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Volume 47 • Number 3

July 2009



A Neglected Way of Begging the Question

by Peter Kung and Masahiro Yamada

Some arguments beg the question. Question-begging arguments are bad arguments and cannot increase the level of justification one has for the conclusion. Question-begging arguments, unlike some other bad arguments, need not suffer the problem of having unjustified premises. Even if the premises are justified and even if the premises entail the conclusion, a question-begging argument fails to have any force when it comes to increasing one's justification for the conclusion. For example, many regard Moore's famous response to skepticism as a question-begging argument:

1. I have hands . . . via perception
2. If I have hands, then I am not a handless brain in a vat
3. I am not a handless brain in a vat . . . from 1 and 2, modus ponens

What about this piece of reasoning makes many feel uneasy? Nonskeptics will agree that Moore is justified in believing (1). They will also agree that he is justified in believing (2). In fact, under normal circumstances there will be no dispute that Moore knows the premises. The premises entail the conclusion and Moore knows this, too. In other words, the argument is sound, and is known to be sound. Yet many feel the argument begs the question. Why?

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ISSN: 2152-1123