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"Lawyers" detail from Library of Congress, P&P Online, LC-USZC4-2900 Complex Question
Many Questions Fallacy

Abstract: The fallacy of complex question is discussed and explained with illustrative examples and self-grading quizzes.

  1. Complex Question Fallacy Description
  2. Lexical Narrowing and Varieties of the Complex Question Fallacy
  3. Is Complex Question a Fallacy?
  4. Some Functional Uses of Complex Question
  5. Related Complex Question Techniques in Law, Surveys, and Interviews
  6. Fallacy of Many Questions as Deceit
  7. Assorted Examples of Complex Question or the Fallacy of Many Questions
  8. Non-fallacious Uses of the Phrase “Complex Question”
  9. Complex Question Fallacy Examples Practice
  10. Links to Online Quizzes Practice Quizzes with Complex Questions
  11. Complex Question Notes
  12. Complex Question Readings

  1. Fallacy of Complex Question: the fallacy of phrasing a question in a context that, by the way it is worded, assumes something not contextually granted, assumes something not in evidence, or assumes a false dichotomy. So the fallacy is a result of one or more unwarranted and objectionable assumptions in the posing of a question.[alpha] Semantically, complex questions are not fallacious in themselves unless they reflect a mistake of some kind in reasoning.

    The informal structure of the fallacy is often used inferentially amidst its presuppositions in accordance with something like the following schema, usually occurring within a dialogue framework:

    Informal Guide to Complex Question

    A question presupposing some state of affairs is posed.

    The occurrence of that state of affairs is an unwarranted and objectionable presupposition.

    Consequently, that state of affairs is assumed to be true for the sake of affirming something else.

    The fallacy of many questions, now mostly termed the complex question fallacy, first described by Aristotle, continues in introductory textbooks using the informal fallacy approach in the study of argumentation. Current fallacy literature eschews this approach in the attempt to develop a theory of informal argumentation or, at least, to provide guidance in good reasoning since many of the informal fallacy argumentative schemata can provide evidentially adequate arguments.

    Frequently, the use of complex question occurs in the context of a dialogue where, conversationally, the answer is expected to be agreement or disagreement. Often its fallacious nature is not due to a violation of a logical rule of inference but instead is due to a persuasive, sophistical, or deceptive tactic whereby the question asked conceals the admission of a false or misleading statement not in accordance with normal background assumptions. The fallacy occurs then when the presuppositions of the question posed are not considered a common contextual ground of the discourse, usually because the presuppositions are thought to be false or suspect.

    1. To be an inference-fallacy, and not just a devious rhetorical technique, the argument and its conclusion. must be either explicitly or implicitly apparent. In this form of the fallacy of complex question, a false or unproved supposition is undeclared. Any direct answer to the question (either provided by the advocate of the question or, in the case of a dialogue, the respondent of the question) would fallaciously imply the truth of the supposition.

      Whether or not complex question is judged to be a fallacy often depends upon the argumentative context. Obviously, for example, if Jack is asked the complex question “How do you propose to stop daydreaming and begin to apply yourself?,” no fallacy occurs if Jack has previously discussed that he has been daydreaming about accomplishing some task and now desires to devote himself to it.

      Aside from rhetorical questions whose function is to provide information, most questions do not have truth values, but often their presuppositions do have truth values. [a] So when a proponent of a question or a respondent to a question affirmatively answers the question, the truth of what is understood to be the presuppositions of the question is tacitly claimed to be the case.

      1. On the one hand, if, in a dialogue, the question is ill-framed and complex, a proponent can seize upon an unwarranted presupposition or an interpretation different from a respondent's interpretation, and the resulting fallacy of complex question turns on a deception.

        Consider, for example from Plato's Euthydemus this complex question is posed by the sophist Euthydemus for the youth Clinias:
        “[W]hich of mankind are the learners, the wise or the ignorant?”[aa]
        No matter which answer Clinias chooses from this proposed dilemma, a sophistic rebuttal is easily accomplished by means of the fallacy of equivocation:
        One one hand, the ignorant (i.e., the unschooled) learn from the wise (i.e., the teachers). So the ignorant are the learners.

        On the other hand, the wise (i.e., the intelligent) learn from the mistakes of the ignorant (i.e., the mistaken).
      2. If, on the other hand, a complex question fallacy is advanced and answered within a proponent's own arguments, then the unwarranted deception can embody another informal fallacy such as petitio principii, as hominem, or false dilemna.

        As Morris R. Cohen and Ernest Nagel explain the (inferential) non-dialogical form of the fallacy:
        [W]e often smuggle false propositions into our question and then proceed to prove other propositions by their aid. such proofs are seen to be illusory and to have no logical force when we realize the false assumption in the question.[a1]
        For instance consider this argument drawn from the U.S. health care debate:
        We don't even seem to be able to win wars anymore, so why would anyone have faith that the government can do a better job of directing health insurance … than the private sector? Obama's nominee … doesn't have the power to fix Obamacare. No one does because it is based on a weak foundation and the notion that government can do anything.[a2]
        From the question's presupposition that the government cannot do as good a job of directing health insurance as the private sector can, the writer concludes that no one in the government can fix the problems of health insurance. However, the presupposition must be shown to be true in order establish the truth of the conclusion.

    2. A major factor in the recognition and analysis of the fallacies related to complex question is understanding the situation, context, and intention of the speaker and respondent (or the writer and reader).

      1. Examination of a sentence or speech act apart from its interactive situational context is usually insufficient for adequate interpretation of the fallacy of complex question since understanding the context of the question is necessary for determining whether or not the respondent concedes the question's implicative presupposition. If, indeed, the presupposition is known by all to be factual, then, of course, no fallacy occurs. Obviously then, when a complex question with a false presupposition is posed as a starting point, a complex question fallacy can occur.

      2. Many essential features of the fallacy of complex question are ascribable independently of a dialogical characterization.[a3] Pragmatic implications of complex questions relate to “the questioner, the respondent, and the empirical context in which the question is asked, rather than the topic of the question.”[a4] So pragmatic implications of a complex questions suggest the normal or expected conditions under which complex questions are posed.

      3. In dialectical and argumentative discourse, the fallacy of complex question (historically termed the many questions fallacy) is not normally characterized in the current literature as a inference fallacy per se but as a rule violation, a mistake, or a derailment of normal interrogative procedures in everyday disputation or debate.[1]

    3. If an argument is present, the complex question, itself, is to be evaluated in terms of its presuppositional statement (or statements).

    4. The complex-question fallacies whose possible answers are restricted or checked can occur with any of the three major types of (English language) questions:

      1. Complex Yes–No Questions (or polar questions) are answered by affirmation or negation of the question's presupposition:

        E.g. “But can you not just for once admit that you find it hard to change your mind?!”[1.1]

        Whether the respondent answers “yes” or “no,” the respondent tacitly admits the presuppositional implication.

      2. Complex Wh– Questions (informative questions) are usually answerable by any of a range of possible factual or instructive responses:

        E.g., “Why does the national conversation we're beginning to have about inequality make some conservatives take leave of their senses? Why does it make them spout nonsense about ‘personal vilification ’ and the ‘abuse of government power’[?] The answer, I think is traction. I think the crazy, hair-on-fire rhetoric means progressives are making progress in winning support for policies designed to lessen inequality.”

        Any number of replies other than the one given can relevantly be given for these two complex questions by someone who accepts to the emotively significant presuppositions on which they rely.[1.2]

        How– questions are usually included in the category of wh– questions which in turn include whom, whose, which, and the journalistic Five Ws: who, what, when, where, why. So the following example fallacy would normally included in the category of wh– questions:
        “How can we save our country from the bureaucratic dictatorship, the corruption, and the creeping socialism of the present administration? Only one way — through the Independent Party.”
        The truth of the existence of the states of affairs alluded to in the proposed question would need to be established, or at least agreed upon, before evaluating the truth or logical relevance of the proposed concluding answer. If the presuppositions could be established, then additional alternative answers are possible: e.g., saving the country through the Democratic or Republican party.

      3. Complex Alternative Questions are answered by reply to any of the options given in the question. Similar ways of encoding presuppositions include non-neutral intonation and disjunctive constructions using “whether,” “rather,” and so forth.
        E.g., “The radical feminist movement, so ready to go ballistic at any little remark that can be twisted to mean something offensive to women, has been strangely silent while ISIS has been raping women and even little girls wholesale, and selling them as sex slaves. Is the silence of the radical feminists just political expediency or moral bankruptcy? or both?”[1.3]
        In this complex question, the possible responses to ISIS's treatment of women captives by radical feminists have been restricted to emotionally laden, objectionable alternatives when other plausible reasons can be suggested or sought.

    5. Resolving Complex Question Fallacies by Challenging the Presuppositions: The resolution of a complex question fallacies such as these, requires establishing agreement on the truth or existence of the presupposition(s) and the logical relevance or pragmatic appropriateness of the truth of the answering statement(s). Presuppositions are often said to be part the contextual common ground but are, more precisely, the assumptions presumed by the writer or speaker. Whenever a complex question is posed in a discussion or debate, a good way to refute the deception is by first identifying and then by challenging the presuppositions and their misleading composition. Often, the parts of the complex question can be divided, and the parts answered individually.

      1. The difficulty, however, is that in some constraining circumstances such as interrogation, cross-examination, testing situations, and intimidation, answering complex questions in this manner is occasionally proscribed.[1.3a]

      2. In sum, the fallacy of complex question is usually, strictly speaking, not a fallacy in the sense of being a mistaken inference but is a “fallacy” in the Pickwickian sense of a mistake in customary or conventional interrogative procedure.[aa2]

      3. Even so, since a complex question fallacy has one or more propositional presuppositions, it can usually be translated into an implicit unsound argument structure.

        For example, in Plato's Protagoras Socrates asks:
        “Well, if someone asked you and me, ‘Tell me, you two, this thing that you mentioned a moment ago — justice — is it itself just or unjust?” I myself should answer that it was just.” [330c] [aa3]
        The question and response can be translated into the following unsound argument:
        (1) Justice cannot be unjust. [This premise is a pseudostatement since justice is a thing (i.e., a state of affairs).]
        (2) This state of affairs is either just or unjust.

        Therefore, justice is just.
        Since justice is a quality of things (or states of affairs) and not a thing itself as assumed in the minor premise, to conclude that justice is just is to make a category mistake.[aa4] A decision can be just; however, this virtue is not in the justice itself but instead is a property of the decision.

      4. In everyday discourse, however, one need not explicate the error of a many-question fallacy, instead one need only identify it as such and perhaps point to its misleading composition much as Callicles answers Socrates' query in Plato's Gorgias:
        Socrates: Do the orators seem to you always to speak with an eye to what is best, their sole aim being to render the citizens as perfect as possible by their speeches, or is their impulse also to gratify the citizens, and do they neglect the common good for their personal interest and treat the people like children, attempting only to please them, with no concern whatever whether such conduct makes them better or worse?

