Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Help with terms?

Can you all help? I'm looking for examples of:
a distinction without a difference

begging the question




Anonymous said...

It is unsafe to swim with sharks because it's dangerous.

Edittorrent said...

Anon, is that begging the question? So what's the question?

Sorry, but I always get this wrong.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that when begging the question, the proof of an assertion doesn't prove anything, doesn't give you the why. Instead it relies on an unproven assumption. So assuming the question is (borrowing from previous anon) "why is diving into these shark-infested waters unsafe?"

-Begging the question: "It is unsafe to swim with sharks because it's dangerous."

-Not quite begging (merits of the assertion can still be argued, of course, but there is a point to start from): "It is unsafe to swim with sharks because they have deadly sharp teeth and attack when they feel threatened."

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately no examples off the top of my head, but I think "distinction without a difference" is very close to what you have in a situation where you're "arguing semantics."

Maybe a case of plain-old-ordinary-Ann, as opposed to Anne-with-an-E? (she of Green Gables, I mean)

Riley Murphy said...

Not sure I get this either. How about a single guy in a room full of women - I mean, he could be the only male there, but he could also be married, right? You could do a: does beg the question with that.


Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

By "a distinction without a difference," do you mean something like "Six of one, half dozen of the other"? If so, I'll gaze into my crystal ball for a while. ;-)

Phyllis said...

I looked for examples of circular reasoning on the net and found this:

Interviewer: "Your resume looks impressive but I need another reference."
Bill: "Jill can give me a good reference."
Interviewer: "Good. But how do I know that Jill is trustworthy?"
Bill: "Certainly. I can vouch for her."


For distinction without a difference, I came up with this:
Dad: Kevin wants a gun for his birthday.
Mom: Do you really want a kid run around with a gun?
Dad: He's a teenager.
Mom: Same difference.

Hoping this is what you were looking for.

catriona said...

I'm not sure about historical usage of "begging the question", but I think more recently it's been used along the lines of "well, now I HAVE to ask". To use the shark example - "That's just begging the question of why he was swimming with sharks in the first place."

Edittorrent said...

Catriona, that's how I'd use it, but I'm told that isn't "begging the question." It's more interesting than the real one!

Here's something I think of as "distinction without difference."
I was looking at a student's resume, and she had a heading "skills" which included "computer literacy" and "supervision," and then a heading "experience," and under that she had "leadership" and "technology," and I said (I was very proud of this), "That's a distinction without a difference-- what makes one a skill and the other an experience?"


Adrian said...

You can have experience leading a team without having leadership skills, so I'd claim there is a difference.

Yamx said...

While it's true that "begging the question" is used more and more often to mean "creating a situation where a certain question just HAS to be asked" (and the expression certainly sounds like that's what it *should* mean), it is actually a specific type of logical fallacy: it means that the conclusion you're trying to prove is already presupposed in your premise, making your entire "proof" circular and therefore invalid.

You want to proof that science fiction is superior to fantasy. To proof it, you say "Clearly, science fiction is better than fantasy because fantasy isn't nearly as good as science fiction."

An example like this is very obvious, of course. A more insidious example that is sort-of modeled on real life:

"Why can't Diana become the new manager?"
"Don't be silly, women don't have what it takes to be managers."
"Why not?"
"Because only men are forceful and charismatic enough to be managers."

Jami Gold said...


Like Adrian pointed out, I think there is a difference between skills and experience in your example. The items under each heading, to me, looks like the author is implying that experience means that they've been exposed to something (technology) and therefore comfortable with it, while skills mean that they can point to more specific examples (in what way have they been exposed to technology - editing a video? No, computer literacy.).

Now, having said that, I don't think it was a good way for this person to do it. :) It's still too wishy-washy. The experience should be as specific as the skills are currently, while the skills should more specific than that. (Experience: Computer literate; Skills: MS Word & Excel)

My 2 cents...
Jami G.

Edittorrent said...

Adrian said...

You can have experience leading a team without having leadership skills, so I'd claim there is a difference.

Yeah, but would we really want to say we had the experience and managed not to acquire the skills? :)

But I will admit I've worked for "leaders" without any perceptibly "leadership skills!"

Jordan McCollum said...

This might not be very useful, but in my Spanish phonetics class, my profe insisted that we pronounce the ñ differently from the n followed by a diphthong beginning with an i. (Por ejemplo, en 'genial.') However, I knew from just plain phonetics class that for phonological reasons, these n's are pronounced the same (if you do the full palatalization, etc.). Didn't dare tell the teacher this, but my dad called it a distinction without a difference.