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A. "The BMW is better than the Ford because with the BMW you get 'German quality' engineering."

B. "Chocolate is more delicious than celery because it is tastier."

In the former, the premise takes for granted that German engineering is better than non-German engineering.

In the latter a synonym of the conclusion has been straightforwardly included as a premise.

I get that the latter one assumes the thing that's being argued for, but the former one seems to assume not the thing it's arguing for but rather something that itself requires evidence (i.e. that German engineering is better than non-German engineering). Only the latter fits with my preconception about begging the question, but the former is adapted from an authoritative source.

I adapted the former quote from Pinker (2014), which on p270 gives as an example of begging the question:

"When I asked the dealer why I should pay more for the German car, he said I would be getting 'German quality,' but that just begs the question."

Pinker, S. (2014). The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Penguin.

  • That question is different. The answer there verifies that Sentence B is begging the question, and suggests that a "raises the question" sentence isn't. However, sentence A here (cited as an example of begging the question by Pinker) is different. Pinker actually contrasts this sentence with the "raises the question" sense. – user1205901 - Reinstate Monica Oct 1 '15 at 7:29
  • You've introduced the notion of 'engineering' in your rewrite of Pinker. I think that yours might be begging a different question, if any. – JHCL Oct 1 '15 at 9:01
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I don't think the first sentence begs the question. It assumes the premise that German engineering is high quality, but the listener may not be aware that BMW is a German company. One could phrase it more explicitly as:

The BMW is better than Ford because BMW is a German company, so you get "German quality" engineering, which is known to be excellent.

The example from Pinker is different, because both the conclusion and premise refer just to German cars and quality, so it's a syllogism.

  • OK, so if I rephrase it to "The BMW is better than Ford because BMW is a German company, so you get "German quality" engineering, which is known to be excellent" is it then begging the question? – user1205901 - Reinstate Monica Oct 1 '15 at 23:42
  • No. It's explaining that German quality engineering is excellent, and that's why being a German company means it's better. – Barmar Oct 1 '15 at 23:43
  • It's similar to All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal. – Barmar Oct 1 '15 at 23:45
  • One follow-up question: is Pinker's statement (which is very slightly different from mine) is also not an example of begging the question? – user1205901 - Reinstate Monica Oct 1 '15 at 23:46
  • It really hinges on whether the quality of German engineering is considered to be widely known or something that needs to be stated. The dealer assumed that everyone knows what "German quality" means, but the buyer feels it needs to be justified. – Barmar Oct 1 '15 at 23:49

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