        Callicles: This is not a single question you are asking, for some say what they say in the interest of the citizens, but there are others such as you describe.[aa4']
        The complexity of such a trick question need not be unpacked, for the disjunction proposed in this complex alternative question constrains response.

    6. The fallacy of complex question usually (but not always) makes use of an interrogative sentence expressing a question [aa1] The fallacy involves the stating of a question (or equivalent) that tacitly assumes the truth of a statement or statements not generally granted or not given into evidence.

      1. For example, in Barack Obama's primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice condemned Clinton's policy of Iraq and Iran by demanding an ”explanation of how and why she got those critical judgments wrong.”[6]

        The unsecured statements in this complex question presuppose without offered evidence that Secretary Clinton's policies of Iraq and Iran were mistaken.

      2. Or in this example from the 2016 U.S. Presidential race, editorialist Froma Harrop argues, “Left on the table is the biggest and most troubling question mark: whether [candidate Donald] Trump is mentally stable. Evidence overflows that he is not. That someone so clearly disturbed got this far in a presidential race is absolutely terrifying.”[7]

        Here the statement, “Evidence overflows that he is not,” refers to “the biggest and most troubling question mark” of whether or not “Trump is mentally stable.” No evidence is adduced, but is merely assumed to be “clearly” evident and “terrifying.” If the evidence were overflowing and clear as the writer suggests, then the question would not be, as initially claimed, “left on the table.”

  2. Lexical Narrowing and Varieties of the Complex Question Fallacy: Other names for complex question and related fallacies include the fallacy of many questions (fallacia plurium interrogationum), fallacy of several questions, compound question, loaded question, fallacious question, trick question, leading question, many interrogations, and double-barreled question (among others). The definitions of many of these fallacies are usually much the same, but occasionally the following differences are accented through linguistic specialization or lexical narrowing. These differences provide a convenient way to illustrate some of the varieties of the fallacy of many questions.

    1. (Semantical) Complex Question Fallacy: Occasionally, the fallacy of complex question is more narrowly defined for questions whose presuppositions do not appear as, and cannot often be unpacked as, a Boolean or a logical combination. In this narrower sense of the term, the fallacy of complex question turns on a false opposition, a mistake in the applicability of the law of the excluded middle.

      1. W.D. Wilson provides this non-inference, fabricated example for examination:
        “Are honey and poison sweet?”
        We cannot assume the truth of …
        “Either honey and poison is sweet or honey and poison is not sweet.”[7']
        184 … because as Aristotle writes, “In dealing with those who make several questions into one, you should draw a distinction immediately at the beginning. For a question is single to which there is only one answer, so that one must not affirm or deny several things of one thing nor one thing of several things, but one thing of one thing.”[7'a]
      2. A well-worn, more problematic example is passed down in various forms from classical and 18th century sources:
        “Have you left off your bad habits?”
        is an improper question since it presumes the law of the excluded middle holds good for the statement …
        “Either you have left off your bad habits or you have not left off your bad habits.”
        However, if one has had no bad habits, the question is not directly answerable in situations where an authority constrains any response to a “yes–no ” (or polar) response (as in such intimidating instances as multiple-choice testing, cross-examination, interrogation and so forth).[7a] Under these conditions, this complex question implies two questions:
        (1) “Have you had bad habits?” and
        (2) “If you have had bad habits, have you left them off?”
        The “if” used here is not the material sense of material implication. Its function allows ignoring the conditional whenever the antecedent is false — i.e., when the person had no bad habits. It will not do to rationalize that a simple answer of “No” could be a proper response for both questions. It has been suggested that the simple answering of “No” as applied to such a conjunction of questions could mean either:
        It is not the case both that I have had bad habits and that I have left off the bad habits.
        … which is equivalent to …
        Either I have not had bad habits or I have not left off the bad habits.
        In such a case, some philosophers propose that such an answer would not be deceptive because nothing untoward has been admitted.[A] After all, the question is not seen to be deceptive since the burden of proof rests with the interrogator, and having bad habits has not been explicitly admitted. Having bad habits has not been admitted since a disjunction is true whenever one (or both) of the disjuncts is the case. However, this apparent disjunction is not an actual alternative.

      3. What such an alternative analysis involves could be Nicholas Rescher's point that a negative response for the two questions would imply for the second question either of these:
        “No, I haven't left off because I still have bad habits,”
        “No, I haven't left off because I never started bad habits.”
        Additionally, William and Martha Kneale conclude, “[I]f a statement (e.g. ‘You have lost horns’) involves a presupposition (e.g. that you once had horns) it may be negated either in a restricted way with the acceptance of the same assumption or in an unrestricted way without acceptance of that presupposition.”[Aa] However, Rescher's interpretation[A1] is only possible if the pragmatic presupposition that the respondent has had no bad habits is totally unwarranted in the circumstances.[A2]

      4. Conversationally, though, having bad habits has not been denied either in this disjunction — which is specifically the point at issue. The question is deceptive precisely because whether one answers “Yes” or “No,” the answer conversationally implies that one has, or at one time had, bad habits. In any case, it's important to note that the analysis of questions is beyond the scope of truth-functional propositional logic. Donald Davidson writes, “Whether the effort and ingenuity that have gone into the study of … erotetic logics have been largely futile or not cannot be known until we have acceptable semantic analysis of the sentences such systems purport to treat.[A2a]

      5. This example illustrates also how presupposition is more than entailment since presuppositions are preserved under the negation of a statement. It would be contextually bewildering to state, for example, “I have left off my bad habits,” because “ I have never had bad habits.” If one did answer in this manner, the presupposition is either false as Bertrand Russell argued or, in some circumstances, has no truth value as Peter Strawson maintained. [See Is Complex Question a Fallacy? below for more on this.] Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen aptly states, “[P]resuppositions can be regarded as implicit factual assumptions whose truth is taken for granted by the speaker of the presupposition-carrying statement, and must be antecedently accepted, or be &rlquo;common ground“, among the other conversational participants in order for the utterance to be felicitous in a context.” [A3]

      6. Again, the independent fundamental presupposition (i.e., whether one has bad habits) must be answered prior to addressing the dependent query (i.e. whether there was anything to be given up).

        Indeed, in the jargon of erotetic logic, the answer “No” to the felicitous, proper, or well-formed question “Have you left off your bad habits” (where the presupposition that one has bad habits is an established background assumption) would be true whenever the direct answer “ I have not left off my bad habits” is true. In this context, no fallacy would arise. As Ludwig Wittgenstein writes, “When the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be put into words. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be framed at all, it is also possible to answer it.”[A3a]

    2. The Fallacy of Many or Several Questions can unreasonably restrict answers to an intentional fraction of possible answers in a manner distinguishable from the generalized complex-question fallacy. Parts of the question (the unsecured presuppositions) can compose different questions which might not be logically related (i.e., which might not necessarily related by negation, equivalence, disjunction, conjunction, implication). So, several questions are proposed together as if there were only one question being proposed, but the question requires different answers depending upon the different ways its parts can be interpreted.

      1. Interrogative sentences can be compounded in various ways. For example, a Boolean operation on the following compound question might be, on occasion, completely answered by four alternatives depending upon its pragmatic context and circumstances:
        “Has the present House Health Care Proposal has been approved and has the present Senate Health Care Proposal has been approved?
        If the answers to this question were known, possible expected answers could be composed from any of the following statements:
        (1) H: The House Health Care Proposal has been approved.
        (2) : The House Health Care Proposal has not been approved.
        (3) S: The Senate Health Care Proposal has been approved.
        (4) : The Senate Health Care Proposal has not been approved.
        But then again, however, the unsecured propositions of that compound question can be evaluated in terms of some logical operation, usually conjunction or disjunction. Thus, possible expected answers could be expressed by any of the following forms, where
        H represents “The House Health Care Proposal has been approved.”

        S represents &lrquo;the Senate Health Care Proposal has been approved.”

        (1) H · S
        (2) H · ¬S
        (3) ¬H · S
        (4) ¬H · ¬S
        (5) HS
        (6) H ∨ ¬S
        (7) ¬HS
        (8) ¬H ∨ ¬S [b]
        Thus, if a Health-Care-Proposal type question were to be asked in a situation such as a test, legal cross-examination, or law enforcement interview as a “yes-no” question then the possible answers are restricted to both or neither of the conjuncts, when the proper answer might be one or the other but not both.

      2. A different kind of compound type of complex question is illustrated by this yes-no question:
        Does your farm lease joint agreement specify that the buying or selling should by done by the landowner or the renter?
        The disjunction appears to be doubly exclusive and to be answered by either selling or buying (but not both) be done by either the landowner or the renter (but not both). The unwarranted suppositions are based on the assumed lack of conjunction.

    3. Fallacia Plurium Interrogationum: The name of the fallacy, used most often 19th century texts, is Latin equivalent of the “Fallacy of Many Questions.” As John Leechman points out several centuries ago, “This fallacy consists in asking several questions, which appear to be but one, in such a way, that whatever one answer is given, being of course applicable to only one of the questions, may be interpreted as applied to some one of the others. … If, however, you reply to each question separately, you detect and expose the fallacy.”[FP]

      In general, both kinds questions often arise in argumentative or disputative question-and-answer dialogue.[a1] Aristotle characterizes the fallacy as “making of several questions into one” in a manner compatible with a dialogical interpretation:
      [I]f a predicate is true of one subject and not of others, or several predicates are propounded of several subjects and each is true of each but not all of all, a single answer involves confutation and must be refused. “”[ArF]
      Aristotle describes the fault in some such questions due to an ambiguous subject or predicate, or involving more than one subject or predicate, as the case might be, and so a single answer to these questions leads to confusion. Otherwise the question is not about one single thing. In order to avoid the “dialectical error” this type of question must be re-formulated so that a single predicate is affirmed or denied for single subject.[ArF1 He does not explicitly explain the fallacy of many questions as a failure to establish the proper presuppositions; instead, he specifies “when two questions are put as one, there is no genuine proposition at issue.”[ArF2]

    4. Compound Question Fallacy is sometimes more precisely queried as a single question containing presuppositions which might not be consistently affirmed or denied. Hence, the fallacy involves more than one issue which might require different responses.

      1. The following compound question, for instance, cannot ordinarily be coherently affirmed or denied:

        “Do you believe both that people have free choice and that their lives are completely determined by environmental circumstances or do you believe neither of these views?”

