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KASPER LIPPERT-RASMUSSEN

ARE QUESTION BEGGING ARGUMENTS NECESSARILY UNREASONABLE?


(Received in revised form 2 March 2000)

1. Suppose one person offers another a question-begging argument for a conclusion the latter either rejects or already accepts. It is commonly assumed that in such a situation the arguer cannot have given the addressee a good reason to accept the conclusion.1 In this article I shall show that this assumption is false: A questionbegging argument can provide the person to whom it is put with a perfectly good reason to accept the conclusion. Henceforth, I will refer to such arguments as reasonable question-begging arguments. Shortly (Section 2), I shall offer two examples of reasonable question-begging arguments. Following that (Section 3 and 4), I shall defend my claim that they are indeed reasonable questionbegging arguments against two challenges. In Section 5 the possibility of reasonable question-begging arguments will be defended in the light of David Sanfords account of when an argument begs the question. Not everyone accepts this account, however, and Section 6 responds to two worries concerning my use of it. In the nal section I turn to discuss some implications of the possibility of reasonable question-begging arguments. In particular, I clarify the way in which question-begging arguments are defective (whether reasonable in the above sense or not). Before coming to my examples of reasonable question-begging arguments, I should like to forestall two possible misunderstandings of my position. First, I do not claim that question-begging arguments in general are reasonable. Indeed I suspect that they rarely are. My central claim is a conceptual one: That reasonable question-begging arguments are possible. This claim is crucial to an account of why question-begging arguments per se are bad arguments.
Philosophical Studies 104: 123141, 2001. 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

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Second, obviously the claim that the addressee of a questionbegging argument may have good reasons to accept its conclusion that are independent of the premises of the argument differs from the claim that a question-begging argument itself may give the addressee a good reason to accept the conclusion. The former claim is uncontroversial. It is the latter claim I defend here. 2. Here is my rst example of a reasonable question-begging argument: I believe that Smith is not in the dining hall. I also believe that he is not in the library. I infer from this that it is not the case that Smith is either in the dining hall or in the library. An acquaintance of mine thinks Smith is in the dining hall. To convince me of this he offers me the following disjunctive syllogism: Smith is either in the dining hall or in the library. He is not in the library. Thus, he is in the dining hall. Put to me, this argument would seem to beg the question, since I would accept the disjunctive premise only if I were to accept the conclusion. Indeed, my disbelief in the disjunctive premise is grounded in my disbelief in the conclusion. Although the argument begs the question it might still be reasonable. For the following two things might be true. First, my reason for believing that Smith is not in the dining hall, unlike my reason for believing that Smith is not in the library, may be a bad one. Perhaps it is grounded in the testimony of people I have good reason to consider unreliable. Unfortunately my reasoning neglects this fact. This could be so for a number of reasons. First, I might not infer from the evidence available to me that my source is unreliable. Second, even if I do this, and thereby acquire the dispositional belief that my source is unreliable, I might fail on this occasion to treat his statement with due caution (e.g. because my belief that my source is unreliable is not present in consciousness). Third, even if my belief that my source is unreliable is present in consciousness, I might accept his testimony concerning Smiths whereabouts perhaps because I very much want it to be the case that Smith is not in the dining hall. Second, I may have decisive reason to accept the disjunctive premise of the argument. For I might be completely justied in believing Smith to be trustworthy and to have told me yesterday that he would spend today alternating between the library and the dining hall. Unfortunately I fail to bring these beliefs of mine to bear on

