Begging the question is a logical fallacy in which an argument’s premises assume the truth of the conclusion. Arguments that beg the question work to obscure the actual points in controversy and can be looked at as a form of circular reasoning.
For example, “Wool sweaters are superior to nylon jackets as fall attire because wool sweaters have the higher wool content” begs the question because the argument fails to explain why having the higher wool content makes a garment superior.
Despite their nature as fallacies, arguments that beg the question can be persuasive to parties unaware of the fallacy or who already agree with the conclusion (see confirmation bias). Furthermore, the use of synonyms in the premise and conclusion can work to obscure the fact that an argument begs a question, making the arguments more persuasive.
In common day-to-day speech, “begs the question” is often misused to mean “raises the question”, regardless of whether or not the question raised is an assumption of the statement that raises it.
The term “begs the questions” originally comes from the works of Aristotle.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]