I am reading a book SICP
it stats:

As a case in point, consider the problem of computing square roots. We can define the square-root function as

enter image description here

It will not help matters to rephrase this definition in pseudo-Lisp:

: (define (sqrt x)
:   (the y (and (>= y 0)
:               (= (square y) x))))

This only begs the question.

What does beg the question mean?

  • 1
    By the way, your example uses the phrase correctly. It is usually followed by a full stop (a 'period' in US English). Oct 26, 2019 at 11:24
  • What do you mean "It is usually followed by a full stop"? Oct 26, 2019 at 12:59
  • 1
    @Michael Harvey Usually, when 'begs/begging the question' is used incorrectly, it is followed by a question. For example, "That begs the question 'where are they now?'" When it is used correctly it usually ends a sentence. For example, "Yes, he IS very famous but that begs the question." Oct 27, 2019 at 22:31
  • @Michael Harvey (Continued.) One might almost say that if the words 'begs/begging the question' are not followed by a full stop then the expression is probably being used incorrectly, but of course there are exceptions. "But you are begging the question when you say that," for example. My point was badly made. Basically I'm saying the same as you! Oct 27, 2019 at 22:32

1 Answer 1


I do not know Lisp, still less mathematics, but 'begging the question' means, in an argument, to assume the conclusion in one of the premises. Many people use the phrase “begging the question” incorrectly when they use it to mean, “prompts one to ask the question”. That is NOT the correct usage. Begging the question is a form of circular reasoning.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .