Because begging the question depends in this way on context, we should be careful before charging opponents with begging the question. Some people charge every opponent with begging the question, almost like a knee-jerk reaction. However, even if an opponent uses a premise that you reject, this does not yet show that the argument begs the question, since your opponent might have plenty of independent evidence for the premise. Before you ac- cuse people of begging the question, you should ask them to give you their reasons for the disputed premise. If they can come up with an independent reason, then they did not beg the question, and you might learn something from them. However, if they do not have any independent reason for the premise, then they did indeed beg the question.
For each of the following arguments, does it involve circular reasoning? Does it beg the question in any context? If so, in which contexts? Explain your answers.
1. A student of mine told me that I am her favorite professor, and I know that she is telling the truth, because no student would lie to her favorite professor.
2. Intoxicating beverages should be banned, because they can make people drunk.
3. Capitalism is the only correct economic system, because without it free enterprise would be impossible.
4. Free trade is good for the country, because it brings the country all of the advantages of an unimpeded flow of goods.
5. Gun-control laws are wrong, because they violate the citizen’s right to bear arms.
6. When B applies for a job from A:
A: How can we know that you are trustworthy?
B: Mr. Davidson will write me a recommendation.
A: But why should we trust him?
B: I assure you that he is honest and accurate.
7. The Bible is the inerrant word of God, because God speaks only the truth, and repeatedly in the Bible God tells us that the Bible consists of His words.
8. We have to accept change, because without change there is no progress.
9. Premarital sex is wrong, because premarital sex is fornication, and fornication is a sin.
10. The drinking age should be lowered to eighteen, because eighteen-year- olds are mature enough to drink.
11. We should never give security clearances to homosexuals, because they can be blackmailed into revealing classified information. They are subject to blackmail, because we will revoke their security clearances if we find out they are gay.
12. People with suicidal tendencies are insane, because they want to kill themselves.
13. Jeffrey can’t really be insane, because he says he is.