Examples and Observations:
- "The fallacy of complex question is the interrogative form of the fallacy of begging the question. Like the latter, it begs the question by assuming the conclusion at issue. . . .
"Before rushing to answer a complex question, it is best to question the question:
a) Have you stopped beating your wife?In each of these questions there lies an assumed answer to a previous question. Did John have bad habits? is the unasked question whose answer is assumed in question b. We need to withhold any answer to question b until this prior question has been resolved. In some instances of this fallacy, considerable struggle may be necessary in order to liberate ourselves from the misleading influence of a complex question.
b) Did John ever give up his bad habits?
c) Are you still a heavy drinker?
"The serious consequences of complex questions can be appreciated by considering these trick questions, which would be out of order in a court of law:
d) What did you use to wipe your fingerprints from the gun?(S. Morris Engel, With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies, 3rd ed. St. Martin's, 1986)
e) How long had you contemplated this robbery before you carried it out?
- "Although not an argument as such, a complex question involves an implicit argument. This argument is usually intended to trap the respondent into acknowledging something that he or she might otherwise not want to acknowledge. Examples:
- Have you stopped cheating on exams?
- Where did you hide the marijuana you were smoking?
(Patrick J. Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic. Thomson Wadsworth, 2005)