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circular argument

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Definition:

An argument that commits the logical fallacy of assuming what it is attempting to prove. Also known as begging the question.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan are banging at the doors, and the political establishment, consisting of both politicians and the media, seems determined not to let them in on the grounds that they have no public support. This is a circular argument; one of the reasons they have so little support is that they are generally ignored by the press and will most likely be barred from the presidential debates, which require a base support of 15 percent of the electorate."
    (Lars-Erik Nelson, "Party Going." The New York Review of Books, Aug. 10, 2000)


  • "The circular argument uses its own conclusion as one of its stated or unstated premises. Instead of offering proof, it simply asserts the conclusion in another form, thereby inviting the listener to accept it as settled when, in fact, it has not been settled. Because the premise is no different from and therefore as questionable as its conclusion, a circular argument violates the criterion of acceptability."
    (T. Edward Damer, Attacking Faulty Reasoning. Wadsworth, 2001)


  • "Circular argument: A sentence or argument that restates rather than proves. Thus, it goes in a circle: 'President Reagan was a great communicator because he had the knack of talking effectively to the people.' The terms in the beginning of the sentence (great communicator) and the end of the sentence (talking effectively) are interchangeable."
    (Stephen Reid, The Prentice Hall Guide for College Writers, 5th ed., 2000)
Also Known As: petitio principii, arguing in a circle, begging the question
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