Fallacy: Begging the Question and Highest Degree

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Petitio Principii: (circular reasoning, circular argument, begging the question) in general, the fallacy of assuming as a premiss a statement which has the same meaning as the conclusion. A. The least convincing kind of petitio principii is the repetition of the same words in the same order in both premiss and conclusion..  Generally, such an argument would not be misleading and would only be given in unusual circumstances, e.g., the speaker is very tired, talking to a child, or talking to a subordinate.  Two examples follow.

1. "Dear Friend, a man who has studied law to its highest degree is a brilliant lawyer, for a brilliant lawyer has studied law to its highest degree."  Oscar Wilde, De Profundis.

2. --"What a brain!  And you know how to prove things, like the big shots? --Yeah, I have a special method for that.  Ask me to prove something for you, something real hard. --All right, prove to me that giraffes go up in elevators.

--Let's see.  Giraffes go up in elevators  ... because they go up in elevators. --Good, that was great! ... Suppose I asked you to prove giraffes don't go up in elevators.   --That's easy.  I just prove the same thing, but the other way around." Fernando Arrabal,  El Cementerio de Automoviles, el Arquitecto y El B. A more common kind of petitio principii is the transformation of the conclusion into a premiss using logical or grammatical principles. For example ...

3. "You know that God is a just and loving God because God is God and cannot be unjust or unloving." 4. "Women write the best novels because men do not write novels as well." 5. "There are many juvenile delinquents because many juveniles break the law, and the reason so many juveniles break the law is that they are juvenile delinquents."

C. A third kind of petitio prinicpii is the use of an intermediate step in shifting to the same meaning from the premiss to the conclusion. A linking of premisses and conclusions return to the...
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