Take-away pizza it is, then.

Discussion (49)¬

  1. Salman says:

    I cant read as the pic is too small on my phone, but what is Mo drinking?

  2. M27Holts says:

    Aye Clearly the last tinny in the fridge…

  3. jb says:

    Not really a Jesus/Mo joke, but funny.

    Can anyone explain the distinction between “begging the question” (in the traditional sense) and “assuming your conclusion” or “making a circular argument”? The latter two are practically self-explanatory, while the first is just difficult to parse, even after it’s been explained. Unless there is a distinction, why would people use a confusing expression when simple and natural equivalents are available?

  4. M27Holts says:

    Yes but if cupboard A contains tins of beans and breadbin C has a loaf, then it’s “skinheads on a raft” for tea….simples

  5. David Cortesi says:

    Per wikipedia (and with a citation), “The phrase begging the question originated in the 16th century as a mistranslation of the Latin petitio principii, which in turn was a mistranslation of the Greek for “assuming the conclusion”.

    Given that there are more direct ways to describe the logical fallacy, and that it was a double mis-translation anyway, how about all us pedants just quietly concede it to popular usage? “Urgently raises the question” is really closer to the meaning of “begs the question” anyway.

  6. Donn says:

    I’d be in favor of discouraging it altogether, as opposed to accepting misuse. For those who are so well versed in logical fallacies that they’re apt to use it correctly, who would probably all fit in one room, how about going back to petitio principii?

  7. Oozoid says:

    I hope BBC ‘journalists’ are watching!
    Three wrongs do not make a right. Past mistranslation is not an excuse to introduce a new mistranslation. Is there any phrase in English that really replicates the ‘proper’ meaning of ‘begs the question’? ‘Assumes the conclusion’ is not a plug-in replacement.
    But Mo’s hypocrisy is anyway hilarious. What would we laugh at if not for religion?
    FYI, Author, I have for many weeks received both the email and the mailing list copies, but today only the Patreon copy arrived. I hope that doesn’t mean the mailing list has gone begging the question again. (That means what I want it to mean! Or whatever the wokies decide I meant.)

  8. Oozoid says:

    How about a cartoon about ‘expiration date’? J&M’s core business.

  9. Well no wonder Jesus was executed.

  10. Author says:

    Oozoid, thanks for reminding me about the mailshot! I completely forgot. Isolating at the moment, so everything’s a bit haywire. Sent it out now.

  11. Robert says:

    Oozoid said “Three wrongs do not make a right. ”

    Ah, but three lefts do make a right.

  12. Jveeds says:

    Sorry, but “Urgently raises the question” is nowhere close to the meaning of “begs the question.” Sure, it’s an old-fashioned phrase but the meaning is quite clear: “making a circular argument”…but on a larger point: I don’t see how this particular episode has anything to do with religion (other than the unspoken Jesus&Mo theme of biblical fallacy.)

  13. Marcel Kincaid says:

    While I’m sympathetic to Mo and have myself often corrected people’s misunderstanding of the phrase, descriptivist Jesus is correct about meaning and prescriptivist Mo is wrong, and in the last panel he actually does beg the question (it would be great if the author did this intentionally, not so great otherwise) by assuming that there is one and only one meaning of “begs the question” and it is what he’s claiming it is. There is indeed a historical and originating meaning that people are mostly unaware of, but the fact is that it is now commonly used with two meanings.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “Can anyone explain the distinction between “begging the question” (in the traditional sense) and “assuming your conclusion” or “making a circular argument”? ”

    In its broadest sense (which goes beyond its Aristotelian origin), begging the question takes some tendentious claim as a given. The conclusion need not be the same as the claim, but depends on it by virtue of the given argument. e.g., “Because the election was stolen from Trump, he should be in the White House, not Biden” is not a circular argument but it does beg (fail to establish) the question (whether the election was stolen from Trump).

    The tendentious premise could be rephrased as a circular argument: “We know the election was stolen from Trump because there was widespread voter fraud and Trump received more legitimately cast votes. Therefore Trump should be in the White House, not Biden.” But saying that the election was stolen from Trump is just another way of saying that he lost only because of voter fraud.

  15. M27Holts says:

    Begging the question, is begging the question obviously…

  16. Marcel Kincaid says:

    “Per wikipedia (and with a citation)”

    Aside from the fact that the citation is a blog and thus isn’t a reliable source by Wikipedia’s criteria (but it does appear to be reliable by less formulaic standards), its characterization in the lede is highly inaccurate; nowhere does the citation use the term “mistranslation”. And the body of the Wikipedia article does not make that stark claim, so that statement in the lede violates several Wikipedia policies.

