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Circular Reasoning and the Fallacious Question

Estimated Lesson Time: 30 minutes (self-evaluated option) / 1 hour (instructor-evaluated option)

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Lesson Introduction

In this lesson, we cover three fallacies that are related: Begging the Question, Circular Reasoning, and Complex Question Fallacy. Circularity is common, sometimes humorous, and some would argue it is also necessary. But it doesn't have to be fallacious.

By the end of this lesson, students will learn

when circularity is fallacious and when it is not

how to counter the "all reasoning is circular" argument

how to identify the complex question

why the loaded question tricks us

the difference between begging the question and raising the question

Lesson Resources

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Lesson Videos

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Introduction to Lesson 9 (00:41)

Circular Reasoning (03:13)

A type of reasoning in which the proposition is supported by the premises, which is supported by the proposition, creating a circle in reasoning where no useful information is being shared. This fallacy is often quite humorous.

Begging the Question (03:56)

Any form of argument where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises. Many people use the phrase “begging the question” incorrectly when they use it to mean, “prompts one to ask the question”. That is NOT the correct usage. Begging the question is a form of circular reasoning.

Complex Question Fallacy (02:23)

A question that has a presupposition built in, which implies something but protects the one asking the question from accusations of false claims. It is a form of misleading discourse, and it is a fallacy when the audience does not detect the assumed information implicit in the question, and accepts it as a fact.

Lesson Key Points

Circular Reasoning: A type of reasoning in which the proposition is supported by the premises, which is supported by the proposition, creating a circle in reasoning where no useful information is being shared.
Begging the Question: Any form of argument where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises.
Begging the question does NOT mean, “raises the question.”
Complex Question Fallacy: A question that has a presupposition built in, which implies something but protects the one asking the question from accusations of false claims.

Lesson Assignments

Assignment #1:

This assignment is for students with the instructor-evaluated course option.

Dan and Sam are having a conversation. Dan begs the question and Sam asks a loaded question. How would this conversation look?
Assignment #2:

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Post a question at http://www.isitafallacy.com or provide an answer to a question already asked. Post the link to your question/answer below.
Assignment #3Take a minute to answer at least one of the following questions in the discussion section below:

What was the most important thing you learned in this lesson?

What question do you have about this lesson?

How would you sum up this lesson in one sentence?


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Lesson Quiz

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    #3: Appeal to Common Belief
    #4: Fallacies and Religion
    #5: Deception Through Confusion
    #10: Fallacies of Poor Statistical Thinking
    #11: Black and White Thinking
    #12: The Impossible and the Possible
    #13: The Red Herring
    #15: Special Pleading
    #16: The Analogy - Both Friend and Foe
    #17: A Look at Nature
    #18: Fallacies Worthy of Mention

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    Lesson Quiz

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    1) "How many times per day do you beat your wife?" is an example of
    a) Begging the Question
    b) Circular Reasoning
    c) Complex Question Fallacy
    2) If Brawndo has electrolytes, and electrolytes are good because Brawndo uses them, then the fallacy we are committing is
    a) Begging the Question
    b) Circular Reasoning
    c) Complex Question Fallacy
    3) When we assume the truth of the conclusion in one of the premises
    a) Begging the Question
    b) Circular Reasoning
    c) Complex Question Fallacy
    4) Begging the question is a form of circular reasoning
    a) true
    b) false
    5) The complex question fallacy is also know as a loaded or trick question
    a) true
    b) false
    submitting answers...

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