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the issue at hand. This could be so for one of several reasons. First, despite Smiths assurance and my belief in his trustworthiness, I might fail to acquire the belief that today he will alternate between the dining hall and the library. Equally, when my acquaintance offers me the disjunctive syllogism concerning Smiths whereabouts I might fail, on this particular occasion, to recall Smiths earlier statement concerning his whereabouts. Second, Smiths utterance led me to acquire the dispositional belief that Smith will spend all day alternating between the library and the dining hall; but on this particular occasion this belief may not be present in consciousness; and, as in the former case, I might fail to recall Smiths statements concerning his whereabouts. Third, my belief that Smith told me yesterday that he would spend today alternating between the library and the dining hall and my belief that Smith is very reliable might be present in consciousness, and yet I might fail to bring these beliefs to bear on the issue at hand. To be sure, because the argument we are considering is very simple these cognitive aws particularly the third type are unlikely. But they are not psychologically (let alone, conceptually) impossible. In any case the same point could be made using a much more complex argument, and such an argument would make it seem psychologically unlikely that a normal person would avoid the relevant cognitive failings. In my rst example of a reasonable question-begging argument, the addressee disbelieved the premises of the argument, although he had adequate reasons independently of the conclusion to believe them. In my second example the addressee does believe the premises (and conclusion) of the argument, and he has adequate reasons independently of the conclusion to do so. Regrettably, however, his acceptance of the premises is not based on these adequate reasons. Instead, before being offered the argument he accepts the conclusion and bases his acceptance of one of the premises on it: I have just been in the library as well as the dining hall. I (believe I) observed Smith in the dining hall. I inferred that Smith is either in the library or the dining hall from my belief that he is in the dining hall. Now my acquaintance offers me the same argument as before. Again, it seems, the argument begs the question. For I accept its disjunctive premise only because I already accept the conclusion.

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This argument could nevertheless be reasonable. For the following two claims could be true. First, given the relevant justied beliefs that I possess but fail to bring to bear on my reasoning, my observation might be a poor reason to think that Smith is in the dining hall. For instance, I might believe, and be justied in believing, that Smiths lookalike twin brother is spending the day in the dining hall: Perhaps I know that he works in the dining hall, is hardly ever ill, and never shirks. In the circumstances, however, I fail to make my observation in the light of these beliefs. Second, it may be that I am justied in accepting the premises of the argument independently of the conclusion. We might imagine that Smith, whom I am fully justied in believing to be very reliable, told me that, all day, he would be either in the library or the hall. Moreover, I myself was in the library and, although I saw everyone in there, none looked like Smith. In this second example, my failure to reason in a way that is responsive to all of my relevant beliefs can again arise in either of the three ways that I distinguished between above. These examples suggest that the following tripartite claim is correct: A question-begging argument is reasonable if 1. the addressee of the argument has reasons independent of the conclusion to accept the premises of the argument; 2. the addressee of the argument fails to conduct his reasoning on the basis of these reasons; and 3. the reasons for which the addressee rejects (or accepts) the conclusion are bad ones. My examples strongly suggest that an argument can beg the question and yet offer the addressee a good reason to accept the conclusion. To deny this, one must either deny that the question-begging arguments described give the addressee a reason to accept the conclusion, or deny that these reasonable arguments are questionbegging. 3. I shall now consider two challenges to my claim that the arguments I have presented give the addressee a reason to accept the conclusion. Here is the rst: All that a deductively valid argument

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does is to show that if you accept the premises, then you must accept the conclusion, on pain of inconsistency. But this does not mean that you must accept the conclusion. Perhaps you should reject one or more of the premises instead. But for reasonable question-begging arguments to be possible, arguments must be able to give you a reason to accept the conclusion. Note rst that this challenge is not related specically to the possibility of reasonable question-begging arguments. Rather, it alleges that no deductively valid argument gives the addressee a reason to accept the conclusion. How should we respond to this sweeping challenge? I accept that there is a sense in which all a deductively valid argument does is to show that if you accept the premises, then you must accept the conclusion, on pain of inconsistency. But there is another sense in which such an argument can give you a reason to accept a certain conclusion.2 For supposing that you are justied in believing, and do in fact believe, the premises of an argument, then your being shown that the conclusion follows from the premises will give you at least some reason to accept the conclusion.3 Of course, this demonstration would not help a deductive omniscient someone who believes everything that is entailed by any conjunction of his beliefs and disbelieves anything the negation of which is entailed by any conjunction of his beliefs to form new justied beliefs. A deductive omniscient who believes a set of premises already believes the conclusion they entail. None of us, however, are deductive omniscients. So formulating an argument may benet us in that it can bring us to see which propositions we have reasons to accept given other propositions we justiably accept.4 Some deductively valid arguments, then, do give us a reason to accept their conclusions. So much for the rst challenge. The second challenge is less sweeping: If an argument is to give you a reason to accept its conclusion, you must be justied in believing, and actually believe, the premises. Being situationally justied in believing the premises is inadequate.5 Few accounts of inferential justication involve this requirement. However, the imposition of the requirement is natural given an extreme version of internalism called consciousness internalism. Consciousness internalists believe that only those states of affairs

