Asked • 03/14/19

Is circular reasoning always a fallacy?

Suppose the following dialogue: >... >"I accept only one notion of land property. Namely, 'I am doing my stuff here, therefore I am here". >"But this means," he responded, "you can break into any place and stay there, using this rule." >"There is another rule, though. Right to act in its most natural sense, 'I am here, therefore I am doing my stuff here." >"But do not these rules put together become circular reasoning?" >"Of course, they do," I put my head closer to him, "and this is exactly that rare case when circular reasoning is not only sufficient, but is necessary." >"But why is that? Circular reasoning never was a correct argument." >"There are many circular things happening in nature. Life forms, for example, exist only in order to produce new life forms or to prolongate their own lifetime. Is there any reason to say this can't be the case for reason itself? Why must reasoning not be circular?" >... Can circular reasoning ever be justified? For example, we know all the words in our languages can't be defined using other words without the use of circularity. We know logic can't prove itself without circularity. Are these arguments rational? Are there any other arguments where circular reasoning is still rational?

1 Expert Answer

By:

JOHN D.

Incorrect. Circular Reasoning is ALWAYS valid. Deductively, In all cases a Premise 'P'is true, The same premise is True. Now, your conclusion, 'P' rests on the Assumption that 'P' is true. In a debate the conflicting party does not share that assumption. In order to PROVE the Assumption 'P' in the context of a debate, you'll need to use assumptions that are shared with the people you're debating with. The criteria for soundness is that the argument is BOTH valid, and the premises are in fact true. Your premise in this case is 'P', and assuming it is true does not mean 'P' is true. You must first derive 'P' from facts already known to be true. Thus, there's nothing invalid about circular reasoning, but nothing can be said about the soundness of certain circular arguments because more information is needed to determine whether the premises are in fact true.
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07/25/19

Seth M.

tutor
I'm sorry John D., but I do not believe that your assertion here leads people toward understanding. You are correct in a very narrow sense: It is the case that under mechanistic, formal evaluation methods of contemporary symbolic logic (e.g., a truth table), one might be able to claim that a circular argument meets the criteria for validity. One could assert, for example: p / q // p. The world is round / Hamsters have fur // Therefore, the world is round. We "get away" with such nonsense because reducing statements to symbols obscures the nonsense in play. However, just restating a premise as the conclusion might pass as valid in symbolic logic, but no one (with any sense or experience) is going to scrutinize such an argument and conclude that the conclusion organically, meaningfully follows from the premises in anything except a trivial way. That is why circular reasoning, like any number of other fallacies, is considered an informal fallacy and renders the argument effectively unsound. The premises don't prove the conclusion; rather, the conclusion is merely a restatement of a premise. Further, circular argumentation does not pass formal validity checks in classical, categorical argument structures, rendering circular argumentation formally invalid and unsound.
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07/25/19

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