LESSONS IN LOGIC: Illegal Immigration: Harry Reid Commits Fallacy Of ‘Begging The Question’

Logic is part of Natural Law.  It is the universal set of laws governing ‘right reason.’  When we make mistakes in the application of these laws, it is called a fallacy.  Some fallacies are committed so often that they have their own names.  One of these fallacies with a special name is known as ‘begging the question.’  ‘Begging the question’ is an especially seductive fallacy because it often plays to our own bias or arrogance.  If we succumb to it, ‘begging the question’ will not only prevent us from seeing an issue clearly, it can lead us to believe in a falsehood — which makes it even more difficult to see that issue clearly.  Harry Reid made a comment on illegal immigration which provides us with a perfect illustration of how begging the question can prevent us from seeing an issue clearly.

Before we look at Harry Reid’s comment, we should first look at the formal definition of ‘begging the question:’

Begging the Question

A form of circular reasoning in which a conclusion is derived from premises that presuppose the conclusion. Normally, the point of good reasoning is to start out at one place and end up somewhere new, namely having reached the goal of increasing the degree of reasonable belief in the conclusion. The point is to make progress, but in cases of begging the question there is no progress.


“Women have rights,” said the Bullfighters Association president. “But women shouldn’t fight bulls because a bullfighter is and should be a man.”

The president is saying basically that women shouldn’t fight bulls because women shouldn’t fight bulls. This reasoning isn’t making any progress.

Insofar as the conclusion of a deductively valid argument is “contained” in the premises from which it is deduced, this containing might seem to be a case of presupposing, and thus any deductively valid argument might seem to be begging the question. It is still an open question among logicians as to why some deductively valid arguments are considered to be begging the question and others are not. Some logicians suggest that, in informal reasoning with a deductively valid argument, if the conclusion is psychologically new insofar as the premises are concerned, then the argument isn’t an example of the fallacy. Other logicians suggest that we need to look instead to surrounding circumstances, not to the psychology of the reasoner, in order to assess the quality of the argument. For example, we need to look to the reasons that the reasoner used to accept the premises. Was the premise justified on the basis of accepting the conclusion? A third group of logicians say that, in deciding whether the fallacy is present, more evidence is needed. We must determine whether any premise that is key to deducing the conclusion is adopted rather blindly or instead is a reasonable assumption made by someone accepting their burden of proof. The premise would here be termed reasonable if the arguer could defend it independently of accepting the conclusion that is at issue.

OK, now, ‘begging the question’ can be a little tricky to see in a person’s comments.  The trick is to look for an ‘either-or’ comment where one of the conditions is rejected and a false conclusion drawn as a result.  Remember that.  Now, let’s consider something Harry Reid said about illegal immigration:

Now, it is true” no ‘sane’ nation rewards illegal immigration.  That is the equivalent of inviting and assisting an invasion, and no sane nation invites and assists in an invasion of itself.  But Reid then goes on as though we all assume this is a ‘sane’ nation.  In other words, Reid says

“No sane nation rewards illegal immigration.  America is not insane.  Therefore…”

That is ‘begging the question,’ and it is a mistake in logic.  That means we cannot and should not trust any conclusion drawn from this line of reasoning — period!  It would be like trusting the result of a work of engineering that relied on faulty math.  Would you get on a plane that was built using bad math?  So why do so many of us follow political agendas/policies based on bad thinking?

But this does not mean Harry Reid is entirely wrong.  The truth is, he was correct about something, he just refused to accept the truth.  No sane nation does reward illegal immigration, yet, America is rewarding illegal immigration.  That means the proper conclusion is that America is no longer a sane nation…

[NOTE: I no longer think of my voice as anything special.  There was a time when I believed I had something important to say, but not so much these days.  I write now because I feel driven to do so.  Something inside me will not let me rest until I post the pages you just read.  I’d just as soon not bother anymore.  It all seems like no one is listening and I do more harm than good.  So I have come to trust that whatever it is driving me has all this under control.  Personally, I believe it is God, but others may not.  All I ask is that, if anything I write helps you, or you think it might help others in any way, please, share this page.  Re-blog it, share it on FB or send the link to your friends.  So long as you feel it will do more good than harm, then please, use this page however you wish.  Thank you.]

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