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of which the subject is actually conscious or aware can serve to justify belief.6 They will deny, then, that my rst example is a case of argumentation which gives the addressee a reason to accept the conclusion; and they will do so on the ground that I am not conscious of the state of affairs described by the disjunctive premise. This challenge, however the scepticism about inferential justication is made out, only affects my rst example of a reasonable question-begging argument, since in the second example I do believe the premises. We need to strengthen the challenge to undermine the second example, then. One way of doing this is to insist that for an argument to provide one with a reason for accepting the conclusion not only must ones belief in the premises be present in consciousness: One must also believe the premises for the right reasons. This I do not do in my second example. Certainly, there is a clear sense in which I could see the arguments as providing me with a reason for accepting the conclusion: I just have to recall the strong independent evidence I have in favour of the premises and accept them on that basis. But this, so the present challenge goes, is irrelevant to whether the argument in fact gives me a reason to accept the conclusion, since I did not reason in the light of this evidence. Hence, in neither of my two examples does the argument in question give me a reason to accept the conclusion. Neither example qualies as a reasonable question-begging argument. I nd this complaint unpersuasive for two reasons. First, there is a sense in which we might say that although I may be justied in accepting a conclusion inferable from premises which I justiably believe only if my acceptance of the conclusion is grounded on these premises, I am not justied simpliciter in accepting the conclusion. For that implies that I would be justied in accepting the conclusion even if my acceptance of it were generated in an intellectually dubious way. I follow Alston here in saying that although this is an acceptable concept of epistemic assessment, it is not the only one.7 Another such concept is the one I apply above: That of having adequate grounds for a certain belief. Second, although the present challenge, unlike the former, is consistent with the existence of deductively valid arguments that give the addressee a reason to accept the conclusion, it still involves a rather sweeping indictment of the power of argumentation to

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render conclusions reasonable. Indeed, if one capitulates to it, it is hard to avoid being committed to the extreme view that one has reason to accept a proposition on the basis of an inference only if one already accepts it. Consider rst the following case: You accept and have reason to accept P and PvQ. You are entitled to infer Q, but you do not infer this and do not accept Q. You fail to make an inference that you are entitled to. Suppose nally that your not inferring Q is not due to your having strong reasons to accept Q: You simply fail to make the inference through, say, inattention. Surely, there is a sense in which you have a reason to accept Q. Denying that commits one to the absurdly restrictive view that you have a reason to accept a proposition on the basis of an inference only if you already accept the proposition. For the present point easily generalizes to any inference one is entitled to make and yet fails to make. Consider next my rst example of a reasonable question-begging argument: You accept Q, and see that Q and PvQ entails P, but fail to recall the evidence you possess for PvQ. Compare this case with the former. If you agree that you had a reason to accept the conclusion you failed to infer in the former case, then it is hard to see how you could deny that the argument gives you a reason to accept the conclusion in the present case given, of course, that you ought to accept the premises (although you do not). How can failing to recall evidence in favour of a proposition prevent you from having a good reason to accept a further proposition you know it entails (when conjoined with other premises that you accept and have good reason to accept), if failing to make an inference you are entitled to make, from premises you believe and have reason to believe, cannot prevent you from having a good reason to accept the conclusion? I am willing to concede that this argument is not compelling. It does not show that one is being inconsistent in making the suggested sort of discriminations. Still, to make such discriminations seems ad hoc. And since I also reject wholeheartedly the view that one has a reason to accept a proposition on the basis of inference only if one already accepts it, I conclude that there is little force to the second complaint.

