joreth: (being wise)
Logical Fallacies are difficult for people to wrap their brain around. We employ them all the time in regular conversation, in debate, and even in research.

"Begging The Question" is probably the most misunderstood logical fallacy name, because it's not just *not* understood, it's understood incorrectly. Most people use it to mean "that statement you just made leads us to ask a followup question..." But what it *actually* means is "that statement you just made assumes the conclusion in the premise, making it a circular argument".

A Loaded Question is a question which has a false, disputed, or question-begging presupposition behind it. Here's an example:
"To what degree have you and your partner discussed the boundaries or “rules” related to sexual and/or emotional connections with other people?"
The way it's phrased, in particular "discussed THE boundaries or rules", this begs the question. This assumes that we have rules (and the word "boundaries" is used incorrectly here in this sentence too, which is another begging the question) related to sexual and/or emotional connections with other people.

Because of this presumption, it can't really be answered if the premise is incorrect. If we don't have any rules telling each other what we can and can't do with other people, then how can we have had any conversations about it? But, of course, it *is* possible to have lots of conversations about things that we ultimately decide not to participate in. Except we can't answer "we have talked about this a lot" because then it implies that we do, indeed, have these rules in place when we don't. There isn't an option for "we have talked about this subject but we do not have any rules regarding this subject", because the person writing the question assumes the premise, and so did not provide any options to accommodate for a false premise option.

Now, had the question writer not had this assumption in mind when the question was written, it could have been written exactly the same but minus the word "the" - "To what degree have you and your partner discussed boundaries or 'rules' related to sexual and/or emotional connections with other people?" This is a general "have you discussed this topic" question. But, because of how English works, that article "the" implies a specific set of rules, while the absence implies a general "concept or subject of rules".

If we say "we discussed it a lot" under the original wording, then it implies we discussed *our* rules on what we can do with others a lot, but we don't have rules that needed to be discussed in the first place. If we say "we didn't discuss it at all" because we don't have rules, then it implies that we *do* have rules and we just didn't discuss them at all, we just went ahead and implemented them. Both assumptions are not only wrong, but things I actively want to combat about polyamory in general.

These kinds of things are really sneaky. Preset assumptions and biases sneak into all kinds of things, usually without our notice. Lots of times, when we read or hear things like this, we know that something is wrong and we have an emotional reaction to what was just said, but we can't always deconstruct *why* we know it's wrong and *why* we're feeling emotional about it.

Someone who has incorrect presuppositions and asks Loaded Questions gets to "just ask questions" while people get pissed off about it, and they don't ever understand why everyone is mad at them and the people who are mad can't always even explain why it was so angering. It's because we can tell that you have an embedded assumption. You're not "just asking questions", you're revealing what you think about the people you're "just asking questions" of.

This question is not a particularly offensive or antagonistic one. It just happened to be a pretty decent example of several things at once: of the logical fallacy, of how people get that logical fallacy wrong, and of how subtle this fallacy can play out and how simple it can be to correct for, as long as we know what to look for. We often use the really obvious example of "when did you stop beating your wife" when we talk about this logical fallacy because it's crystal clear how there is no good answer to that question that won't get you in trouble and it's so obviously an offensive question.

A loaded question is a question with a false or questionable presupposition, and it is "loaded" with that presumption. The question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" presupposes that you have beaten your wife prior to its asking, as well as that you have a wife. If you are unmarried, or have never beaten your wife, then the question is loaded.

Since this example is a yes/no question, there are only the following two direct answers:

"Yes, I have stopped beating my wife", which entails "I was beating my wife."
"No, I haven't stopped beating my wife", which entails "I am still beating my wife."

Therefore, either direct answer implies that you have beaten your wife, which is a presupposition of the question. So, a loaded question is one which you cannot answer directly without implying a falsehood or a statement that you deny. For this reason, the proper response to such a question is not to answer it directly, but to either refuse to answer or to reject the question.

Which makes supporting and participating in research on polyamory very difficult when their questions are written as Loaded Questions with false, disputed, or question-begging presuppositions behind their premises.

That famous scene from My Cousin Vinny where the lawyer asks the girlfriend a question that's "impossible to answer" is also a Loaded Question, and he doesn't even know that it's a trick question that can't be answered as-is (at least, that's how it's played in the scene, IMO). He didn't know the answer (I believe), he was just banking on the fact that she wouldn't know it either (mansplaining). Since he didn't know the answer, he made a lot of assumptions in his question, like that Chevy made a Bel Aire in 1955 or that it came in 327 cubic inch engine.


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