YANSS 074 – Begging the Question

If you believe something is bad because it is…bad, or that something is good because, well, it’s good, you probably wouldn’t use that kind of reasoning in an argument – yet, sometimes, without realizing it, that’s exactly what you do.

If you think eating shrimp is immoral, you might defend that viewpoint by saying, “People shouldn’t eat shrimp because eating shrimp is unethical.” Ok, yes, got it, but you just looped back around without defending your original assertion.  We are going to need to hear some justification for your views on morality.

Likewise, when explaining why something is true, we often unwittingly provide false clarity. For instance, you might read something like, “Human beings enjoy looking at each other’s butts because we evolved to appreciate healthy backsides.” Broken down, this is just a rephrasing of, “People like butts because people like butts.” There’s no answer here, no cause to the effect, no argument for or against, no explanation for why the observable is observable.

So why do we do this, and why don’t we notice it when other people do it?

In this episode, three experts in logic and rationality will explain how circular reasoning leads us to “beg the question” when producing arguments and defending our ideas, beliefs, and behaviors. You will also learn how to identify, defend against, and avoid begging the question, or restating your beliefs without arguing for or against them.

This episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is the sixth in a full season of episodes exploring logical fallacies. The first episode is here.

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This episode is brought to you by the MIT Press, publishing Marc Wittmann’s Felt Time The Psychology of How We Perceive TimeRead more about Felt Time and a few other new science, philosophy, language, and technology titles at mitpress.com/smart.

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is also brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create you own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and 10 percent off go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code SOSMART.

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BobBob Blaskiewicz is an assistant professor who teaches, among other subjects, critical thinking at Stockton University. He also writes about logic and reasoning at skepticalhumanities.com, and is a regular guest on the YouTube show The Virtual Skeptics.

julia-galef-headshot

Julie Galef is the president and co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, a non-profit devoted to training people to be better at reasoning and decision-making. She is also the host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast and writes for publications like Slate, Science, Scientific American, and Popular Science. This is her website.

Vanessa Hill is an Australian science writer and stop-motion animator who hosts BrainCraft, a PBS series exploring psychology, neuroscience and human behavior. She previously worked for Australia’s national science agency, as a science reporter for ScienceAlert, and has appeared in TIME, The Huffington Post, Scientific American, and Brain Pickings. Her Twitter page is here.

In every episode, after I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Nimi who sent in a recipe for coconut slice and bake cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Links and Sources

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

The History of Begging the Question at Language Log

BrainCraft

Center for Applied Rationality

Skeptical Humanities 

Your Logical Fallacy Is

PBS Idea Channel

A Guide to Logical Fallacies

Image Source – iStockPhoto

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