The Fallacy of Circular Reasoning: A Vast Infection in Public Discourse

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awareness awakening

The simplest definition of circular reasoning is: assuming what you’re trying to prove.

But that makes no sense.

Exactly.

As an abstract example—it always rains in Seattle. Today, it’s cloudy in the city. Therefore, it’s going to rain today.

Not necessarily, unless you assume up front that it “always” rains in Seattle. You give the impression of proving it’s going to rain today, but actually you’re already assuming that.

How about this? Mayor X is a racist. When he says he hopes black people living in the city will help the police catch criminals by providing eyewitness testimony, he’s demeaning black people.

Well, no. He may be correct or incorrect in believing these residents will, in fact, make reports to the police, but his statement isn’t, on its own, racist—unless you assume, in advance, that the mayor IS racist.

And if you do assume he is, then you ought to provide evidence.

—To which some readers will reply, “What you’re talking about here is miles beyond what happens in real life. There is no thought in real life. There are just knee-jerk reactions.”

No, not among all people. Raising the level of logic and understanding is an extremely worthwhile activity, and it benefits those who can grasp the essentials.

Here is another example: “We know Senator X is guilty of the crime he’s charged with, because no one reaches the level of senator unless he’s been blackmailed for committing crimes.” There are people who would accept this as a given, but it’s spreading a generality over all senators. And furthermore, even if Senator X has committed crimes, that doesn’t means he’s guilty of the one he’s been charged with recently. Perhaps, for instance, he’s been charged in order to smear his reputation, because he’s supporting a bill that would endanger the profits of a large corporation.

Here are three slightly different versions of circular reasoning:

“There is no reason to allow Politician X to air his views on television talk shows. He doesn’t have a following because his ideas don’t make an impact.” Really? Perhaps his ideas make no impact because no one will allow him exposure on national television.

“If the herbal treatment you’re suggesting had value, it would have been studied and tested at universities.” Is that so? Maybe it wasn’t tested at universities because it did have potential value, and would present a challenge to pharmaceutical drugs.

“Europe doesn’t need a leader like him. He’s a divider, he sets people against each other, and we need unity.” Again, the person being marginalized is rejected by definition. Maybe he divides people because he’s the only one who will speak up against a unity based on submission and abject compliance.

How about this? “The science is settled, and here comes that professor with his crazy ideas.” The professor is defined as crazy and out of step. But maybe he’s the one who will show the science isn’t settled at all, or shouldn’t be.

“He’s all about money. We want a better society where everyone can share, but he wants to keep everything for himself. He’s a greedy capitalist. Capitalism is dead. It’s been discredited.” The person being attacked is buried under a welter of preconceptions, with no evidence offered as to why he’s “bad.”

In circular reasoning, the deception happens right at the beginning. That’s where the conclusion is embedded. Then, some appearance of reasoning and proof are advanced. But there is no reasoning or proof.

Here is an example I would call disguised circular reasoning. It’s a bit slippery: “Frank’s cousin Sam was convicted of bank fraud in 1998. Now Frank has been brought up on the same basic charge. Wouldn’t you say that’s a pretty odd coincidence?” Yes, it is odd, but if you’re going to imply Frank is guilty, you’re going to need more than his cousin’s conviction. A lot more. Some people would call this example guilt by association, and it is, but there is also the telltale assumption of “proof” right at the start, when there is no proof.

“Look, I just counted 27 articles in respected newspapers claiming that the Russians hacked the election. I mean, what else do you want? The facts are obvious. So this guy who comes along and says there is no evidence—he’s spreading fake news. That’s the other thing all these newspapers are talking about: the pernicious spread of fake news.” Same basic approach, used with a bit more complexity: pile on the preconceptions right from the get-go, and then make it seem as if actual reasoning and evidence are being supplied to demean the “denier.” This is also an example of the ad hominem fallacy: attack the person and ignore what he has to say.