      2. Or the answer to this yes-no compound question in which two different protocols are discussed for establishing crytographic trust ambiguous:
        Should we consider “protocols in which we allow a trusted dealer and many rounds of interaction”?[ArF2a]
        The ambiguity arises since the named protocols allow either the help of a trusted dealer or trust established from rounds of interaction, but not necessarily both.

      3. In law, a compound question can occur as a leading question as well:

        E.g., in State v. Debold, the victim of a robbery responded “No” to the question, “At that point, [the defendant] didn't have a gun to your head and say, ‘Give me your money,’ did he?” On the case's appeal, the court objected to the form of that question. The court wrote:
        “[W]e note that the question is a negative compound and is in improper form because it asked for two answers: (1) At that time he didn't have a gun to your head, did he?; (2) At that time he didn't say, “give me your money,” did he? The vice of compound questions is generally recognized. They are clearly misleading and confusing both to the witness being asked the question and to the jury listening to the answer.”[ArF3]
        Note that this example of compound question is not specifically a fallacy in the sense that it is a mistaken inference so much as it is a fallacy in the sense that the language is confusing and can be interpreted to mean different things. Negative questions can be interpreted differently by different cultures and can be interpreted as “impossibly open-ended.”[ArF3.1]

      4. Occasionally, the fallacy occurs with the presuppositions of the question explicitly stated in separate statements as in this example:

        Wall Street Journal columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote recently: “It is the president of the United States — the same one who presented himself as the man who would transcend political partisanship because we were all Americans — who has for most of his term set about dividing the nation by class, by the stoking of resentments. Who mocks millionaires and billionaires. Who regularly makes it clear that he considers himself the president of the other — the good Americans. How's that for presidential tone?”[8]

    5. Fallacious Question Fallacy: The fallacy of complex question is frequently lexically narrowed by effecting either a single false presupposition or a presupposition containing the fallacy of a disjunctive question, a false choice or false dilemma, where the assumption of alternative states of affairs omits one or more other possibilities.[8a]

      Consider this example of a false presupposition:
      “We lose an army, and precedent consoles us: it always happens in the first campaign. Why does it always happen?[ArF3.2]
      And this example with a false dilemma:
      “[President Trump] continued to cite a discredited survey … purporting to show that many Muslims in this country support ‘global jihad’ and the replacement of our legal system with Islamic Sharia Law. Is Trump just playing politics or is he truly an anti-Muslim bigot who believes this rubbish? At this point it hardly matters.”[9]
      The assumed dichotomy in this example of Trump either playing politics or being anti-Muslim omits other possible alternative states of affairs.

    6. Loaded Question Fallacy in its lexically narrow form is a complex question that contains terms or propositions that are emotively significant[ArF4.1] or “has a presupposition that the respondent is not committed to [and] limits the respondent's options in answering it.”[ArF4.2]

      1. A loaded question is often inappropriate because either a nonexistent state of affairs is being assumed in the phrasing of the question or the situation is being described in slanted or emotively significant terms. “Loaded questions tend to produce biased responses that reflect what the questioner wants to hear but not necessarily what the respondents believe.”[ArF4a]

        E.g. consider this fallacy of complex question as a loaded question in this restricted sense:
        “In this holiday season, a familiar question arises: Is President Trump trying to undermine democracy, or is he just irredeemably vain? It's a toss of the coin …”[ArF4b]
        The author assumes without argument that President Trump is either trying to undermine democracy or is a vain person, and the choice might as well be made by tossing a coin. The fallacy is effected since first the alternatives are not exclusive and second the phrasing of the question restricts the author's answer to affirmation of one or the other alternatives.

        Here, it is not so much the complexity of the question as it is the mistaken slanted or emotively laded presupposition which characterizes the sophistical tactic. Thus, loaded questions need not have multiple presuppositions.

      2. An example of a loaded question with emotively significant terms is provided by this passage in a 1950's anti-communist speech by Joseph McCarthy:
        “Ladies and gentlemen, can there be anyone here tonight who is so blind as to say that the war is not on? Can there be anyone who fails to realize that the communist world has said , ‘The Time is now’ — that this is the time for the showdown between the democratic Christian world and the communist atheistic world? Unless we face this fact, we shall pay the price that must be paid by those who wait too long.”[ArF5.1]
      3. Again, in other contexts, the term “loaded question” is often used as a synonym of complex question.

    7. Leading Questions: “Questions put to a witness which suggest the desired answer or put the answer into his mouth or, in the case of a disputed matter, permit only the reply, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Example: ‘Did you see X at noon is Trafalgar Square on Saturday, 18th October last?’” [a1] Leading questions can also involve questions which require an answer from a prearranged list of responses.

      1. Leading questions which usually suggest or call to mind information rather than presupposing information are not considered complex-question fallacies even if they are used in an argumentative context unless the presupposed information is mistaken or misleading.

        E.g., the following example of a leading question is not fallacious:
        “[A]sking ‘You were in Las Vegas in 2015, right?’ clearly suggests the desired answer and is improperly leading. Tone [of voice] can also make a question leading. For example, asking ‘You're 38 years old?’ with a rising intonation and an accompanying head not suggests the desires answer and is improperly leading.”[1]
      2. However, a leading question which oversimplifies an issue is an example of a complex question when aspects of the subject have been restricted as in “Which known cause of Alzheimer's disease is the most significant — lifestyle or environmental factors?”

      3. An example of a leading question that tends to direct a response or suggest a desired answer can be effected by phrasing a question in the negative in “Don't you think all persons would profit somewhat by a logic course?” Such questions can be persuasive but are not considered fallacious.

  3. Is Complex Question a Fallacy?: In actual practice, usually question-asking fallacies constitute a misuse in the pragmatics of questions and answers rather than an explicit inference mistake. Questions together with answers are normally used in information acquisition[1aa] rather than argumentative discourse, although they are used in other ways as well. Many logicians postulate for a fallacy to occur, faulty inference in an argument must be present in the oral or written discourse.

    The traditional fallacy of complex question in most logic and critical thinking textbooks is not described as a mistake in reasoning per se and so is not, strictly speaking, taken as a fallacy in the usual logical sense of the word. Instead, most occurrences of complex question occur as violations of conventions of ordinary discourse. The common feature of complex question as either a fallacy or a rule violation is that their expression includes an unjustified assumption (or assumptions) which either suggests or presupposes its own answer. Yet many logicians point out making an unwarranted assumption per se in a complex question without its occurrence in an explicit argument is not an inferential fallacy.[1aa1]

    1. E.g., Charles Hamblin writes, “A fallacy, we must repeat, is an invalid argument; and a man who asks a misleading question can hardly be said to have argued, validly or invalidly, for anything at all. Where are his premises and what is his conclusion?”[1a] And Gilbert Ryle states, “This so-Called Fallacy of Many Questions is not a fallacy at all, since it is not an argument. It is a trick-question[1a1] Jaakko Hintikka states, “[O]ne thing is clear of the so-called fallacy of many questions. It cannot by any wildest stretch of the imagination be construed as a mistake in inference.”[1a1]

    2. And Douglas Walton explains, “[T]hus while asking [a question] is not arguing to one conclusion it is nevertheless leading the answer towards a conclusion by restricting the answerer's alternatives in a partial way. If asking a question restricts the set of possible answer too sharply, in a way that gives the questioner an unfair advantage and forces the answered to a flatly contravene his own commitments, it could be a form of question that gives too much power to the questioner and should not be allowed in a fair dispute.”[1b]

    3. Some logic textbooks do not include the fallacy of complex question in their discussions of informal fallacies. [1b1]

      A question, complex or not, does not have a truth value because it is a sentence, not a statement. In addition, the propositional content of question cannot be considered a statement or proposition. [1b1a'] So, strictly speaking, a complex question cannot be an argument, much less part of an argument. Consequently, many logicians argue a complex question is not a fallacy in the normal use of the term.

      For example, an often asked-and-answered complex question in religious studies is something like the following:
      “If God did not create the universe, who did? At such a question some would pause and think; but many would meet it with the flippant answer ‘Nature,’ ‘Necessity,’ as if they really understood what such name implied. You will probably wonder that an answer so unequal to the subject should be given by any thoughtful man.” [1b1a'']
      This hypothetical question is based on the presumption that the universe was created. If this assumption is part of the contextual common ground of the discourse, then no argument is being offered. However, if the presumption that the universe was created is not part of the contextual common ground (e.g., that the universe has no beginning), then the question founders in its purpose because the question has no direct answer, and catastrophic presuppositional failure is said to occur. Whenever instances of complex questions such as these with an implicit argument miscarry, a fallacious argument such as this one undeclared:
      The universe was not created by nature or necessity.
      Nature or necessity is unequal to the task of creation.
      Therefore, God created the universe.
    4. So in what sense are complex questions such as these fallacious? A fallacy can occur when a complex question is enjoined in a dialogical context where the possible answers are constricted in order to pressure a respondent to concede an unreasonable admission. These contexts occur most often in which respondents are apprehensive in challenging the legitimacy of the question such as interrogation, testing, subservience, or accountability. So, no matter how the question is directly answered, an unwarranted conclusion can be indicated, implied. or assumed to be the case.

      Consider the use in a dialogic context of this question discussed by the Stoics:
      “Have you lost your horns?”
      This oft-used example is said to be an early attempt to raise a sophism of grammar, existential import, or presupposition in non-declarative sentences. The many-questions fallacy here is suggested its translated argument:
      You have what you have not lost.
      You have not lost horns.

      Therefore, you have horns. [1b1a]
      Several ways have been proposed to analyze this complex question:

      1. A false presupposition is being implied by the disjunctive premise of a yes-no question: From the tacit premise of the law of the excluded middle, “You have either lost your horns or you have not lost your horns.” From this disjunction it appears that drawing the conclusion that “You have had horns.” is justified. Thus, it appears that a false conclusion has resulted from a true disjunctive premise. Whichever direct answer, “Yes” or “No,” is provided to the proposed complex question, the conclusion appears to follow that you have had horns.

      2. The disjunctive premise could be false. As indicated just above, the disjunctive premise as a specific instance of the law of the excluded middle seems to imply the existence of horns:
        “You have either lost your horns or you have not lost your horns”
        However, since horns do not exist, something is incorrect about this disjunction. The list of things having horns and the list of things not having horns are both empty. So, since no such entity can be lost, it would appear that the disjunctive premise cannot be true.

      3. The disjunctive premise could be ambiguous. or meaningless: For this reason, on Bertrand Russell's analysis, “having horns“ is not a referring phrase. On his analysis, the statement that one does not have horns is true, and the statement that it is not the case that horns exist is also true.[1b2]

        Russell would regard the disjunctive premise as ambiguous on account of “horns” not being a denoting phrase. Consequently, on his analysis, “You have lost your horns” is false. And “You have not lost your horns” is also false if it means:
        ”There exists something which are horns, and are not lost by you,”
        but is true if it means:
        “It is not the case that there exists something which are horns and are not lost by you.”
        Consequently, one account for a complex question being fallacious is that the question is logically based on an ambiguity.

