Begging the Question

Is there a rampant misuse of the logical fallacy known as “begging the question” going on today? I hear this phrase frequently on Fox Soccer’s Goals on Sunday. A coach, for example, will choose a particular formation and starting line up, and the sports pundits, usually when such decisions don’t result in a decisive win, will say, “It begs the question, ‘Is this coach the right man for the job?'” According to begthequestion.info, this example is an incorrect use of “begging the question.”

This phrase is a translation of the fallacy from Latin, petitio principii. In contemporary terms, “beg” currently translates as “ask,” but the Latin does not. Instead, petitio principii means more like “assuming the premise.” A simple example, as provided by begthequestion.info, would be, “I think he is unattractive because he is ugly.” The adjective ugly is synonymous with the adjective unattractive. The reason supplied for claiming the man is unattractive merely assumes the premise. Therefore, the sentence “begs the question” or is guilty of petitio principii.

According to begthequestion.info, what the sports pundits mean and what they should say is, “It raises the question, ‘Is this coach the right man for the job?'” Or, if they must use the verb “to beg,” then they should say, however awkward it may sound, “It begs for the question, ‘Is this coach the right man for the job?'” In stark contrast, the Oxford English Dictionary has included “raising the question” as a denotation of the phrase in question, stating that a general use of the phrase has arisen over the last 100 years, so that the current common standard English usage has come to be “invite an obvious question.”

On the one hand, we have “traditionalists” claiming the phrase is only to be used of the logical fallacy, but, on the other hand, we have philologists solidifying the use so frequently found in the media.

How do you use the phrase? Do you agree with begthequestion.info? Do you agree with the Oxford English Dictionary? Is it better to avoid the phrase entirely and use more accurate words?

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