I know this word, but I cannot think of it. It is driving me crazy. Example:

The murder rate in the National Parks is very low because the people who go to the National Parks are non-violent people.

  • 1
    Maybe tautology?
    – bib
    Oct 29, 2015 at 23:31
  • 3
    Your example isn't a tautology though. Try this: "The murder rate in the National Parks is very low because people who go to the National Parks aren't killed there very often."
    – deadrat
    Oct 29, 2015 at 23:38
  • 1
    @ab2 Your first example is really a set of propositions: A) Non-violent people don't commit murder except rarely, B) People who go to NPs are non-violent, C) The murder rate in NPs is low. A&B -> C. You may present evidence to decide on the truth of A and B, and there fore the truth of C. There's no argument in a tautology. My version says that A) People who go to NPs aren't murdered there very often, thus A) people who go to NPs aren't murdered very often. That is, A->A,which is always true. Evidence and argument are irrelevant. Which is why tautologies,while true, don't tell us much.
    – deadrat
    Oct 29, 2015 at 23:56
  • 1
    @ab2 Not quite. "The violent crime rate in the NPs is very low because people who go the NPs don't commit violent crimes there." You have to restate the premise as the conclusion. Your version basically says that the crime rate in NPs is low because the NPs attract pacifists.
    – deadrat
    Oct 30, 2015 at 0:02
  • 4
    Q: Do people get killed here very often? A: Nope, just once. Oct 30, 2015 at 7:42

3 Answers 3


X is because of Y, when Y is simply a restatement of X.

"circular reasoning" or "begging the question" is one kind of logical fallcy. The most common example is "God exists because the Bible says so, and the Bible is the word of God". Another example, not so obvious, "Whatever is less dense than water will float, because such objects won't sink in water"

As @deadrat has mentioned in a comment, your sentence would be a good example of "circular reasoning" if you had written "The murder rate in the National Parks is very low because people who go to the National Parks aren't killed there very often."

  • Circular reasoning (Latin: circulus in probando, "circle in proving"; also known as circular logic) is a logical fallacy in which the reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with. The components of a circular argument are often logically valid because if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. Circular reasoning is not a formal logical fallacy but a pragmatic defect in an argument whereby the premises are just as much in need of proof or evidence as the conclusion, and as a consequence the argument fails to persuade. Other ways to express this are that there is no reason to accept the premises unless one already believes the conclusion, or that the premises provide no independent ground or evidence for the conclusion. Begging the question is closely related to circular reasoning, and in modern usage the two generally refer to the same thing. Circular reasoning is often of the form: "A is true because B is true; B is true because A is true." Circularity can be difficult to detect if it involves a longer chain of propositions. from Wikipedia
  • "The murder rate in the National Parks is very low because people who go to the National Parks aren't killed there very often." Deadrat put this forward as a tautology. Are tautologies a subset of circular reasoning?
    – ab2
    Oct 30, 2015 at 0:57
  • @ab2 I understand "tautology" as an all-embracing term. It can refer to logics, grammar, rhetoric, etc. "Circular reasoning is more specific though definitions sometimes overlap.
    – Centaurus
    Oct 30, 2015 at 15:29

Perhaps a statement of the obvious or a truism.

It is a claim that is so obvious or self-evident as to be hardly worth mentioning.

For example:

hunger is often followed by a meal.

If a bacterial culture refuses to grow on the agar plate contained in that metalic mould, then the metal must be giving out something that stops the bacterial colony growing.

  • Your 2nd example is closely related to the example I cited. Thanks. Both your example and mine have a tiny bit -- but only a tiny bit -- of explanatory power.
    – ab2
    Oct 30, 2015 at 1:02

I offer as an Answer to my Question:

the statement has low explanatory power. Or, the statement has explanatory impotence.

Explanatory Power, from Wikipedia:

"Explanatory power is the ability of a hypothesis or theory to effectively explain the subject matter it pertains to. The opposite of explanatory power is explanatory impotence.

"In the past, various criteria or measures for explanatory power have been proposed. In particular, one hypothesis, theory or explanation can be said to have more explanatory power than another about the same subject matter

  • if more facts or observations are accounted for;

  • if it changes more "surprising facts" into "a matter of course" (following Peirce);

  • if more details of causal relations are provided, leading to a high accuracy and precision of the description;

  • if it offers greater predictive power, i.e., if it offers more details about what we should expect to see, and what we should not;

  • if it depends less on authorities and more on observations;

  • if it makes fewer assumptions;

  • if it is more falsifiable, i.e., more testable by observation or experiment (following Popper)."

I was fruitlessly searching my brain for "tautology", which Deadrat explained my example was not. I had actually estimated from data the murder and violent crime rates for the National Parks and was looking for an explanation of why they were so low. Nothing I came up with had much explanatory power; my explanations seemed like....what the heck is that word? Tautologies, which they were not. Centaurus and Graffito have given very good answers.

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