      4. The disjunctive premise could be meaningless. P.F. Strawson argues that a straightforward syntactically well-formed statement has no truth value when it contains a non-referring singular term.[1b2a] On a Strawson-type analysis, unlike Russell's, the above disjuncts are said to have a truth value only if their presupposition of the entity of “horns” is the case. But the presupposition is false. Strawson believes, “Singular terms are what yield truth-value gaps when they fail in their role”:[1b3]
        “‘S presupposes ’ is defined as folows: ‘The truth of is a necessary condition of the truth or falsity of S.’ … Whether or not S has a truth-value depends on one thing, viz., whether is true. …[1b4]
        In the horns example, for Strawson, since is the presupposition that horns exist, S, the statement that you have or have not lost your horns does not have a truth value. I.e., the statement “Horns were had by you” is not contradicted by the statement “No existent entity is horns” because the first statement has a non-existential referring expression and thus has no truth value.

        On a Strawson-type analysis, then, a fallacy of complex question can be based on a presupposition without a truth value. Current practice is to more or less follow Strawson, recognizing that in some instances of presuppositional failure, the complex question can be meaningful. As Anne Bezuidenhout argues presuppositions, as background statements, are non-assertions. Thus, their falsity can be allowed and “The main point of the utterance may still survive and meet the standards for issue content.”[1b4a]

      5. The paradox rests on the presupposition that “You have lost your horns” implies in some sense “You had horns.” But this variety of entailment is not preserved under negation since both &lduo;You have lost your horns” and &ldquo:You have not lost your horns” implies in some sense “You have had horns.”

        This entailment would seem to lead to the nonsensical reslt that the contingent statement “You have horns” is actually a necessarily true statement. I.e., whether or not you lost them, you have had them. The only way to avoid this result is to reject the law of the excluded middle which would mean that standard logic does not hold for presuppositions.

        For this reason, the current view is that presuppositional entailment is one kind of entailment which differs from classical entailment.

    5. Diogenes Laërties' provides the reasoning which was thought to provide a justification for the horns question to be genuine (i.e., one that has a direct answer) as follows:
      “If you never lost something, you have it still; but you never lost horns, ergo you have horns.” [1b5a]
      However on the standard account of fallacy as an inference mistake (i.e., an argument that “seems to be valid but is not so”) [1b6] the justification assumes that by the meaning of the concept of “having,” one possesses every existent thing except those things that one has lost — which is, clearly, a mistaken assumption. For this reason, there is no direct answer to the question as posed, and the question is said to be improper or unsound. [1b7]

      Diogenes Laërtius relates the following possible refutation attributed to either Diogenes or Eubulides:
      ”A man once proved to him syllogistically that he had horns, so he put his hand to his forehead and said, ‘I do not see them.’ — thus pointing to the ‘nonexistent object.’”[1b8]
      On the standard account the complex question, “Have you lost your horn?” implies two questions:
      (1) “Have you had horns?” and

      (2) “If you have had horns, have you lost them?”
      A negative response here to these two implicative questions is a direct answer to the first question but not to the second, if the first is not assumed contextually.

      Just as the refutation by Diogenes or Eubulides to the syllogism is to deny the unwarranted assumption of having horns so likewise the answer to the complex question is to deny the unwarranted assumption of having horns.

    6. On the dialectical and pragma-dialectical approaches, a fallacy is considered to be a “wrong move” or a violation of rules for a critical discussion. E.g. Douglas Walton writes:
      “The term fallacy is … a move that is not allowed by the rules of dialogue.” [1b9]
      E.g. Frans H. Van Eemernem and Rob Grootendorst specifically provide the following rule:
      “A party may not falsely present a premise as an accepted starting point nor deny a premise representing an accepted starting point.”[1b10]
      Consequently, the fallacy of many questions is an attempt to evade the burden of proof by deceptively concealing an assumption.

      So on the dialogical understanding of informal fallacies, the horns question is not directly answerable whenever one is constrained to answer as a yes-no question. The presupposition of a question need be established before the question is posed. (In the many-questions fallacy, the complex question is not considered meaningless, but is considered misleading.)

    7. Finally, Jaakko Hintikka sees the fallacy of many questions, just as he does all of the traditionally recognized fallacies as an interrogative mistake in a dialogue, not as a mistaken logical inference. In his formulation of a Socratic interrogative model of inquiry, Hintikka argues that the fallacy of many questions is an interrogative mistake in question dialogues — a breach of the rules of questioning games.[1b11]

  4. Functional Uses of Complex Question: The problems associated with both the fallacy and the rhetorical techniques of complex question often are used as techniques of subterfuge by persons in authority to elicit a confession or to manipulate attitudes.

    1. Although often manipulative, unethical, and improper, complex questions in the form of leading questions occur in surveys, law courts, journalistic interviews, and police cross-examinations. Leading questions can be assumptive, implicative, or intimidating, not all of which are necessarily fallacious.

      1. Assumptive questions are designed to take for granted the very question at issue in order to induce a specific response.

        As a former police interrogator and fraud examiner states, “Regardless of the questioner's surety of … guilt, it would be most sensible to start with [a] question [that] … assumes guilt, which makes the job of denial more difficult than issuing a simple ‘no.’”[1c]

        Consider the example of the Indian slave Titubam, “charged with witchcrafts and sorceries” in the first Salem Witch Trial, who “proved more yielding” to questioning under the withering examination of Magisrate John Hathorne:
        H: Tituba, what evil spirit have you familiarity with?

        T: None.

        H: Why do you hurt these children?

        T: I do not hurt them. …

        H: Who have you seen [hurt the children]?

        T: Four women sometimes hurt the children?

        H: Who were they?

        T: Goody Osburn and Sarah Good, and I don't know who the others were. Sarah Good and Osburn would have me hurt the children, but I would not. …

        H: What did they say to you?
        T: They said, “Hurt the children.”.

        H: And did you hurt them?

        T: No … they tell me if I will not hurt the children they will hurt me.

        H: But did you hurt them?

        T: Yes, but will hurt them no more.[1ca]
      2. In one study, 9 and 10 year-old children changed over 40% of their correct responses under cross-examination nine months after viewing staged events at a police station. Prior to the cross-examination, they were previously exposed to misleading information (at 2 and 4 weeks after the event) and also a video-taped direct examination (six weeks after the event). After viewing the videotape of that direct examination, the children were asked at the later cross-examination ten standardized questions including this series of leading, complex, and tag questions:
        “You said in the video that you got your photo taken, didn't you?”

        “Are you sure that you got your photo taken?”

        “I don't think you really got your photo taken. I think someone told you to say that. That's what really happened, isn't it?”

        If the child did not change opinion or was uncertain, then the question was asked, “But that might be the case, don't you think?”
        The result of the use of these kinds of complex questions in this study was designed to be similar to actual trail preparation cases indicating that the intentional use of complex questions can significantly alter testimony in many instances.

      3. Counselors, psychologists, and related professionals use complex question as an investigative technique, often as a bid for an explanation of a state of affairs not clearly in evidence.

        For example, a noted psychotherapist writes, “We therapists have our little cunning ways—statements such as: ‘I wonder what blocks you from acting upon the decision you already seem to have made.’”[2]

        And this technique is used in support of supernatural claims:
        “[T]he primary question, with which the psychical student concerns himself, viz.,: How is the supernormal information acquired? Why is it that the dream or vision is veridical? How does this object move without contact? How explain the evidence of personal identity obtained through the medium, when in trance? Only when abnormal psychology succeeds in satisfactorily explaining such facts will we grant that it has any right to criticize psychical research, or to do aught than acknowledge it as a sister-science.” [emphasis original][3]
      4. Although some leading questions may be asked at the discretion of a presiding judge in a court of law, in general they are not permitted because they have been shown to alter testimony.

        After one of Hugo Münsterberg's eye-witness testimony experiments at Harvard, “the leading question was put to each member of the class—‘Did you notice the stove in the room?’ (there was no stove there)—and 59 per cent of the class answered ‘Yes,’ and having once admitted seeing the stove they proceeded to locate it, and tell in what part of the room it was.”[3]

      5. Francis Wellman, the famous trial lawyer, writes, “[I]t is easy to produce evidence that varies very widely from the exact truth. This is often done by overzealous practitioners by putting leading questions or by incorporating two questions into one, the second a simple one, misleading the witness into a ‘yes’ for both, and thus creating an entirely false impression.”[4]

      6. Finally, leading questions are often used to stimulate discussion in education.

    2. A compound question is objectionable because the question ask more than one question at a time, and a simple answer is inherently ambiguous. Compound questions are often termed double-barreled questions. Regardless of whether the witness answers “yes” or “no,” a single response might not accurately answer both questions.[9.1]

      1. Suppose a worker has failed to perform a task. Then a “yes” answer to the following question concerning the supervisor's response is ambiguous:

        “Did he state you were incompetent or inexperienced?”

        A “yes” response could mean the boss stated the worker was …
        … both incompetent and inexperienced. … incompetent but not inexperienced. … inexperienced but not incompetent.
      2. Additionally, in a lawyer's examination of a witness, the fallacy of compound question can be the fallacious linking of separate questions in order to confuse the witness:
        Lawyer: “You were motivated by your need for money in the affair?” (meaning wholly or exclusively)
        Witness: “Yes.” (meaning distributively or in part)
        Lawyer: “Then, by being motivated by money you acted from greed?
        Thus, the lawyer's ambiguous language entices the witness to to agree to part of the witness's motivation and then concludes that it was the sole basis for the witness's action. The fallacy of composition is being utilized here in the compounding of questions.

      3. Compound questions can also be rather subtle. Consider this example in the case Austria v. Bike Athletic Co. wherein the parents of Richard Austria won a suit against the manufacturer of their son's football helmet after he suffered a severe head injury during football practice. On appeal the the Bike Athletic Co. argued that this question on the verdict form submitted to the jury was erroneous:
        Was Defendants' Bake and Kendall's helmet worn by Richard Austria unreasonable dangerous in one or more of the particulars alleged by the plaintiffs which caused Richard Austria's injury[?]
        Regardless of the jury's answer to this question the unproved presupposition in the question presumes the helmet caused the injury.[9.1a]

      4. A similar rhetorical technique can be used in philosophical disputation:
        “[T]he utilitarian puts to us the questions: ‘You deny that virtue consists in utility?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then you deny that utility is a good thing.’”[9.2]
        Here. the utilitarian's sequencing of the compound question is confusing since it concludes with an ambiguous statement. I.e., we would deny the statement that “All acts of utility are good things,” but would agree to the statement, “Some acts of utility are good things.”

