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Friday, October 23, 2009

Begging the Question II

It is very unfortunate that many people use "begging the question" to mean "raising the question." It is less important that I personally have my personal definition which is "making an argument which is so vulnerable to a counterargument that it begs someone to make that counterargument." I think the standard definition is assuming what one seeks to prove.

OK so I'm third in line for "begging the question." That raises the question "What ever am I to do ?" The answer

read Daniel Davies who wrote

"playing a little crossword-puzzle game where the answer was “”. " That's it. An apparently convincing argument which is absolutely vulnerable to a question is playing a little crossword-puzzle game where the answer was "what about [question]"

In the case in question, a single word is enough. The word is "consensus" and the counterargument is "are you saying there was a consensus as there is now ?"

Also, by the way, it is not usually a good interprative strategy to assume that Mr Davies means literally exactly what he writes. He uses a rhetorical technique called "irony". So, for example, he did not really confess that the main aim of most of his writing is to annoy people when he wrote "The whole idea of contrarianism is that you’re ... setting out to annoy people." He really meant "part of the point of contrarianism, but not the whole point, is to annoy people." I have seen on the web someone (pretend to ?) take the sentence seriously.
Either more good irony or a bad interprative strategy.

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