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This leaves us with the complaint that my examples are not examples of question-begging arguments. 4. What is it for an argument to beg the question? Some philosophers believe that this fallacy can be formally characterized, e.g. as an argument where some single premise entails the conclusion.8 They believe that question-beggingness is a property of arguments, where argument is understood as the semantic notion of valid proof. Others deny that such formal characterization is possible.9 They believe that the context in which an argument is put forward determines whether or not it begs the question. A crucial aspect of this context is likely to be the beliefs held by the addressee of the argument. According to philosophers who favour a context-based account, question-beggingness is only a property of arguments if, by argument, we mean the epistemic notion of a (sound) inference. Among formal characterizations of question-begging status, two accounts seem to be the most promising. According to the rst the single premise conception an argument begs the question if and only if one premise alone entails the conclusion of the argument.10 According to the second the equivalence conception an argument begs the question if and only if one premise alone entails the conclusion of the argument because it is equivalent to the conclusion.11 On both accounts the arguments which gure in my examples fail to qualify as question-begging arguments. I therefore need to show that these accounts are incorrect. Even if this cannot be shown, however, my main thesis that reasonable question-begging arguments are possible can be supported. By the end of the present section my reason for saying this will have become clear. If an argument begs the question on the equivalence conception then it begs the question on the single premise conception. So if even arguments of the form P, therefore, P need not be questionbegging, then it will follow that, in general, formal accounts of begging the question are misguided. Partly for this reason, the equivalence conception is the last stand of those who advocate the formal approach. If any argument can be question-begging in virtue of its form, then arguments displaying the form P, therefore, P must be. In view of this I concentrate on the equivalence conception below.

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What is it for an argument to be of the form P, therefore, P? On a weak criterion a sufcient condition of an argument having this form is that the premise and the conclusion are logically equivalent. On this criterion All men are mortal; therefore, no men are immortal qualies as a case of P, therefore, P. However, there are stronger criteria given which logical equivalence is insufcient. On such criteria All men are mortal; therefore, no men are immortal may fail to qualify as having a P, therefore, P form. Roy Sorenson believes we can disregard this issue. He believes that, even on a strong criterion, there may well be arguments which are of the form P, therefore, P and yet are non-question-begging. Consider the following Sorenson-style self-supporting argument:12
This article contains at least one valid argument. Thus, this article contains at least one valid argument.

This argument may persuade someone who, before being exposed to it, (unkindly) disbelieved its conclusion in a rational way. It may even rationally persuade a deductive omniscient. For the argument supplies rational persuasion through exemplifying the conclusion. Sorenson infers that, since the argument is rationally persuasive, it is not question-begging, but I reject this inference (for which Sorenson provides no argument). In the present context, however, this disagreement does not need settling. Question-begging arguments either can, or cannot, be rationally persuasive. If they cannot, formal accounts of begging the question are decisively refuted: Arguments of the P, therefore, P form need not beg the question. It will follow that formal accounts of begging the question pose no threat to my argument, since any such account will then be false. Certainly, if Sorensons views on begging the question are in general right, there are no reasonable questionbegging arguments. But whether such arguments exist, and whether my examples fail as examples of question-begging arguments once a formal account of question-begging is accepted, are distinct issues. If I am right that question-begging arguments can be rationally persuasive, and if the equivalence conception is true, then Sorensonstyle self-supporting arguments qualify as reasonable questionbegging arguments even if my examples do not. Hence, even if the equivalence conception were true, reasonable question-begging

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arguments would be possible on present assumptions. I conclude that no viable challenge to the existence of reasonable questionbegging arguments issues directly from the formal account of what it is for an argument to be question-begging. 5. David Sanfords non-formal account of question-begging is inuential and, in my view, basically correct.13 However, I do not accept his account of why a question-begging argument is defective. The opportunity to explain why not, is one reason why I want to discuss Sanfords work. But I have another reason as well. I want to strengthen my case for the possibility of reasonable questionbegging arguments. So far I have simply appealed to intuition. Sanfords non-formalism enables me to support my position by appeal to a well-defended, explicit criterion which determines when an argument begs the question. According to Sanford:
An argument begs the question if the addressee believes one of the premises only because he already believes the conclusion or if [he] would believe one of the premises only if [14 ] he already believed the conclusion.15

Under what condition does one believe a premise, in the relevant sense, because one believes the conclusion? One hardly does so simply because ones believing the conclusion causes one to believe the premise.16 Causal conditions such as these are at best a necessary, not a sufcient condition of what it is to accept a premise because one accepts the conclusion to which it relates: The possibility of deviant causal chains shows this.17 I am not able here to offer a full account of what it is for one belief to be grounded in another.18 This may not matter, however, because the examples I have chosen of believing premises because of ones belief in an associated conclusion are very close to paradigm cases of one belief being grounded in another so close, indeed, that it is plausible that they will qualify as examples of (as it were) premise-throughconclusion belief on any plausible account of what it is for one belief to be grounded in another. If a person believes certain premises because he believes their associated conclusion, he will normally possess a second-order belief that part of what makes it reasonable for him to believe the premises is the conclusion. We can assume that in the examples