    3. A conducive question (a question with bias or polarity) is a type of leading question whereby an interrogator aims for a particular response based on a respondent's prior statement. The prior statement can be stated explicitly or merely contextually inferred.

      All negative questions are conducive questions whose bias can be magnified by an appended tag questions (the addition of phrases such as “didn't he?” or “hasn't it”) and can also be magnified by usually nonassertive words (phrases such as ”never,” ”anything,” “yet,” ” or “any”).

      1. Positive questions with a negative adaptation of some kind are conducive questions with a negative bias as in:
        Do you really believe that? (Meaning: clearly, you really don't believe that.)
        But negative questions with a nonassertive word have a positive bias as in:
        Isn't that something? (Meaning: clearly, that is something.)
        Tag questions, are to some extent leading questions, as in this cross-examination in a case where a worker was injured by a workplace's failure to guard a saw:
        ”Q. So that the sawdust was piled up for about 5 inches, wasn't it, higher than the bottom of that pulley, wasn't it?
        A. I guess so.” (emphases mine)[9.2aaa]
        The framing of questions like these can be used as a persuasive appeal but are not per se fallacies. Since conducive questions do not necessarily secure its wanted response, its persuasive influence is usually established pragmatically.

      2. Quirk et al. points that “already” or any assertive item) in positive questions anticipates an affirmative response, whereas a “yet” (or any nonassertive item) in a negative question expects a negative response:[9.2aa]
        Have you finishedalready? Expected affirmative response: “Yes.”
        Haven't you finished yet? Expected negative response: “No.”
        And, declarative questions are conducive also, and as with tag questions, declarative questions encourage an agreement in response.[9.2aa1]
        You are saying that it is true? Expected affirmative response: “Yes.”
        You are saying that it isn't true? Expected negative response: “No.”
      3. Conducive questions, by the way they are phrased, signal a preferred way a respondent is expected to answer. Normally the preferred response is best understood from the pragmatics or the context of conversational or argumentative dialogue. Again, conductive questions can be often analyzed to be nonfallacious leading questions. However, Wolfram Bublitz points out, “Answers to questions that were meant to be conducive but were understood by the hearer as being neutral, will of course be unexpected and surprising for the speaker and will normally cause an interruption of the exchange and the attempt to come to an agreement as to the presuppositions and assumptions involved.”[9.2aa2]

  5. Related Complex Question Techniques in Law, Surveys, and Interviews: Several types of linguistic devices are similar in character and relation to varieties of complex question. In themselves, they are not a complex question or many questions fallacy, but they can play a part in such a fallacy.

    1. Trick Questions and Fictitious-Issue Questions are questions with fabricated presuppositions designed to determine respondents' willingness to reveal their unfamiliarity with an issue or a point in question. Similar difficulties arise with questions involving existential import. Trick questions can occur in survey questions, test questions, interviews, interrogations, debate, and as discussion prompts.

      1. In an interview or testing situation, especially when respondents are less well educated, are stressed, or feel as though they are lower in status, the charge to answer the question can be quite compelling even when the subject deals with entirely fictitious topics.[9.2a]

      2. With the well-known Reid interrogation technique, a police investigator poses an “alternative question” entailing two incriminatory choices to a suspect:
        “[T]he actual alternative question may be: “Did you plan this thing out or did it just happen on the spur of the moment?” — either choice is an admission of guilt. The components of the alternative question contrast a desirable action with an inexcusable, undesirable action … The alternative question should be based on an assumption of guilt; it should not be something to the effect of “Did you do this or didn't you?’, because such a question phrasing invites a denial.”[9.2a1]
      3. Skillful questioning requires disclosing a respondents' level of understanding and presence of misunderstanding by means of filter questions prior to asking a subject-question about a topic. Bias can be introduced into questions by implicitly forcing an influence or slanting in the phrasing of an “unfiltered question.”

        Arthur Sterngold, et al, found that if a filter question as to whether or not a respondent is concerned about a topic is not asked before asking the question, ”How concerned are you about [a topic]?,” actual concerns were often overstated. Without the filter question being asked first, respondents tend to presume that they either are, or should be concerned, when they were not.[9.2b]

      4. Donald S. Tull and Del I. Hawkins note that forced-choice rating-scale questions without a no-opinion choice provide less accurate responses.[9.2c] And building a fictitious or nonexistent subject into a survey's complex question is used by testers as a control item. These so-called “sleeper questions” indicate to some degree how often respondents guess by choosing nonexistent answers.[9.2c1]

      5. Howard Schuman and Stanley Presser summarize many of ways constraints are built into questions as follows: “One of the clearest findings … is the extent to which people, once they have agreed to be interviewed, accept the framework of questions and try earnestly to work within that framework. If we do not provide a particular substantive alternative to a closed question, people rarely give it. If we omit a don't know category or a middle alternative, people ordinarily do not volunteer one …”[9.2d]

    2. Rhetorical Questions are questions, normally not requiring an answer, the answer already being known, intended to produce an appropriate expressive emphasis on information already thought evident. So rhetorical questions neither seek information nor convey information. Hannah Rohde points out that rhetorical questions are both biased and redundant.[9.2d1] The former characteristic enables their use in the implementation of the fallacy of complex question. A number of studies provide empirical evidence that the use of rhetorical questions are persuasively effective when accompanied by relevant background information.[9.2d2]

      E.g., “If we don't do anything to combat the aggressive stance of North Korea, who will?” implies “We need to do something to combat the aggressive stance of North Korea because no one else will.”

      1. As rhetorical questions do not request, but usually provide some information, rhetorical questions can be composed as complex-question fallacies intending to assert that unproved presuppositions are the case. Moreover, complex rhetorical questions can be exclamatory in the expectation of compelling approval or disapproval:

        “Pray tell me what god empowered you to conclude such a patently foolish statement?!”

      2. Randolph Quirk, et al., state, “The rhetorical question is one which functions as a forceful statement. More precisely, a positive rhetorical question is like a strong negative assertion, while a negative question is like a strong positive one.” The rhetorical question “seeks confirmation of what the speaker has explicitly assumed [previously] to be agreed truth.”[9.2e]
        E.g., “Is that the best that you can do?” → “Plainly, that is not the best that you can do.”

        “How can we expect to have a theory of everything if we do not try.” → “Plainly, we can expect to have a theory of everything, if we try.”
      3. When the indirect statement implied by a complex rhetorical question is not evident or well known, its intent is difficult to interpret and can result in a complex question fallacy.
        E.g., “If we don't preemptively strike North Korea, who will?”
        This rhetorical question conversationally implies “We have to preemptively strike North Korea because no one else will.” The less-than-evident presupposition is that North Korea requires being subjected to a first-strike attack, the reason being that North Korea is disposed to implement an imminent attack.

      4. Rhetorical complex questions can be used by a provocateur to issue an ad hominem attack without being overtly committed to the accusation. Marta Dynel relates this verbal interchange in the context of a debate:
        R: “If this question means that the factory in Győr is also modern, and only the building has a problem.”

        P: “No. Are you really this stupid, or are you just pretending to be?” (italics original) [9.2f]
        If P were to object to R's name-calling, R can respond disingenuously that no assertion is being made; R is just asking a question — even though the function of a rhetorical question is to make a statement.[9.2fa]

      5. A few empirical studies have shown that the use of rhetorical questions increase persuasive and attitudinal resistance both as a non-attacking and an attacking statement.[9.2fb]

        As an example, consider the following fallacy using rhetorical questions from the 2016 U.S. presidential election:
        The Big Question: Will Hillary [Clinton] run [for president]? … Few people — and far fewer women — have attracted so much attention as Hillary Clinton. … How does Hillary Clinton walk away from the job that was meant to be hers? Forget fate. What about duty? Doesn't the first woman who has a real shot at becoming president of the United States have a duty to run? And win?[9.2fc]
        The last question is rhetorical and mollifies the preceding rhetorical and complex question presupposing that Clinton is meant to be president.

      6. Sometimes it is difficult to know whether or not a question proposed is rhetorical or complex as in this example from Plato's Gorgias:
        Socrates: [I]n my opinion rhetoricians have the least power of any in the state.

        Polus: What? Do they not, like tyrants, put to death any man they will, and deprive of their fortunes and banish whomsoever it seems best?

        Socrates: … I am puzzled as to whether you are speaking for yourself and expressing your own views, or questioning me.

        Polus: I am questioning you.

        Socrates: Well, my friend, then you ask me two questions at once.
        Polus answers that his question is not rhetorical (i.e. his question is not a statement of what he believes in question-form) but a question addressed to Socrates. Socrates, then, takes the question as a complex question, a question asking whether rhetoricians have much power and whether rhetoricians do what they will to do for its own sake.[9.2fc']

    3. The issue of the fallacy of complex questions is an important aspect of the general study of the phrasing of questions in order to shape opinion in personal interviews and surveys.

      1. For instance, Stanley Le Baron Payne relates the results of an experiment by the Opinion Research Corporation showing the difference of the words “might”, “could”, and “should” in this survey question:

        —Do you think anything should be done to make it easier for people to pay doctor or hospital bills? (82% agreed).

        —Do you think anything could be done to make it easier for people to pay doctor or hospital bills? (77% agreed).

        —Do you think anything might be done to make it easier for people to pay doctor or hospital bills? (63% agreed).

        Thus, 82% thought making medical payments easier expected or proper, 77% thought this it able to be done, and 63% thought it permissible or possible to be done. Slight changes in the wording of questions can distort the conventional interpretation of questions.[9.2f1]

      2. A leading question, either by form or content, can influence a respondent's answer. Rule 661 of the Federal Rules of Evidence limits the use of such questions. Psychological evidence cited for the rule is illustrated by only a small number of limited studies performed many years ago.

        For example, in one widely cited study, participants viewed films of automobile accidents and were asked questions such as …
        (1) Did you see the broken headlight?
        (2) Did you see a broken headlight?
        Whether or not a broken headlight was present in the film, subjects who were asked question (2) were twice as likely to answer, “I don't know.”[9.2f1'] Since the use of the definite article “the” elicited an unequivocal answer, that question influenced participants to a particular response. Such leading questions are not inference fallacies; however, they could constitute breaches of rules of law in a similar manner as a violation of the rules in a pragma-dialectical critical discussion.

      3. In Likert-type questionnaires (ratings measuring levels of agreement and disagreement), provision of a larger number of alternatives lowered accuracy of results, and providing fewer alternatives produced higher scale reliability. The reason the provision of more response alternatives results in less accurate the answers is that respondents base their answers in part on their previous responses rather than basing them on direct evidence. [9.2f1a] Thus in Likert-type questionnaires, accuracy can be diminished simply by increasing the number of meaningful response alternatives.

