Circular reasoning is bad because it isn’t good
If you believe something is bad because it is…bad, or that something is good because, well, it’s good, you probably wouldn’t use that kind of reasoning in an argument – yet, sometimes, without realizing it, that’s exactly what you do.
If you think eating shrimp is immoral, you might defend that viewpoint by saying, “People shouldn’t eat shrimp because eating shrimp is unethical.” Ok, yes, got it, but you just looped back around without defending your original assertion. We are going to need to hear some justification for your views on morality.
Likewise, when explaining why something is true, we often unwittingly provide false clarity. For instance, you might read something like, “Human beings enjoy looking at each other’s butts because we evolved to appreciate healthy backsides.” Broken down, this is just a rephrasing of, “People like butts because people like butts.” There’s no answer here, no cause to the effect, no argument for or against, no explanation for why the observable is observable.
So why do we do this, and why don’t we notice it when other people do it?
In this episode, three experts in logic and rationality will explain how circular reasoning leads us to “beg the question” when producing arguments and defending our ideas, beliefs, and behaviors. You will also learn how to identify, defend against, and avoid begging the question, or restating your beliefs without arguing for or against them.
This episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is the sixth in a full season of episodes exploring logical fallacies. The first episode is here.