A circular argument is technically a valid argument. For every case in which the premises are true, the conclusion will be true. So what makes it a bad one?


Thanks for your question. Although we tend to focus on validity in logic, it is actually only the minimal baseline requirement for a “good” argument. Valid means that the conclusion is guaranteed to be true if the premises are true. But in order for an argument to be “sound” it needs also to have true premises. Otherwise, it might just be “vacuously valid” as in the case where the premises contradict each other, and thus can never be true simultaneously.

P and not P
Therefore X

is also a “valid” argument, no matter what P and X might be. But it can never be sound.
Your case, however is different.

Therefore P

The problem with the circular argument is not that it cannot be sound, but that it does not play the function of an argument –to convince us of things we did not believe before. A circular argument yields exactly and only what you put into it. It does not increase your understanding or store of knowledge. It is “bad” not because it is invalid, but because it is non-functional. If presented in a debate or philosophical paper, it is considered misleading and illegitimate because it claims to prove something that it presents as a given or as an assumption.

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  1. Just recently saw the following argument in a logic book: all lions are herbivores all zebras are lions ————– therefore all zebras are herbivores this seems to be logically valid syllogism, but it is disturbing.
  2. 1) The claim “There is extraterrestrial life in the universe, because my father said so” is an example of an appeal to authority. But it can be viewed as an enthymeme, where the hidden assumption is that “my father is always right”. In such a case, there is no logical problem with the argument. Do you agree? 2) Do you think that to say that : “Person A is biased , therefore\what he says is wrong” is fallacious? It can be interpreted as “person A is biased, therefore his information cannot be trusted. Therefore what he says is wrong”. 3) Are errors of logic errors of psychology as well? Or perhaps, only errors of psychology? Appeal to authority besides being a logical fallacy, has a whole psychology and sociology besides it.
  3. Inductive arguments establish objective facts, so how can they be considered subjective?
  4. I would take a standard textbook on math, where all the propositions are correct. Write down 99 correct mathematical statements. And then add “Zeus exists”, and compile a text. Then I would argue, that if we have a box, from which we sample randomly 99 balls and they are have the property of being black, we can think with good reason that the next one will be black. And therefore, since 99 of the math propositions in the texts are have the property of being correct, there is good reason to think that “Zeus exists” is also correct. It seems wrong somewhere. But where?
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