“Three reporters from a website I never heard of just came out with the crazy theory that people don’t really have SARS because, when they were tested, there was no sign of the SARS virus. That’s ridiculous. I don’t even know what that means. These reporters are just making it up. They’re on the fringe, and they’re looking for visibility. Get it? They want readers to pay attention. This always happens. Meanwhile, actual doctors and PhDs in labs are analyzing the disease and have the actual facts…” By definition, by accusation, by attack, by generality, this is assuming what is supposed to be proven, and no evidence is offered to refute the claims of these three reporters. The “reasoning” is circular.

Finally, here is an example that builds up even more vague complexity, as a substitute for verification of assertions. And there is no complete chain of reasoning: “Globalism is a structure with many moving parts, and one can’t hope to understand it by using a few simple ideas. Across national borders, massive confusion could stifle the trade of goods and services, if there were tariffs. Globalism eliminates those tariffs. That’s what we mean by free trade. These treaties on trade are worked out with great care, and the result is the smooth flow of goods. Besides, Globalism promotes an overall sense of international cooperation, which is something we all need in these times of danger. It’s drawing the world closer together…”

This argument, designed to defeat people who oppose Globalism, simply piles up a group of statements that define Globalism as something good and necessary. The statements aren’t connected in a single chain of reasoning. Examine each statement and find its flaws. Spot the vagueness. Figure out what is being omitted—for example, the loss of American jobs when US corporations go overseas and thus throw huge numbers of workers on to unemployment lines.

Circular reasoning: assuming what you’re trying to prove. It poses as logic, but it isn’t.

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Contributed by Jon Rappoport of No More Fake News.

The author of an explosive collection, THE MATRIX REVEALED, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world.

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  • Cynical Bastard

    Yeah…

    That pretty much defines a “Troll” in a nutshell.

    @justaguy2727 , you should read this one, Bro.

  • g.johnon

    brilliant article mr, rappaport. now let’s sit back and watch the proof come in 🙂

  • Phil_Ossifer

    Regardless, it is seldom a mistake to assume that all politicians are corrupt until proven honest. And, who knows…maybe one day in some far-off future or alternate reality a politician will actually be proven honest. If you REALLY want to experience circular reasoning, talk religion with religious zealot. You: “How do you know there is a God?” Zealot: “The Bible says so.” You: “Who wrote the Bible?” Zealot: “God did.” You: “How do you know God wrote the Bible?” Zealot: “Because the Bible says he did, you filthy heathen!” Change a few words and you have the basic substance of most political arguments, too.

    • C.A.Martin

      Circular reasoning. Thanks for the example Phil.

      • g.johnon

        uhhh, c.a. mind letting us in on why you called phil’s post circular thinking? it would really help us out by maybe helping us understand why you made an accusation, provided no substance to back it up and that makes phil’s post the circular one.
        wellllll, ok then, nice to see you are paying attention.

        • C.A.Martin

          It is almost without exception that when you generalize about a certain group of people you will have to use circular reasoning to justify your point.
          The group: religious zealots. The point: they use circular reasoning.
          How did he prove it?
          Religious zealots use circular reasoning because they employ A,B,&C.
          Because they employ A.B.&C they use circular reasoning.
          Because they use circular reasoning they employ A.B.&C.
          Because they employ A.B.&C they use circular reasoning…………

          I am a person who shows zeal on behalf of God but I am not religious.
          I believed in God before I read the Bible.

          • g.johnon

            let me get this straight. you have zeal for something you perceive to be god, but you are not religious.
            that about right?

          • C.A.Martin

            No, I have zeal for God, not a thing I perceive to be god. I am religious about going to bed at 9:00, does that mean I worship my bed or my clock or myself? Religion is man made to serve man and Christ was against it along with the religious leaders at that time that He rebuked.
            They placed burdens upon the people that they themselves could not bare nor did they help them carry it. God is Spirit and is to be worshiped in spirit, religion has nothing to do with it.
            I don’t go to church as well because a lot of them are corrupt having prostituted themselves to the world. Some worship money and wealth and end up worshiping something they perceive to be god. Christ threw the money changers out of the temple for doing that and said they had turned it into a din of thieves. Even with that example many, to many, still do it.