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of reasonable question-begging arguments I offered I did have appropriate such second-order beliefs. But rationalization is not an unfamiliar phenomenon. Surely it is possible for someone to believe the premises because he believes the conclusion and yet believe that the premises make it reasonable for him to believe the conclusion. Does the argument beg the question against such a person? It does on Sanfords account, but this seems wrong to me. Accordingly, I think Sanfords account should be supplemented with the clause provided that the addressee does not believe that the premises make it reasonable for him to accept the conclusion. In the present and following section, however, I shall ignore this minor issue, for although it would need to be dealt with in an adequate account of when an argument begs the question, it can be put aside if we are merely asking whether reasonable question-begging arguments are possible. Sanfords account, in both its original and supplemented form, allows for reasonable question-begging arguments. By the second disjunct of Sanfords analysans I take it that he means the following: Either the addressee disbelieves (i.e. rejects) the conclusion, or he neither believes nor disbelieves it. In the former case, the addressees disbelief in one of the premises is grounded in his disbelief in the conclusion. In the latter case, the addressees state of neither believing, nor disbelieving one of the premises is grounded in his state of neither believing nor disbelieving the conclusion. Equally, Sanfords formulation of the second disjunct might be interpreted in the spirit of the paragraph above that is, as stating that the addressee has a second-order belief to the effect that part of what makes it reasonable for him to, say, disbelieve the premises is the (as he sees it) falsity of the conclusion. It is clear, however, from Sanfords subsequent writings that this is not how he wishes to be understood.19 Also, it seems implausible that question-begging arguments should require such second-order beliefs of the addressee. Finally, interpreting the second disjunct in line with the above section would introduce an odd difference in his account between, on the one hand, question-begging arguments where the addressee accepts one of the premises because he accepts the conclusion, and, on the other hand, question-begging arguments where the addressee rejects (or neither rejects nor accepts) one

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the premises because he rejects (or neither rejects nor accepts) the conclusion: Only the latter involved second-order beliefs concerning which statements made which other statements reasonable for the addressee to believe. What is the problem with question-begging arguments? In Sanfords view, the problem is that they fail in the primary purpose of arguments. This is to increase the degree of reasonable condence which one has in the truth of the conclusion,20 or as he puts it elsewhere, to show that the conclusion is worthy of belief.21 To show that a proposition is worthy of belief is to show that you have reason to believe it. When in the required sense does a deductively valid argument increase ones degree of reasonable condence in the truth of the conclusion? Increase relative to what ones level of condence prior to considering the argument? This cannot be right. Suppose someone offers you an argument. You have a high degree of reasonable condence in the conclusion independently of any of the premises. You have a low degree of condence in the premises on the basis of the conclusion, so for you the argument begs the question. But the problem with the argument cannot be that it failed to increase your condence in the conclusion relative to your condence prior to argument. For even if you had had independent reasons for having a slight condence in the premises, the argument might not have increased your condence in the conclusion relative to your condence prior to argument.22 I take it, then, that the problem with question-begging arguments, on Sanfords account, is that they cannot increase the degree of reasonable condence one has in the truth of a conclusion relative to its associated premises. The qualication entered by the word reasonable in the passage of Sanford I have quoted is important: An argument cannot be fallacious because it fails to increase ones condence simpliciter in the truth of the conclusion. If it could, the question-begging status of an argument could depend entirely on contingent psychological facts about the addressee. Let us return to the two examples of reasonable question-begging arguments offered above. In both of these cases the argument begs the question against me on Sanfords account. In the rst case I reject the disjunctive premise because I reject the conclusion, and

