I am a linguist.
This does not mean that I go around picking apart other people’s speech.
This time I’m going to make an exception. This is a grammar rant, so buckle up.
“Begs the Question”
Everyone uses this phrase wrongly. Usually, misused phrases kind of tickle me. Common usage and all that. Plus, I am sure there are some that I misuse myself. But this one is really annoying. So listen up, people:
“Begs the question” is NOT the same thing as “raises the question.”
If a situation naturally leads to a certain question, that is not begging the question. It is “raising” or “provoking” the question. For example, the Green New Deal will cost $93 trillion. Which raises the question, Where is that money going to come from? Or, my son just showed up with chocolate all over his face. Which raises the question, What happened to that pudding I made an hour ago?
“Begging the question” is a technical term from the realm of formal logic and debate. It refers to a logical fallacy where the argument assumes what it is trying to prove.
For example, “Intelligent design is not a scientific theory because the only legitimate kind of science relies on pure naturalism.” ID is unscientific because we have defined it as unscientific. This is begging the question.
I don’t know how that particular method of arguing in a circle came to be called begging the question. Maybe because these kinds of arguments avoid the question that they purport to answer. And I agree that the phrase begging the question sounds like it ought to mean raising an obvious question.
But it doesn’t.
This has been a public service announcement.