begs the question: What came before the Big Bang?"

What is it Not?

To beg the question is not equivalent to "begging the question". Begging the question is a common logical fallacy unrelated to the above usage. The distinction between the two uses is invariably clear from context. An example of this usage would be, "Alice begs the question when she claims Bob is aloof because he is pretentious." Obviously it is impossible to mistake this for the usage in the previous example.

Sadly, a vocal and judgemental minority of armchair rhetoricians out there has made it their life's mission to tell people that the first usage is incorrect—despite it being commonly understood and not having any impact on the less common usage.

If you have been accused by a "BTQer" of "BTQ Abuse", don't sweat it! Just point them to this site and let them know that you are confident in your mastery of the phrase.

Any Questions?

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions.

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