        • C.A.Martin

          It was men who wrote the Bible as they were inspired and lead by the Spirit of God. They are the words of God. How do I know they are?
          Because the men who wrote it said so and the Spirit within me agrees.
          I feel the Spirit within me just as one feels the wind without. Even if God were not real they would still be the words of God because the men who wrote the book said so.

    • Cynical Bastard

      *Sigh* Yep. That’s it right there.

      I don’t even talk to them anymore. Much less try to argue a point. It’s impossible.

  • Phil_Ossifer

    Also…Rappaport’s definition of circular reasoning as “assuming what you’re trying to prove” is flawed. The scientific method starts by assuming what you’re trying to prove. You test your hypothesis and try to prove it true. If you can’t prove it true then it’s likely false and you revise your hypothesis accordingly. A better definition would be “using or assuming facts for which there is no objective evidence as proof.” Which, obviously, brings us back to religion. Notice that politics, economics and religion are all faith-based belief systems.

    • landy fincannon

      I’m going to assume, that you’re including the theory of evolution as well. Then yes, I agree

      • g.johnon

        ummmm, careful lindy, yer startin to weave yourself a little bit of a web there.

    • Arrow

      Bingo! That’s what I was waiting for… belief. “Using or assuming facts for which there is no objective evidence as proof” is precisely the definition of belief. Another definition that I enjoy is faith, which can be defined as: Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

      Spot-on regarding politics, economics, and religion. One is misguided (led) to “believe” with no objective evidence to support the validity of that belief. So belief in an ideology is based upon faith which has no factual basis. Nice.

    • g.johnon

      phil, you seem to have missed the first 7 words of the article. that is not rappaport’s definition of circular thinking. it is, as he clearly states, “the simplest definition”.
      don’t overthink pal. good way to miss the point.

      • Phil_Ossifer

        The last few words of the article are: “Circular reasoning: assuming what you’re trying to prove. It poses as logic, but it isn’t.” Obviously Rappaport agrees with the definition of circular reasoning that he quotes in the beginning of the article. Circular reasoning is the basis of religion and politics and it is used because it works and works well as a tool of manipulation which is the point he was trying to make. Too many things are accepted as fact, and therefore as truth, simply because of flawed reasoning that favors blind belief over objective evidence…especially if the evidence contradicts what one believes.

        • g.johnon

          we have no real argument here phil, other than your attempt to liken rappaport’s simplest definition to the basic scientific approach to understanding.
          they only stay together for the first step (assumpion) at which point science goes off ardently looking for proof to the assumption while the circular thinker immediately proffers the assumption as truth. see the difference?
          as such, rappaport’s simplest definition passes occam’s test. and may not only be a workable definition, but the quintessential one.

  • landy fincannon

    Law is based on assumptions!
    For example we assume we know what the definition of “person” is. However there are two definitions “legal person” and “natural person ” So when the statute reads “a person is guilty of violating the law if ” We all assume it’s referring to the ” natural person ”

    What about ” prima facie” at first sight: a fact presumed to be true until disproved.
    Here in Texas speeding is not a prosecutable offense and speed limit signs are for the ” regulation ” of commercial vehicles
    Google THE SECRETS POLICE DONT WANT YOU TO KNOW

    • Arrow

      (Hand in the air) Oh, oh, oh! I know the answer! Arrow, is your all caps name the NP or the LP? Answer: Neither. The all caps name is a legal fiction created by the State, so it is not you. The name, in and of itself is not me either. The “last” name is my father’s, and the others were given. So it’s not actually me unless I err and claim that it is, in which case… guilty as charged. The black robed cult, along with the court cleric loves that. It’s ecclesiastical. You have been judged, now must pay penance to the cleric for your sins.

      Have only read parts of it, but the Trading with the Enemy Act made everyone an enemy of the state. No? You are presumed to be their enemy.

      • landy fincannon

        You’re certainly ahead of the curve. I’m still researching though