Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I.: QUESTION-BEGGING APPELLATIVES—( ad judicium. ) - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2
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CHAPTER I.: QUESTION-BEGGING APPELLATIVES—( ad judicium. ) - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 2.
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QUESTION-BEGGING APPELLATIVES—(ad judicium.)
Petitio principii, or begging the question, is a fallacy very well known even to those who are not conversant with the principles of logic. In answer to a given question, the party who employs the fallacy contents himself by simply affirming the point in debate. Why does opium occasion sleep? Because it is soporiferous.
Begging the question is one of the fallacies enumerated by Aristotle; but Aristotle has not pointed out (what it will be the object of this chapter to expose) the mode of using the fallacy with the greatest effect, and least risk of detection,—namely, by the employment of a single appellative.
Exposition and Exposure.—Among the appellatives employed for the designation of objects belonging to the field of moral science, there are some by which the object is presented singly, unaccompanied by any sentiment of approbation or disapprobation attached to it—as, desire, labour, disposition, character, habit, &c. With reference to the two sorts of appellatives which will come immediately to be mentioned, appellatives of this sort may be termed neutral.
There are others, by means of which, in addition to the principal object, the idea of general approbation as habitually attached to that object is presented—as, industry, honour, piety, generosity, gratitude, &c. These are termed eulogistic or laudatory.
Others there are, again, by means of which, in addition to the principal object, the idea of general disapprobation, as habitually attached to that object, is presented—as, lust, avarice, luxury, covetousness, prodigality, &c. These may be termed dyslogistic or vituperative.*
Among pains, pleasures, desires, emotions, motives, affections, propensities, dispositions, and other moral entities, some, but very far from all, are furnished with appellatives of all three sorts:—some, with none but eulogistic; others, and in a greater number, with none but those of the dyslogistic cast. By appellatives, I mean here, of course, single-worded appellatives; for by words, take but enough of them, anything may be expressed.
Originally, all terms expressive of any of these objects were (it seems reasonable to think) neutral. By degrees they acquired, some of them an eulogistic, some a dyslogistic, cast. This change extended itself, as the moral sense (if so loose and delusive a term may on this occasion be employed) advanced in growth.
But to return. As to the mode of employing this fallacy, it neither requires nor so much as admits of being taught: a man falls into it but too naturally of himself; and the more naturally and freely, the less he finds himself under the restraint of any such sense as that of shame. The great difficulty is to unlearn it: in the case of this, as of so many other fallacies, by teaching it, the humble endeavour here is, to unteach it.
In speaking of the conduct, the behaviour, the intention, the motive, the disposition of this or that man,—if he be one who is indifferent to you, of whom you care not whether he be well or ill thought of, you employ the neutral term:—if a man whom, on the occasion and for the purpose in question, it is your object to recommend to favour, especially a man of your own party, you employ the eulogistic term:—if he be a man whom it is your object to consign to aversion or contempt, you employ the dyslogistic term.
To the proposition of which it is the leading term, every such eulogistic or dyslogistic appellative, secretly, as it were, and in general insensibly, slips in another proposition of which that same leading term is the subject, and an assertion of approbation or disapprobation the predicate. The person, act, or thing in question, is or deserves to be, or is and deserves to be, an object of general approbation; or the person, act, or thing in question, is or deserves to be, or is and deserves to be, an object of general disapprobation.
The proposition thus asserted is commonly a proposition that requires to be proved. But in the case where the use of the term thus employed is fallacious, the proposition is one that is not true, and cannot be proved: and where the person by whom the fallacy is employed is conscious of its deceptive tendency, the object in the employment thus given to the appellative is, by means of the artifice, to cause that to be taken for true, which is not so.
By appropriate eulogistic and dyslogistic terms, so many arguments are made, by which, taking them altogether, misrule, in all its several departments, finds its justifying arguments, and these in but too many eyes, conclusive. Take, for instance, the following eulogistic terms:—
1. In the war department,—honour and glory.
2. In international affairs,—honour, glory, and dignity.
3. In the financial department, liberality. It being always at the expense of unwilling contributors that this virtue (for among the virtues it has its place in Aristotle) is exercised—for liberality, depredation may, in perhaps every case, and without any impropriety, be substituted.
