How do you measure circular reasoning?
Douglas Walton provides a brief assessment of circular reason which may help to suggest "measures" of its use.
Walton first notes that one should not assume circular reason is always fallacious:
Circular reasoning is very important and characteristic of all kinds of everyday argumentation where feedback is used. So it is often quite correct and useful — not fallacious, as traditionally portrayed in the logic textbooks.
So a first step in measuring circular reason is to determine if it is fallacious or not. If we suspect it is fallacious we need criteria supporting that judgement.
Walton describes a fallacious use of circular reasoning as follows:
Arguing in a circle becomes a fallacy of petitio principii or begging the question where an attempt is made to evade the burden of proving one of the premises of an argument by basing it on the prior acceptance of the conclusion to be proved (See Walton, 1991). So the fallacy of begging the question is a systematic tactic to evade fulfillment of a legitimate BURDEN OF PROOF by the proponent of an argument in dialogue by using a circular structure of argument to block the further progress of dialogue and, in particular, to undermine the capability of the respondent, to whom the argument was directed, to ask legitimate critical questions in reply.
This suggests criteria on how to measure or justify an assessment that an argument using circular reasoning is actually fallacious.
- To what extent is the use of circular reasoning a tactic that involves evasion of burden of proof?
- To what extent does this tactic block further progress of dialogue?
- Does this prevent the one subjected to a circular argument from asking legitimate critical questions?
Walton, D. "Circular Reasoning" entry in A Companion to Epistemology, ed. Jonathan Dancy and Ernest Sosa, Oxford, Blackwell, 1992, p. 66 Retrieved from Douglas Walton's site on August 21, 2019 at https://www.dougwalton.ca/papers%20in%20pdf/92CircReas.pdf