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I would accept the premises only if I already accepted the conclusion. Nevertheless the argument seems to give me a good reason to accept the conclusion: It brings out what follows from propositions I have good reason to accept independently of the conclusion. It certainly should increase my degree of reasonable condence in the conclusion. In the second case, I accept one of the premises only because I accept the conclusion. Yet the argument appears to give me reason to accept the conclusion a reason indeed that is independent of the conclusion. It brings out what follows from propositions I have good reason to accept: Reasons that I fail to see as justifying the premises. So, pace Sanford,23 a question-begging argument may increase ones reasonable condence. (Admittedly, it is unlikely to do so.) It may increase ones condence, say, because one fails to see that the argument begs the question. And that increase may be reasonable when one is in possession of good reasons to accept the premises, reasons which are independent of the conclusion and which one fails to base ones reasoning upon. Note that my contention that Sanfords overall account of question-begging is in some way awed does not depend on my actually being right in saying that my two examples are cases of reasonable question-begging argument. If you think that it is clear neither that the arguments are reasonable question-begging arguments, nor that they are not, you should still see them as casting doubt on Sanfords account. For, as we have just seen, on his account, the arguments do beg the question. On Sanfords account, question-begging arguments are defective in that they are incapable of increasing ones reasonable condence in the conclusion, and neither of my arguments seem defective in this way. So if you doubt whether my two examples illustrate reasonable questionbegging argument, you should doubt Sanfords account either of when an argument begs the question, or of why question-begging arguments are defective, or both (all the while doubting neither of the two elements in Sanfords account in particular). People who are rmly convinced that neither of my two arguments is a reasonable question-begging argument should, for the reasons stated, be rmly convinced that Sanfords account of question-begging arguments is awed (in either of the three ways just mentioned). Hence, the

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claim that Sanfords account is in some way awed does not depend on my two arguments having reasonable question-begging status. What does depend thereon is, rst, my view about which element in Sanfords account is false; and second, the account of the faultiness of question-begging arguments that I offer in the nal sections of the paper. 6. Two worries are likely to remain concerning my use of Sanfords view. First, although I failed to see that I had reasons independent of the conclusion to accept the relevant premises, a person somewhat more acute than I would not have failed to see this. So, on Sanfords account, the arguments we have considered would not have begged the question against a more acute person. Perhaps we should determine which arguments beg the question relative, not to their actual addressee, but some above-averagely rational addressee.24 Otherwise, begging the question may seem more of a aw in the reasoner than the argument itself. I nd this approach unpersuasive, chiey because if it were accepted, the connection between accepting a question-begging argument and making a relevantly fallacious inference would cease to obtain.25 Given the approach, someone who falls below the appropriate standard of rationality might reason in accordance with an argument which, just because he falls below the standard, would not be classied as question-begging. Yet, he could certainly make a fallacious inference: The route he takes from his pre-inference beliefs to his post-inference beliefs could, for example, be fallacious as a result of the fact that he believes one of the premises only because he believes the conclusion. The second worry is this. Sanfords informal account of when an argument begs the question is not the only informal account available. One difference between Sanfords account and a number of other informal approaches is that, on Sanfords account of when an argument begs the question, what matters is what actually makes the reasoner hold the beliefs that he does. An alternative informal account could insist that what matters here is what could make the reasoner hold the relevant beliefs given other beliefs he has. Such an account might then distinguish between essentially and nonessentially circular arguments, and hold only the former arguments

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to be viciously circular, i.e. question-begging. On Sanfords account, which I endorse in this respect, an argument which is non-essentially circular may beg the question if the reasoner does not follow, and is not aware of, the non-circular line of argument taking him from his premises to the conclusion. Obviously, my appeal to Sanford will not impress those who believe that there are non-formal theories which are both different from and as plausible as Sanfords, and incompatible with the possibility of reasonable question-begging argument. However, to adequately address such worries here would consume too much space. Instead I shall simply state that, in my view, Sanfords theory has two important strengths. First, it classies arguments as question-begging in a way that ts our intuitions quite well. By this I have in mind not only intuitions about whether specic arguments offered in a specic context beg the question, but intuitions about the nature of question-begging arguments e.g. the intuition that one and the same argument may or may not beg the question, depending on the addressee.26 Second, Sanfords account preserves a close connection between fallacies and reasoning fallaciously. 7. Suppose arguments can beg the question and yet offer addressees good reason to accept their conclusions. Does this mean that there is nothing wrong with begging the question? If my account entailed a positive answer to this enquiry, it would be suspect. Most philosophers look upon begging the question as a serious ratiocinative aw. Indeed they assume that question-begging arguments for unwelcome conclusions can be dismissed forthwith. This casts no doubt on my account, however. Where a questionbegging argument offers the addressee a good reason to accept the conclusion it will still be the case, given that the addressees independent reasons for the premises are inoperative, that the relevant inference, from premises to conclusion, is fallacious. The inference, after all, will violate an epistemic condition of reasonable inference: That one should not infer a conclusion from premises one accepts (or rejects) only because one accepts (or rejects) that conclusion.27 Here the increase in ones degree of condence in the truth of the conclusion stems from irrationality: One reaches the conclusion by way of a fallacious inference. Still, one is entitled, given evidence