4. In the higher parts of all official departments, dignity—dignity, though not in itself depredation, operates as often as the word is used, as a pretence for, and thence as a cause of depredation. Wherever you see dignity, be sure that money is requisite for the support of it: and that, in so far as the dignitary’s own money is regarded as insufficient, public money, raised by taxes imposed on all other individuals, on the principle of liberality, must be found for the supply of it.*
Exercised at a man’s own expense, liberality may be, or may not be, according to circumstances, a virtue:—exercised at the expense of the public, it never can be anything better than vice. Exercised at a man’s own expense, whether it be accompanied with prudence or no—whether it be accompanied or not with beneficence, it is at any rate disinterestedness:—exercised at the expense of the public, it is pure selfishness: it is, in a word, depredation: money or money’s worth is taken from the public to purchase, for the use of the liberal man, respect, affection, gratitude, with its eventual fruits in the shape of services of all sorts—in a word, reputation, power.
When you have a practice or measure to condemn, find out some more general appellative, within the import of which the obnoxious practice or measure in question cannot be denied to be included, and to which you, or those whose interests and prejudices you have espoused, have contrived to annex a certain degree of unpopularity, in so much that the name of it has contracted a dyslogistic quality—has become a bad name.
Take, for example, improvement and innovation: under its own name to pass censure on any improvement might be too bold: applied to such an object, any expressions of censure you could employ might lose their force; employing them, you would seem to be running on in the track of self-contradiction and nonsense.
But improvement means something new, and so does innovation. Happily for your purpose, innovation has contracted a bad sense; it means something which is new and bad at the same time. Improvement, it is true, in indicating something new, indicates something good at the same time; and therefore, if the thing in question be good as well as new, innovation is not a proper term for it. However, as the idea of novelty was the only idea originally attached to the term innovation, and the only one which is directly expressed in the etymology of it, you may still venture to employ the word innovation, since no man can readily and immediately convict your appellation of being an improper one upon the face of it.
With the appellation thus chosen for the purpose of passing condemnation on the measure, he by whom it has been brought to view in the character of an improvement, is not (it is true) very likely to be well satisfied: but of this you could not have had any expectation. What you want is a pretence which your own partisans can lay hold of, for the purpose of deducing from it a colourable warrant for passing upon the improvement that censure which you are determined, and they, if not determined, are disposed and intend to pass on it.
Of this instrument of deception, the potency is most deplorable. It is but of late years that so much as the nature of it has in any way been laid before the public: and now that it has been laid before the public, the need there is of its being opposed with effect, and the extreme difficulty of opposing it with effect, are at the same time and in equal degree manifest. In every part of the field of thought and discourse, the effect of language depends upon the principle of association—upon the association formed between words, and those ideas of which, in that way, they have become the signs. But in no small part of the field of discourse, one or other of the two censorial and reciprocally correspondent and opposite affections—the amicable and the hostile—that by which approbation, and that by which disapprobation, is expressed—are associated with the word in question by a tie little less strong than that by which the object in question, be it person or thing—be the thing a real or fictitious entity—be it operation or quality, is associated with that same articulate audible sign and its visible representations.
To diminish the effect of this instrument of deception (for to do it away completely, to render all minds, without exception, at all times insensible to it, seems scarcely possible) must, at any rate, be a work of time. But in proportion as its effect on the understanding, and through that channel on the temper and conduct of mankind, is diminished, the good effect of the exposure will become manifest.
By such of these passion-kindling appellatives as are of the eulogistic cast, comparatively speaking, no bad effect is produced: but by those which are of the dyslogistic, prodigious is the mischievous effect produced, considered in a moral point of view. By a single word or two of this complexion, what hostility has been produced! how intense the feeling of it! how wide the range of it! how full of mischief, in all imaginable shapes, the effects!*
[* ]See the nature of these denominations amply illustrated in Springs-of-Action Table, in Vol. I.
[* ]See this principle avowed and maintained by the scribes of both parties, Burke and Rose, as shown in the Defences of Economy against those advocates of depredation,—in Vol. V.
[* ]As an instance remarkable enough, though not in respect of the mischievousness, yet in respect of the extent and the importance of the effects producible by a single word, note Lord Erskine’s defence of the Whigs, avowedly produced by the application of the dyslogistic word faction to that party in the state.