      4. Complex questions can also be used as “push-questions“ in political polls which state negative information concerning a candidate in what appears to be an ordinary survey. E.g., during the 2000 U.S. Republican presidential primary, South Carolina voters were presented with a number of complex questions similar to the following one during a George-Bush campaign telephone poll devised by Voter/Consumer Research:
        Please tell me whether you approve John McCain's “legislation that proposed the largest tax increase in United States history”[9.2f2]
        Consequently, rather than merely seeking information, this question is effectively designed to influence voter choice.

      5. Harvey Sacks observed that polar (or yes–no questions) are biased or aligned toward an affirmative response, and respondents will often attempt to answer such questions as positively as possible.[9.2f2a]

        However, polar questions with the word “any” are biased toward a negative response. For example, Ray Wilkinson observed the experimental difference of physicians asking either:
        (1) Are there any other concerns you'd like to address during this visit?
        (2) Are there other concerns you'd like to address during this visit?
        Wilkinson writes, “[W]here patients have two or more concerns … we found that, while 53 percent responded affirmatively to the ‘any’ version of the question, a full 90 percent responded affirmatively to the ‘some ’ version.”[9.2f2b]

        Consequently, the expectation is suggested that the posing complex polar questions would tend to lead to hesitation, confusion, and biased responses.

    4. Identification of the presuppositions of a complex question and clarifying what is at issue has much in common with “dividing the question” as is done, for example, in debating topics or in applications of the rules of order in conducting meetings:
      As an example of a debating topic consider the International Debate Education Association's topic, “This house believes science is a threat to humanity.”[9.2f3] The difference between the affirmative and negative positions on the issue is reflected in the complex yes/no question, “Is science a disadvantage or an advantage to humanity?” And, yet, of course, there are both advantages and disadvantages to the study of, and application of, science for human beings.
      Dividing a question. When a motion embraces several parts, each of which forms substantially a separate proposition, the resolution of it into distinct motions or questions is called dividing the question. … Advantage of such division. It affords the assembly an opportunity to receive or to reject what part it thinks proper …”[5]
    5. The technique of resolving complex questions is also comparable to understanding the need for a “line-item veto” where particular provisions of a list can be vetoed without rejecting all of the other provisions of a proposal. Most governors in U.S. states can veto specific lines in some legislative bills while allowing the remainder of the bill to become law. For example, a governor's approval of a ten-item bill is, in effect, a positive answer to the question,“Should items 1-10 become law? Just as a governor without the power of a line-item veto must either approve or deny all items so likewise a respondent being limited to a yes–no response for a complex question of the form, “Do you agree with items 1-10 or not?” must either agree or disagree with all of the ten items listed.

  6. The Fallacy of Complex Question as Deceit: The assumption or presupposition to a complex question can only be known from the pragmatic or dialogical context. Not all questions with false, deceitful, or nonexistent presuppositions can be assumed to have inference errors, because not all such passages involve arguments. Moreover, even though disparate contexts arise as the dialogue develops, the posing and answer of a complex question are presumed to occur within the same common ground of the dialogue.

    1. E.g., a prosecutor demands from a defendant,

      “Did you commit the murder before or after you bought the wine?”

      On the one hand, here, no argument is being given, so no formal fallacy occurs. But if the notion of “fallacy” is extended to include deception and trickery, then a fallacy in this sense could be said to occur if the defendant has given no information as to whether wine was bought or a murder occurred.

      On the other hand, obviously, the whole sense of the question changes if the prosecutor is asking the question just after the defendant confessed to the murder and admitted buying wine. However, without those previous admissions, the trick question here is not an inference mistake — it's an intentional maneuver to confuse the defendant.

    2. In the same manner, the oft-cited complex question in critical thinking and logic textbooks, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” considered by itself is not fallacious. Even if this question were to be allowable for cross-examination of a defendant in a court of law, such a question does not constitute an inference mistake. It's capricious to re-construct this example in such a way that a mistaken inference is made. Unfortunately, this interrogative sentence, is often used as a defining example of the fallacy of complex question. Only if the reply to such a question is demanded in a constricted interlocutory context, and the term “fallacy” is defined in terms of intentional deception or trickery, can it be properly said a fallacy occurs. However nonformal judgments such as these have not been developed into a theory of invalidity. In any case, the asking of the complex question singly is not a fallacy in any logical sense of the term.

    3. As an example of “unpacking” the pragmatic implications of a question, analyze the standard conditions or circumstances assumed in the in the following interrogative example:

      “What church do you and your family attend?”

      Some of the presuppositions can be listed as follows:

      1. You attend church.
      2. You have a family.
      3. Each member of your family attends church.
      4. You and each member of your family attend the same church.

      The question would be considered complex in certain dialogical circumstances if you and your family did not attend church, if you and not your family attend church, if your family but not you attend church, if you and your family attend different churches, and so forth.

    4. As in a cross-examination or as a live debating tactic, even the deceitful construction of a foundational complex question from evolutionary biology can be used deceptively to befuddle an opponent:
      “What is the transition from chemical kinetics to evolutionary dynamics, and can the transition from non-evolving to evolving systems be defined precisely and formally?[5a]
      The unexamined presuppositions in the assumed common ground of this question include that such transitions exist in nature and are not simply artifacts of the current state of biochemistry.

    5. In order to avoid succumbing to the deception of complex question, it is well to keep in mind Stanley Le Baron Paynes' advice:
      “The tendency to take things for granted is not easy to correct, simply because is is such a common characteristic of us all. It is a subtle fault, committed most, of course, when we are least aware of it. For this reason, some conscious safeguard is needed — self-discipline to stop and ask ourselves with each question, ‘Now, just what is being taken for granted here?’”[9.2g]
    6. Finally, it is important to emphasize the mere presence of a presupposition in a question is not a distinguishing characteristic of the complex question or many question fallacy. What constitutes the “loading” of the complex question fallacy is the presence of at least one false, misleading, fictitious, or deceptive presupposition in the question which has not been conceded, or admitted, by the respondent and so is not a shared background assumption.

      For example, the question, “Why do you always appear to be such a gloomy monster?" on the pragma-dialectical method analysis creates the impression of a breach of rules of etiquette. However,
      “’You're not at all what you seem to be. Why do you always appear to be such a gloomy monster? And why are you such a nice, agreeable fellow not?’
      ‘Vera Pavlovna, I'm carrying out an agreeable obligation. Why shouldn't I be agreeable, too? But this is a rare occasion. In general one sees such disagreeable things; how can one help being a gloomy monster? …’”[9.2r]
      In this context, the presupposition is a shared background assumption and so no fallacy (a violation of the rules for critical discussion) occurs.
  7. Assorted Examples of Complex Question or the Fallacy of Many Questions: Below are a few assorted examples of the fallacy in different contexts:

    1. “If a choice must be made, I'll adopt God's nonexistence as a working assumption. If I am mistaken, I hope He is not offended by my demand for evidence. (Many believers seem to think that God is offended by atheists. Is he overly proud or merely insecure?)”[10].

    2. “It's not just the likes of the Dow industrials or the S&P 500 at record levels; money is sending all manner of stuff soaring. Last week's auctions at Christie's in New York marked the beginning of “a new era” in the art market, the auction house declared, with nearly a half-billion dollars' worth of 20th-century works being snapped up by bidders who coveted them as much as stores of value as pieces of art. How else to explain Jackson Pollock's drip painting, Number 19, 1948 going for a record $58.4 million, about twice the $25 million to $35 million it had been expected to fetch?”[11].

    3. 3. “Look very closely. You will see that no person and no circumstance can prevent you from becoming a self-understanding man or woman. Who is stopping you at this very moment? No one.”[12].

    4. 4. The following passage on the problem of redistribution is discussing whether people should be paid on how hard they try, rather than rewarding those with natural ability:

      “How hard you're willing to work is powerfully influenced by how much skill nature has given you and thus how much chance you have of achieving a satisfying success. The case for redistribution is not without its troubles: Anyone who says that what nature has given you has nothing to do with what you should be allowed to keep must ultimately answer questions like why couples who produce beautiful children shouldn't be made to give some of them to parents who can only turn out ugly ducklings.” [13]

  8. Nonfallacious Uses of the Phrase “Complex Question” are usually rhetorical techniques, as explained above. Again for a fallacy to occur an argument must be present.

    1. If a question's presuppositions are legitimately assumed by all parties, and the presuppositions are all relevant, then no fallacy has been committed.

    2. Often the phrase “complex question” is used in a descriptive, nonfallacious sense to describe a topic that does not have well-delineated elements or well-understood factors as in the following instances:
      “It's not always possible to answer a complex question about how something works with one experiment. The question needs to be broken down into parts, each of which can be formulated as a hypothesis.”[14]
      “[IBM scientists] demonstrated that a computing system — using traditional strengths and overcoming assumed limitations — could beat expert humans in a complex question-and-answer competition using natural language.”[15]
      Consequently, rather than any sort of logical error occurring in these passages, a heterogeneous topic is being described.

  9. Complex Question Fallacy Practice Examples: Analyze the following passages and state whether or not the fallacy of complex question has occurred.