    BTW, the comment above about “its broadest sense” (from Anonymous who is actually me) matches one of the quotes in the citation:

    “The first is Petitio principii. Which fallacie is commited, when a question is made a medium, or we assume a medium as granted, whereof we remain as unsatisfied as of the question. Briefly, where that is assumed as a principle, to prove another thing, which is not conceded as true it self.”

  17. Donn says:

    I offer the following familiar nonsense in an attempt to satisfy both jveeds (what does this have to do with anything) and jb (what’s the difference, compared to circular argument):

    There is surely a God, because someone must have created all this!

    Not a straightforward circular argument – the point is an appeal to the idea that anything that exists must have somehow been created, by what would evidently be a higher power. But that idea is left without any proof whatever, and it ends up being just another version of the same question – must there have been a creator, which naturally would be God?

  18. Laripu says:

    In the email that introduced this strip, Author mentioned that the word orange used to be pronounced “norange”. But that isn’t the case:

    The article mentions that “in Persia and Spain they were given the names ‘narang’ and ‘naranja’ respectively” (the j pronounced like an English h).

    So it looks possible, but it turns out not to be the case. Another incorrect etymology has the “or” in orange coming from the French word for gold: “or”, from Latin “aurum”, via “aurantiaco”.

    It looks like the “n” was just dropped in French, and therefore in English. In Yiddish, something else happened. The “n” turned into an “m”. The Yiddish word for orange is marantz. (Like the hi-fi equipment. And compare with Venetian dialect, “narantsa”.)

    So, what I’d like to know is … pedantic enough for you?

  19. MrGronk says:

    My pet hate is using “enormity” to mean “immensity” rather than “atrocity”.

  20. me not says:


    Interestingly, in modern Farsi usage naranj or narenj refers only to a particular type of bitter oranges, whereas Portoghal (as in the country) is used for the fruit we refer to as oranges. However, mandarines and other such like are called narenji, and incidentally, profiteroles are called narenjak.

  21. Paul Seed says:

    Testing the avatar

  22. Paul Seed says:

    Yes – correct avatar.

    Mr Gronk mentioned his “pet hate”. Mine is using “incredible” to mean “amazing”. It really means “unable to be believed”. If you tell me a story (about walking on water or flying to Jerusalem or whatever), and I say it is “incredible”, I mean that it is not possible to believe it. Not only are you lying, but you are telling a crude and ridiculous lie. Amazingly stupid of you, perhaps, but not otherwise amazing.

  23. Anonymous says:

    As for “begging the question”, I imagine it in a dialogue, something like this

    Meeting Host: “The topic for debate is ‘does God exist?’ We will hear form the Proposer and then the Opposition”

    Proposer: “I will start by assuming that God exists, and show you all how wonderful that would …”

    Opposition: “You can’t do that. It makes nonsense of the whole debate.”

    Proposer : “Oh PLEASEEEE!!”

  24. Paul Seed says:

    As for “begging the question”, I imagine it in a dialogue, something like this

    Meeting Host: “The topic for debate is ‘does God exist?’ We will hear form the Proposer and then the Opposition”

    Proposer: “I will start by assuming that God exists, and show you all how wonderful that would …”

    Opposition: “You can’t do that. It makes nonsense of the whole debate.”

    Proposer : “Oh PLEASEEEE!!”

  25. Paul Seed says:

    There is a rather famous debate that starts rather like that.

    The motion is “The Catholic Church is a Force For Good in the World” The opening speech is given by Archbishop John Onaiyekan, who does little more that repeat the words of the motion for his allotted time. The following debate, involving Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens battling it out with the Archbishop and Ann Widdecombe, is well worth listening to.

    If you haven’t seen it, it is at :

  26. jb says:

    I’m still not convinced that there is a distinction between “begging the question” and “assuming the conclusion” or “making a circular argument”.

    Because the election was stolen from Trump, he should be in the White House, not Biden

    This looks like a perfectly valid logical argument to me, the only problem being that the premise is false. If the election had been stolen from Trump, then it follows (barring quibbles about the wisdom of retroactively reversing elections) that he should be in the White House.

    There is surely a God, because someone must have created all this!