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of which one is oblivious, to travel by an alternative route to the conclusion. In my view an argument can be evaluated in relation to two quite different desiderata (at least). These are the conclusion-acceptability desideratum: Does the argument give the addressee a reason to accept the conclusion? And the inferential-route desideratum: Is the inferential route from the premises of the argument to the conclusion non-fallacious? The answer to this second question depends on whether (a) the addressees second-order beliefs about what makes it reasonable for him to believe, or disbelieve, the premises, and (b) the way in which his belief in the premises is actually grounded, cohere with the route (rationalized by the argument) between his pre-inferential and post-inferential beliefs. In effect, I have argued that question-begging arguments per se do not fail the conclusion-acceptability desideratum. They do, however, fail the inferential-route desideratum. It is my view that many accounts of begging the question fail to distinguish between these desiderata. As a result these accounts provide unsatisfactory accounts of what makes question-begging arguments defective. As I have said, most philosophers assume that where someone begs the question, the relevant argument fails to render the conclusion (more) acceptable. It follows from the position defended in this paper that this assumption is false. However, my account renders it unsurprising that philosophers tend to make the assumption. For philosophers tend to assume that their second-order beliefs about what makes it reasonable for them to hold a particular belief accurately mirror the true relations of justication among their beliefs. They also assume that they hold their beliefs on the right grounds. When the facts bear out these assumptions, questionbegging arguments do indeed fail to render a conclusion worthy of belief.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

This essay beneted from the discussion following its presentation at The Third European Congress of Analytical Philosophy at Maribor, Slovenia, in June 1999. I am also grateful to Lars Bo Gundersen, Klemens Kappel, Paul Robinson, two anonymous