    1. “An almost equally exasperating aspect of the autonomy struggle is the toddler's inability to make choices. The parent asks whether the child wants a cookie or a lollipop. First the child says, ‘Cookie,’ but as soon as he gets the cookie, he wants a lollipop. The parent patiently takes away the cookie and gives the toddler a lollipop, but now the child wants the cookie again. The problem is that the child wants the right to choose, but does not want to make a choice. From the child's point of view, he does not have a choice unless he can choose them both.”[16]

    2. “Shoppers at F.W. Woolworth Co.'s stores might detect one means of a company minimizing its borrowing needs. According to Ellis Smith, executive vice president of finance, the company ‘hardly acknowledges’ it own charge system. The first question our people are instructed to ask is, ‘Is the purchase cash?’ If it isn't, the second question is ‘Is this Visa or Master Charge?’”[17]

    3. “Agence France-Presse concluded its story by noting, ‘Studies have described a rise in the prevalence of mental disorders in China, some of them linked to stress as the pace of life becomes faster and socialist support systems falter.’ There is sheer preposterous propaganda. What ’study‘ could possibly prove that stress regarding ‘the pace of life’ and the decline of ’socialist support systems‘ (whatever they are) had increased mental illness? Western intellectuals, very much including the press, are still in love with socialism—even its communist variant.”[18]

    4. “Concerning the July 16 Cover Story, ‘The Euro's Fate’ Is that the best Europe can do? Print, print, print money; destroy the middle class by crushing savers and stoking inflation; enforce unnaturally low interest rates that only serve to provide cover for irresponsible politicians; destroy the dreams of the next several generations that will be impoverished with debt.” [19]

    5. “There is a tale, probably apocryphal, told of that notoriously merry monarch Charles II. There was a dinner to commemorate the foundation of the Royal Society. At the end of the evening, ‘with the peculiar gravity of countenance which he usually wore on such occasions,’ he put a challenge to the Fellows. ‘Suppose two pails of water were fixed in two different scales that were equally poised, and which weighted equally alike, and that two live bream, or small fish, were put into either of these pails.‘ He wanted to know the reason why that pail, with such additions should not weigh more than the other pail which stood against it. Many suggested possible explanations, and argued for their own suggestions with more or less vigour. But at last one who perhaps remembered that the motto of that great society is ‘Nullium in verba’ (Take no man's word for it!) denied the assumption: ‘It would weigh more.’ The King was delighted: ‘Odds fish, brother, you are in the right.’”[20]

    6. “Romney did what he has done when in trouble in the past. He lashed out. ‘Do you want four more years with 23 million people out of work or underemployed?’ he asked. ‘Do you want four more years where incomes go down every single year? You want four more years with gasoline prices doubling? Do you want four more years with unemployment above 8 percent?‘ Romney was shouting, jabbing his finger in the air.”[21]

    7. “Bion, that was an atheist, was showed in a port city, in a temple of Neptune, many tables of pictures, of such as had in tempests made their vows to Neptune, and were saved from shipwreck: and was asked, ‘How say you not? Do you not acknowledge the power of the gods?’ But he said, ‘Yes, but where are they painted that have been drowned after their vows?’”[22]

    8. “ Joe, let's take a look at what is happening for you in the group. Here you are, after two months, not feeling good about yourself in this group and with several members impatient with you (or intimidated, or avoidant, or angry, or annoyed, or feeling seduced or betrayed). What's happened? Is this a familiar place for you? Would you be willing to take a look at your role in bringing this to pass?”[23]

    9. “Cutting your next year's budget by 2% but still having it up 4% from this year and calling it a ‘cut’ is ludicrous. [The suggestion is] our leaders must kick the deficit-reduction can down the road one more time. I ask: When exactly will it be a good time to have economic contraction?”[24]

    10. “Is that the best Europe can do? Print, print, print money; destroy the middle class by crushing savers and stoking inflation; enforce unnaturally low interest rates that only serve to provide cover for irresponsible politicians; destroy the dreams of the next several generations that will be impoverished with debt[?]”[25]

    11. “To many women, the Donald Trump who debated Hillary Clinton was painfully familiar.…Only two candidates stood in that stage. Only one will name the next Supreme Court Justice. Who do you want that to be? The bully or the nerd? The good girl or the bad boy? There is no third option.”[26]

    12. “[President] Trump's assault on the concept of an independent judiciary can be seen as something out of Orwell. ‘What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?’ Trump tweeted on Saturday. … So should that tweet be read as a deliberate attempt to encourage fear as a way of grabbing more power? Or was it simply Trump's pre-kindergarten reflex to hit back at anyone who hits him? I think it was probably the latter.”[27]

Links to Online Quizzes Practice Quizzes with Complex Questions

Test your understanding of Complex Question and other arguments with one of the following quizzes:

Complex Question Examples Exercise
Fallacies of Relevance I Quiz
Fallacies of Relevance II Quiz
Fallacies of Relevance III Quiz

“The fallacia plurium interrogationum consists in trying to get one answer to several questions in one. It is sometimes used by barristers in the examination of witnesses, who endeavour to get yes or no to a complex question which ought to be partly answered in each way, meaning to use the answer obtained, as for the whole, when they have got it for a part. … We are often reminded of the two men who stole the leg of mutton; one could swear he had not got it, the other that he had not taken it. … The answer of the owner of the leg of mutton is sometime to the point, ‘Well, gentlemen, all I can say is, there is a rogue between you.’”

Augustus De Morgan, Formal Logic: or, the Calculus of Inference, Necessary ad Probable (London: Taylor and Walton, 1847), 270.


alpha. The presupposition must be not only unwarranted but also objectionable to the respondent because as Lauri Karttunen, David Lewis, and Robert Stalnaker point out presuppositions are introduced often in conversational contexts and are usually accepted once the previously unspoken assumption is accommodated. Stalnaker writes, “Accommodation is an essential feature of any communicative practice. If common ground is (at least close to) common belief, then it will adjust and change in the face of manifest events that take place, including events that are themselves speech acts.” Robert Stalnaker, Context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 58. doi 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199645169.001.0001] See also Lauri Karttunen, “Presupposition and Linguistic Context,” Theoretical Linguistics 1 no. 1-3 (1974), 191. doi 10.1515/thli.1974.1.1-3.181" and David Lewis, “Scorekeeping in a Language Game,” Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 no. 1 (January 1979), 340. doi 10.1007/bf00258436"

Presuppositional failure occurs when the question implies its truth but it is false instead. Not all cases of false presupposition in complex questions are unwarranted; those that are are termed “catastropic if fallacious.“ See Stephen Yablo writes, “Failure is catastrophic if it prevents a thing from performing its primary task, in this case making an (evaluable) claim.”, Stephen Yablo, “Non-Catastropic Presupposition Failure,” in Content and Modality: Themes from the Philosophy of Robert Stalnaker eds. Judith Thomson and Alex Byrne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 164. doi 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199266487.003.0012" In sum, since a many-questions fallacy has no direct answer because of its failure of reference, the question fails in its purpose.

1. By way of illustration, from an empirical study of the multiple ways questions function for speakers in casual conversation, Alice F. Freed states:

“The taxonomy developed illustrates how questions vary along an information continuum; those which seek factual information, characterized as public information, are situated at one end of the continuum; at the other end are questions which are the expressive choice of the speaker, and communicate rather than elicit information.
Alice F. Freed, “The Form and Function of Questions in Informal Dyadic Conversation, Journal of Pragmatics 21 no. 6 (June, 1994), 625. doi: 10.1016/0378-2166(94)90101-5

aa. Plato Euthyd., 275d. trans. W.H.D. Rouse. doi: 10.1515/9781400835867

a1. Morris R. Cohen and Ernest Nagel, An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1946), 380. Preview

a2. Cal Thomas, “Kathleen Sebelius: Scapegoat,” Index-Journal 95 no. 329 (April 17, 2014), 8A.

a3. Much of the literature of the Amsterdam School and other dialogical interpretations of the complex question fallacy assume that “the fallacy of many questions occurs in argumentative interactions between two or more discussants.” Quite so, but many occurrences of the fallacy are present in disparate discursive contexts. The quotation is an excerpt from pragma-dialectical theorists Roosmaryn Pilgram and Leah E. Polcar in “Questioning the Fallacy of Many Questions,” in Proceedings of the Sixth Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation eds. F.H. van Eemeren et al. (Amsterdam: Sic Sat, 2007), 1062. Persistent Identifier: urn: nbn:nl:ui:29-407602

a4. Nuel Belnap, Jr. and T. Steel, Jr. The Logic of Questions and Answers (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale, 1976), 111. Here's an example of pragmatic relations in a erotetic situation.

1. Analyzing informal fallacies by means of differing nonclassical logics results in an unsystematic theory of philosophy. As Frans H. van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst state, “This approach amounts to applying an appropriate logical system in analyzing a particular fallacy.… For practical purposes this approach is not very realistic. In order to be able to carry out the analyses, a considerable amount of logical knowledge is required … one only gets fragmentary descriptions of the various fallacies, and no overall picture of the domain of the fallacies as a whole.” Argumentation, Communication, and Fallacies: A Pragma-Dialectical Perspective (1992, London: Routledge, 2016), 152. doi: 10.4324/9781315538662 (preview)

The introduction here of a few conventions might be beneficial for understanding some terminology in the logic of questions (i.e., erotetic logic):

Questions are studied syntactically, semantically and pragmatically. The foundational issues of semantic and pragmatic accounts of the context of discourse remain contentious.

Syntactical study is the study of interrogatives and their denotation without consideration of their use within a context. Interrogative sentences normally express questions just as declarative sentences normally express statements. Interrogative sentences, as a grammatical formula, can perform other actions than questioning, and questions can be stated without interrogatives. E.g. How questions can function in deductive arguments is discussed in Andrzej Wiśniewski, “The Logic of Questions as a Theory of Erotetic Arguments,” Synthese 109 no. 1 (October, 1996) 1-25. doi: 10.1007/bf00413820

The semantical study of questions deals with the content and meaning of questions, their grammar and syntax, rather than consideration their form or their implied meaning. Robert Stalnaker regards “semantics to be the study of propositions,” in particular, their truth conditions. [Robert N. Stalnaker, Context and Content: Essays on Intentionality in Speech and Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 32. doi: 10.1093/0198237073.001.0001 And Stalnaker, &ldquo:Context” (2014), 23. ] Jerrold J. Katz writes semantics consists in “ taking senses or meaning, as they present themselves in our ordinary linguistic experience, to be the proper objects of study ….” (italics original) [Jerrold J. Katz, “Common Sense in Semantics,” Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 23 no.2 (April 1982), 174. doi: 10.1305/ndjfl/1093883626

Question pragmatics attends to the use, contextual interpretation, and conveyed meaning of questions by users of language. Pragmatics are based on semantics. Essential to the logical analysis of questions is the notion of a true, direct answer; otherwise, even though a reply can be given, the question is not answerable. Consequently, a question without a direct answer is not considered a legitimate question. Questions with false presuppositions or non-existent entities are not meaningless and are still considered questions. Nuel Belnap and T. Steel point out that asking a question with a false presupposition is “very much like making a false statement.” They note that the notion of question-presupposition must differ somewhat from the usual concepts for sentence-presupposition:

“A question,q, presupposes a statement, A, if and only if the truth of A is a logically necessary condition for there being some true answer to q.”
By this analysis, the complex question …
Have you stopped beating your spouse?
can be a proper question, i.e., a question with true, direct answers of either “You have stopped beating your spouse” or “You have not stopped beating your spouse,” given the truth of the presupposition “You used to beat your spouse.” The situational context under which the question is asked are pragmatic conditions involving dependent presuppositions (not the unique presupposition of the question) and include “You are married“ and “You used to beat someone.” [Belnap, Logic of Questions, 108-15.]