    This is assuming the conclusion. The argument assumes that there is a “someone” with the ability to “create” all of this, which is effectively assuming the existence of God. Circular arguments are rarely so blatant as “God exists because God exists”, they are almost always concealed under some level of verbiage and misdirection that needs to be unwrapped. But underneath it all they are still just circular arguments. I don’t see how “begging the question” adds anything new that isn’t covered by the basic concept of a circular argument.

  27. Donn says:

    To me it doesn’t assume there is a creator, it asserts that there must be, because to exist, it must have been created. It isn’t simply circular, because it does at least elaborate the proposition – it challenges you to consider how something could exist without having been created – but it still fails to logically advance the proposition, it’s just inverted to “a universe exists that requires a creator.”

  28. jb says:

    That’s what I was talking about when I said “concealed under some level of verbiage and misdirection.” Any “someone” who is capable of “creating all this” is effectively a god, so the argument becomes “There is surely a God, because a god must have created all this!” If you disagree, can you give me an example of a purely circular argument that is both non-trivial and does not “beg the question”?

  29. Jim says:

    For those of you who don’t understand what begging the question means, my favorite example: “Why are you so stupid?” It literally presumes something and then attempts to ask a question about the as yet unproven premise. Coincidentally, it’s also what I say to people when they misuse the term.

  30. Donn says:

    I’m not sure I agree that’s an example at all. You can’t beg the question without having a question, proposition presented as a conclusion from a premise. “Why are you so stupid” is a more like a “loaded question.”

    I am too lazy to think up non-trivial arguments, but “parallel lines can’t cross, because they’re parallel” is one that I think I saw presented as BTQ but in my opinion is simply circular. The “concealed under some level of verbiage and misdirection” is I think actually part of the definition, with the understanding that misdirection is a judgement call. There’s clearly a lot of overlap.

  31. jb says:

    “Why are you so stupid” is a perfectly normal question, like “Why are you so wet.” Answers could range from “I just got out of the pool” (“I was dropped on my head as a baby”) to “You are mistaken, I am not in fact wet” (“You are mistaken, I am not in fact stupid”). I don’t see see any logical fallacies here, just possible mistakes.

  32. Donn says:

    It’s an “informal” fallacy if the premise is controversial. When did you stop beating your wife?

  33. Donn says:

    I should add, “because something must have created this” is an argument, that can be refuted after a fashion. “Anything that exists, must have been created. Creation requires a creator. Therefore there is a Creator of the universe.”

    If it’s really true, then our Creator is also a thing, that must have been created, so there has to be a Creator-Creator, and so on. If we allow that the universe and the Creator are different types of things, and not all types of things need to be created, that severely weakens the claim that the universe needed to be created.

    As a logical argument, it’s weak, and indeed arguably circular, but I think it fits BTQ better.

  34. arbeyu says:

    The misuse of “begging the question” is a bugbear of mine, because if the phrase becomes to mean “to demand that the question be asked”, then we still need a phrase for the original meaning of “begging the question” – which is subtly different from “circular reasoning”.

    “Strychnine is a poison because it’s toxic” is an example of begging the question.

    “The Bible is the Word of God because it says that it is” is an example of circular reasoning.

    Another bugbear of mine is the use of the definite article with the word “epitome”. A thing or person can be “an epitome” of its type or class, but if it’s the highest form of perfection of its type, then it is the “acme”.

    I must admit that this is me being overly pedantic. I read somewhere (cannot find a reference) that the original misuse was by a sports journalist in the 1950’s.

  35. arbeyu says:

    By the way, Mo’s conclusion that “Using ‘Beg the Question’ to mean ‘Raises the question’ is WRONG because that’s NOT WHAT IT MEANS” is, in my opinion, a fine example of begging the question – of the muddled thinking we’ve come to love and expect from him and Jesus.

    When one begs the question, one’s premise is pretty much just a restatement of the conclusion using different wording…

    Conclusion: “Strychnine is a poison” / “Using ‘Beg the Question’ to mean ‘Raises the question’ is WRONG”

    Premise: “It’s a toxin” / “That’s not what it means”.

    Circular reasoning requires an extra step or two: “The Bible is the Word of God. That is true because the Bible says it is so. The Bible’s truth is undeniable because it is the Word of God.”

    I recommend reading “Straight and Crooked Thinking” by Robert H. Thouless, or the more cynical and funny “The Art of Being Right” by Schopenhauer.

  36. Choirboy says:

    “The Bible says God exists and since the Bible is the word of God the Bible must be true” is a circular argument.
    “God created man in his own image so is a perfect creation” begs the question, basing the conclusion on the assumed premise of the existence of a perfect God.

