Begging the Question [978-1-941392-19-5]


Author : Joseph A. Dane

ISBN Code : 978-1-941392-19-5
Format : Paperback

Begging the Question is a common logical fallacy, whereby the very question at issue provides the evidence for a conclusion. In humanistic studies, this kind of reasoning often serves not only to support an arbitrary conclusion, but also to provide specious evidence for such conclusions.  The question “what is print culture?” assumes that “print culture” actually exists. But does it?  The seemingly innocent study of “Chaucer’s use of iambic pentameter” assumes that such a meter is a universal.  This book examines cases of such reasoning in Chaucer studies, book history, and in other humanistic fields.  It differs from Mythodologies (I) in that Prof. Dane turns this critique on himself and his own formulation of problems and issues.  Can one critique a question, however important or banal (did Chaucer write a Breton lai? was there a recession in late 15th century Venice?) without accepting into discussion the very evidence that is supposed to be at issue?

The work is in three parts:  Part I focusses on Chaucer (the Breton Lai; 17th-century Chaucerianism; the misattribution of Chaucer’s Purse); Part II is on Book History and bibliography (a survey of histories of printing; the so-called Venice Depression; the editorial constructions of Emily Dickinson’s verse).  Part III is a series of short essays, many of them collaborative, showing how the same flawed reasoning found in Chaucer studies or book history, can be seen in such diverse areas as AI, the creation of databases, serial music, or even the fishing of lobsters.

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