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referees, and especially David H. Sanford, for some very helpful comments.
NOTES John A. Barker, The Fallacy of Begging the Question, Dialogue 15 (1976), p. 241; J.L. Biro, Rescuing Begging the Question, Metaphilosophy 8 (1977), p. 264; Max Black, Induction and Experience, in Foster and Swanson (eds.), Experience and Theory (London: Duckworth, 1970), pp. 152153; David H. Sanford, Begging the Question, Analysis 32 (1972), p. 198; and Roy A. Sorenson, P, therefore, P Without Circularity, Journal of Philosophy 88 (1991), p. 248. 2 Peter Suber, Question-Begging Under a Non-Foundational Model of Argument, Argumentation 8 (1994), pp. 241243. 3 I express myself cautiously because the stronger claim that justication is necessarily transmitted through deductively valid inferences from justiedly believed premises is controversial see Robert Audi, Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to The Theory of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 168171. 4 L. Jonathan Cohen, Belief and Acceptance (Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1992), pp. 2732. 5 See Audis account of the distinction between being justied in believing (situational justication) and justiably believing (doxastic justication) Robert Audi, Epistemology, pp. 23 and Robert Audi, Causalist Internalism, American Philosophical Quarterly 26 (1989), p. 309, p. 318. 6 William Alston, An Internalist Externalism, Synthese 74 (1988), p. 271. 7 William P. Alston, Concepts of Epistemic Justication, The Monist 68 (1985), p. 75. 8 John A. Barker, The Fallacy, pp. 241255 and John A. Barker, The Nature of Question-Begging Arguments, Dialogue 17 (1978), pp. 490498. 9 Jim MacKenzie, Contexts of Begging the Question, Argumentation 8 (1994), p. 227; Roy A. Sorensen, P, Therefore, P , p. 245266; Roy A. Sorenson, Unbeggable Questions, Analysis 56 (1996), pp. 5155; Douglas N. Walton, Begging the Question (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991); Douglas N. Walton, Begging the Question as a Pragmatic Fallacy, Synthese 100 (1994), pp. 95131. 10 John A. Barker, The Fallacy, pp. 241255. Strictly speaking, Barkers conception of question-begging argument is slightly broader than the single premise conception. For he also considers arguments where one of the premises is presupposed by the conclusion to be question-begging. 11 See, for instance, Irving M. Copi, Introduction to Logic (New York: Macmillan, 1986), p. 101 and Kent Wilson, Circular Arguments, Metaphilosophy 19 (1988), pp. 4851. 12 Roy A. Sorenson, P, Therefore, P , pp. 245266 and Unbeggable, pp. 5155.
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David H. Sanford, Begging the Question and David H. Sanford, If P, then Q (London, Routledge, 1989). Sanfords account is not the only non-formal account on offer see, for instance, J.L. Biro, Rescuing, pp. 257271; J.L. Biro, Knowability, Believability, and Begging the Question: A Reply to Sanford, Metaphilosophy 15 (1984), pp. 239247; Harvey Siegel and J.L. Biro, Epistemic Normativity, Argumentation, and Fallacies, Argumentation 11 (1997), pp. 277292; F.H. van Emeren and R. Grootendorst, Argumentation, Communication, and Fallacies: A Progma-Dialectical Perspective (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992). For forceful criticisms of Biro (and Biro and Siegel) see David H. Sanford, Superuous Information, Epistemic Conditions of Inference, and Begging the Question, Metaphilosophy 12 (1981), pp. 155158; David H. Sanford, Begging the Question as Involving Actual Belief and Inconceivable Without It, Metaphilosophy 19 (1988), pp. 3336 and Kent Wilson, Circular Arguments, pp. 4548. For a good challenge to van Emeren and Grootendorst see Siegel and Biro, Epistemic Normativity, pp 281285. 14 If the addressee of an argument rejects or accepts one of the premises only in part because he accepts the conclusion, the argument need not beg the question (though it may). The matter will depend on whether the addressee has sufciently strong reasons to believe the relevant premise independently of the conclusion. Sufciently strong reasons are such that the addressee would accept the premise even when disregarding the support it gets from the conclusion. 15 David H. Sanford, Begging the Question, p. 198. Only if is withheld from the analysans because the addressee might accept the relevant rule of inference only because he accepts the conclusion. 16 J.L. Biro, Rescuing, p. 262. 17 See William P. Alston, Concepts of Epistemic Justication, The Monist 68 (1985), pp. 7172 and An Internalist Externalism, pp. 265270. 18 For a rich account of what it is for one belief to be grounded in another see Robert Audi, Belief, Reason, and Inference, Philosophical Topics 14 (1986), pp. 2765; and Robert Audi Epistemology, pp. 152175. 19 See, for instance, David H. Sanford, Begging the Question as Involving Actual Belief and Inconceivable Without It, p. 34. 20 David H. Sanford, Begging the Question, p. 198. 21 David H. Sanford, The Fallacy of Begging the Question: A Reply to Barker, Dialogue 16 (1977), p. 489 22 I say might to accommodate cases such as the following: The reasoner ascribes a certain pre-inferential plausibility to the truth of the conclusion and a lesser one to the premise. In assessing the former the reasoner fails to take account of the fact that the conclusion is entailed by the premise to which he ascribes a certain plausibility (less great than that he ascribes to the conclusion). The reasoners pre-inferential ascription of plausibility to the premise is not in any way grounded in his acceptance of the conclusion. Showing that the conclusion follows from the premise might increase the subjects reasonable degree of condence in it. His pre-inferential ascription of plausibility to the conclusion was not based on

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all the available evidence that he had in its favour. The possibility of such cases shows that one might argue from premises which are less plausible than their associated conclusion without begging the question and in so arguing increase ones degree of condence in the truth of that conclusion. Arguing from premises less plausible than an associated conclusion need not be arguing badly. 23 David H. Sanford, Superuous Information, p. 150. 24 For such as suggestion see John Woods and Douglas N. Walton, Petitio Principii, Synthese 81 (1975), p. 124. 25 See David H. Sanford, The fallacy of Begging the Question: A Reply to Barker, p. 491. 26 David H. Sanford, Begging the Question as Involving Actual Belief and Inconceivable Without It, pp. 3237. 27 David Sanford, Superuous Information, p. 149; Susan Stebbing, A Modern Introduction to Logic (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1930), pp. 210226.

Department of Education, Philosophy, and Rhetoric University of Copenhagen Copenhagen, DK-2300 Denmark