  37. Laripu says:

    me not: I’m interested in what you wrote about Farsi. Is there an etymology that explains how profiteroles came to be called narenjak?

    (Or even how profiteroles came to be called profiteroles? 🙂 )

  38. arbeyu says:

    Is your example one of begging the question of the existence of a perfect god?

    It seems to me that the argument is simply missing an implied premise or two, for example “God is perfect” and “Anything created by god in god’s image is also perfect”. I don’t think it begs the question of the existence of a perfect god. It doesn’t quite have the circularity of a question-begging argument. What it does is rely on a number of implicit premises, each of which is open to debate when clearly stated.

    Thouless gives the following as an example of question begging:

    Let us suppose that A and B dispute as to whether Christians lead better lives than those who are not Christians. A maintains that they do, but in opposition to him B points to numerous persons who go to church and profess Christian beliefs but who drink too much, neglect their families, and lead otherwise discreditable lives. A, however, refuses to accept this as evidence against his contention on the ground that those who do such things are not ‘really’ Christians. A’s argument implies a definition of Christians which includes as one of the essential marks the leading of a virtuous life. The question in dispute is begged by the definition of a Christian which is implied by A.

    It’s what I know as the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

  39. Donn says:

    I see that you can transform the “Christians are better” argument into BTQ because it has the essential ingredients, but to me, the form it actually takes puts it into a different category that more accurately describes it (No True Scotsman.)

    I fail to see BTQ in “God created man in his own image so [man?] is a perfect creation.” To me that’s a simple logical assertion, lacking only valid premises. (Creation, in his image; implicitly, that the image of a perfect thing is also perfect, and that having been created perfect at the time man is still perfect.) Invalid premises doesn’t make it a logical fallacy.

  40. arbeyu says:

    I agree that Thouless’s example of BTQ is what we would now call the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, but I do get that it is a form of BTQ: To show that Christians are moral requires defining “Christian” to exclude immoral people.

    My Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy gives the following definition:

    A person wishes to argue that “God exists” from the two premisses (1) That the Bible says he exists and (2) What the Bible says is true. He supports the second premise with the assumptions that (a) God is perfectly veracious, and (b) that the Bible is his word. Each of those presupposes that god exists – i.e. that which he wishes to demonstrate. To argue this way is to beg the question.

    Schopenhauer writes in “The Art of Always Being Right (38 Ways to Win when You Are Defeated)”…

    If your opponent requires you to admit something from which the point in dispute will immediately follow, you must refuse to do so, declaring that he is begging the question.
    For he and the audience will regard a proposition which is near akin to the point in dispute as identical with it, and in this way you deprive him of his best argument.

  41. Son of Glenner says:

    arbeyu and Donn: When I wear my kilt, as I occasionally do, I am a “true Scotsman”.

    Well, some of the time!

  42. me not says:


    Unfortunately my knowledge of Farsi is fairly limited, I just happen to know a fair few speakers, so I’ve learnt some words, but that’s all.

    I have asked, and apparently narenjak may not be related to narenj. Narenjak is the word for hand grenade, so the guess is that it was used for profiteroles as a joke, a shell filled with something, and then it stuck.

  43. Son of Glenner says:

    me not: in English “pineapple” is sometimes used as slang for “hand grenade”, but it was the fruit that came first, not the weapon that came first.

  44. Laripu says:

    Grenade actually comes from pomegranate. See:

    I really like etymology.

  45. M27Holts says:

    I have just spent 4 days in blackpool, drinking. Where incidentally there were lots of “true” scotsmen…most even more pissed than I was….

  46. arbeyu says:

    I am Scottish, but I don’t own a kilt. The couple of times I have needed to wear the kilt, I’ve hired one – so I have most definitely not worn it as a “true” Scotsman.

    The original example of the “no true Scotsman” argument cited not putting sugar on porridge as the mark of a ‘True’ Scotsman.

    I do eat porridge, and I do not put sugar on it. As a true Scotsman, I put deep-fried heroin on it (cf Stewart Lee).

  47. Laripu says:

    arbeyu (RBU?) – that was very funny. ,😆

  48. MattR says:

    As a poseur I will now use “begs the question” with its historically correct meaning and then take great pleasure in explaining to people what it REALLY means. I enjoy things like that, and I am very well aware of how sad that is, which begs the question…. D’oh!


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