Belnap also proposes that “a sentence expresses the presupposition of a question if its truth is both necessary and sufficient for the question's having some true answer,” so “a question[is] ‘true’ just when some direct answer thereto is true.” Nuel D. Belnap, Jr., “Questions, Answers, and Presuppositions,” Journal of Philosophy Vol. 63 no. 20 (October 27, 1966), 610-611. doi: 10.2307/2024255

As an improper question, there is no true, direct answer. Instead of an answer, replies are such as “I am not married, so there is no spouse to beat” or “I am married and I have never beaten anyone” are possible. So, the reply in this case is an explanation why there is no answer to the question. There is no true, direct answer to the complex question. The kind of fallacy, then, can be viewed as unreasonably leading the respondant to an improper conclusion from imposed, restricted “premises.”. Very often recognition of the pragmatic implications of a complex question are essential in its analysis. The pragmatic circumstances under which a question is posed can be the determining factors of its fallaciousness. Since, following Belnap and Steel, there is no correct or true answer to a complex question, C.L. Hamblin's objection to David Harrah's or Henry S. Leonard's analyses that questions are not statements does not pose a problem for this manner of viewing complex questions since these theories describe direct questions only. Hamblin writes, “[T]he difference between questions and statements is at least in part pragmatic, whence we should find it in the difference between the pragmatic implications of an act of question-asking and an act of statement-making.” C.L. Hamblin, “Questions Aren't Statements,” Philosophy of Science 30 no. 1 (January, 1963), 63. DOI: 10.1086/287913

1.1 Mikael Sundström and Anders Sigrell, “The Doughnut Fallacy as Deliberative Failure,” Cogency 3 no 1 (Winter, 2011), 151. Randal Marlin describes his experience with a yes-no question during cross-examination:

“Our community association was fighting (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) a proposed seat expansion to Lansdowne Park Stadium, which is in our area. We had presented a petition of 2,000 signatures opposing the expansion to the Ontario Municipal Board. The grapevine had alerted me to the fact that the Ottawa Rough Riders (a team in the professional Canadian Football League) had sent an opposing petition to all Rough Riders season ticket subscribers. In the witness box during the OMB hearing I was asked by the Rough Riders' lawyer: ‘Are you aware that there was another petition that obtained 8,000 signatures in favour of the seat expansion?” If I answered ‘Yes’ I would have appeared to be confirming numbers that I had no knowledge of, and discrediting my own petition to boot so far as numbers were concerned. If I answered ‘No’ I would merely have seemed factually ignorant, or perhaps suppressing knowledge of a petition whose existence I did not wish to face.”
Randal Marlin, “The Rhetoric of Action Description: Ambiguity in Intentional Reference,” Informal Logic 6 no. 3 (1984), 29. doi: 10.22329/il.v6i3.2737

1.2. Eugene Robinson, ” Over-the-Top Victims,” Index-Journal 95 no. 257 (February 2, 2014), 8A.

1.3. Thomas Sowell, “ Random Thoughts On the Passing Scene,” Index-Journal 97 No. 14 (March 5, 2015), 6A.

1.3a. In accordance with the U. S. laws of evidence in the 19th century, such questions were lawful in cross-examination:

“When a witness is cross-examined, he may … be asked any questions which tend … [t]o shake his credit, by injuring his character. (And to this end … his interest, his motives, his way of life, his associations, his habits, his prejudices, his physical defects and infirmities, his mental idiosyncrasies, if they affect his capacity … (Com. v. Shaw, 4 Cush. (Mass.) 593.) He may be compelled to answer any such question, however irrelevant it may be to the facts in issues, and however disgraceful the answer may be to himself, except in the case of self-incrimination).”
James Fitzjames Stephen, A Digest of the Law of Evidence 3rd. ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1877), 185.

aa3. Plato, Prot. 330c, trans. W.K.C. Guthrie.

aa4. “The error of assigning to something a quality or action which can only properly be assigned to things of another category ….” Angus Stevenson, ed., “Category [entry],” Oxford Dictionary of English 3rd. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 275.

aa4. Plato, Gorg., 502e–503a, trans. W.D. Woodhead.

aa1. Suitable paraphrases for the same question given in an interrogative sentence can be expressed using an imperative or a declarative sentence. Consider the following example:

Interrogative: When did you start so many atrocious habits?
Imperative: Tell me when you started so many atrocious habits.
Declarative: I want to know when you started so many atrocious habits.
The varieties of questions include many question-types, so this guide is only suggestive. Differing catalogs of question-types are provided by Mary Prior and Arthur Prior, “Erotetic Logic,” Philosophical Review 64 no. 1 (January, 1955), 58-63. doi: 10.2307/2182232; Greg P. Kearsley, “Questions and Question Asking in Verbal Discourse: A Cross-Disciplinary Review,” Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 5 no. 4 (October, 1976), 365-375. doi: 10.1007/BF01079934; Nuel Belnap and T. Steel, The Logic of Questions; David Harrah, The Logic of Questions in D. Gabbay and F. Guenther eds. 2nd. ed. Handbook of Philosophical Logic (Dordrecht: Springer Science, 2002), 716; and many others.

Confusion about the meaning of presuppositions in a complex questions are often due to syntactical ambiguity in their interpretation. This point was recognized early on by Aristotle as he wrote, “Fallacies connected with the union of several questions in one are due to our failure to differentiate or distinguish the definition of the term ‘proposition.’ For a proposition is a single predication about a single subject. … If, therefore, a man has given an answer as though to a single question, there will be a refutation … for we fail accurately to carry out the definition of ‘proposition’” [Arist. Soph. Re., 169a 6-8, 14-18; 169b 16-18 trans. Forster.]

Some problematic presuppositions are made explicit for complex questions are negative existential statements. For Strawson and others (including Aristotle), the existence of the subject class is a necessary condition of the truth or falsity of statements. [See P.F. Strawson, Introduction to Logical Theory (rpt. 1964 London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1952), 175.] Otherwise, the negative existential statement simply reflects a “confusion” for Aristotle and others taking this approach.

aa2. Jaakko Hintikka explains the possibility of understanding the notion of informal fallacy with respect to fallacy of complex question thusly: “There can be a separate, nonpsychological theory of fallacies [i.e. a theory apart from violations of definitory rules of logic] only so far as fallacies are thought of as strategic mistakes, not violations of the ‘rules of inference’ in logic” [Jaakko Hintikka, Inquiry as Inquiry: A Logic of Scientific Discovery (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer Science+Business Media, 1999) 5. doi: 10.1007/978-94-015-9313-7] Traditionally, the fallacy of complex question was not thought to be a fallacy of rhetoric in the sense of a proponent asserting the complex question in the manner of a rhetorical question expecting no reply. Instead, the fallacy was noted by Aristotle and defined in terms of its origin in the oral disputations of cross-examination in the dialectic of the Socratic Schools. As Jaakko Hintikka points out, “[F]or the Aristotle who wrote the Topics and De Sophisticis Elenchis … what we now call logical inferences were merely a species of question-answer steps.” [Jaakko Hintikka, “What Was Aristotle Doing in His Early Logic,Anyway? A Reply to Woods and Hansen” Synthese 113 no. 2 (November, 1997), 241. doi: 10.1007/1-4020-2041-4_11]

With Richard Whately's assumption of “the Fallacy of Interrogation” occurring in written argumentation (rather than in question-and-answer oral disputation) in the early 19th century, the fallacy became no longer viewed in many logic textbooks as an inference error per se but a fallacy of ambiguity. [Richard Whatley, Elements of Logic 2nd. ed. (London: W. Clowes, 1827), 162-4. ] On this transition see also Edward Poste, Aristotle on Fallacies or the Sophistici Elenchi with a Translation and Notes (London: Macmillan and Co., 1866), 160.

A. Examples such as this one perhaps illustrate why courses in symbolic logic do not seem to help much for facility in the logic of questions. Although this example seems to make sense from the standpoint formal logic, it does not seem to pass the test of conversational implication. Classically, Menexenus provided such an account.[Diogenes Laërtius, The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers trans. C.D. Younge (London: George Bell and Sons, 1901),109]. A similar account outlined by John Woods, et al. appears to say in response to a disjunction such as this one that “Eliciting this answer does the questioner no good. It gives him no information as to whether I now have bad habits or whether I ever did. …[A] ‘no’ answer still does the respondent no dialectical harm whatsoever.” [John Woods, et al., Argument: Critical Thinking Logic and the Fallacies 2nd. ed. (Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004), 55]. It might be supposed that since the question, “Have you left off you bad habits” means …

(1) “Have you had bad habits?” and
(2) “If you have had bad habits, have you left them off?”
… that the answer “Neither” avoids the problem of a false presupposition, but this answer would be judged non-responsive in use. Aulus Gellius replies to an answer like this that “[O]ne need not answer catch questions.” Aulus Gellius, Noctium Atticarum ed. John C. Rolfe, (1927), Bk. 16, II. The Perseus Catalog]. P.T. Geach's analysis shows how an answer along the lines explained by Menexenus and John Woods, and others, would simply be “out of place.” [P.T. Geach, “ Russell's Theory of Descriptions,” Analysis 10 no. 4 (March, 1950), 84-86. doi: 10.2307/3326446]. Mary and Arthur Prior write with respect to a similar example, the answer of “Neither … would be a correction of the question rather than an answer to it. With a false antecedent, there is no proper question present. If the interrogative were to be evaluated in accordance with material implication, the conditional would always be evaluated as true regardless of any consequent being provided. Thus, the form of the statement to which (2) applies is not a material conditional. See Mary Prior and Arthur Prior, “Erotetic Logic,” The Philosophical Review 64 no. 1 (January, 1955), 51-4.

A1. See Nicholas Rescher, Paradoxes: Their Roots, Range, and Resolution (Chicago: Open Court, 2001), 140.

William and Mary Kneale, The Development of Logic (1962 Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 114.

A2. Robert Stalnaker, Context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 54-55. I.e., semantic presupposition is computed from the meanings of the parts of complex sentences, and truth functional connectives here prove to be problematic. Pragmatic presupposition involves the shared background assumptions of the persons in dialogue. Lauri Karttunen states, “[O]rdinary discourse is not always fully explicit … I think we can maintain that a sentence is always taken to be an increment to a context that satisfies its presuppositions. If the current conversational context does not suffice, the listener is entitled and expected to extend it as required. Lauri Karttunen, “Presupposition and Linguistic Context,” Theoretical Linguistics 1 no. 1-3 (1974), 191. DOI: 10.1515/thli.1974.1.1-3.181.

A2a. Donald Davidson, “Truth and Meaning,” Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation: Philosophical Essays (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), 32. doi: 0.1093/0199246297.003.0002

A3. Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen, “Knowing the Answer to a Loaded Question,” Theoria 81 no. 2 (February 2015), 107. doi 10.1111/theo.12045 A presupposition is not an entailment; usually a complex question implies its presupposition is true. Strictly speaking, presuppositions are not made by sentences, but are made by speakers. Bart Geurts writes, “[W]henever it is said that sentence φ presupposes that χ, what is actually meant is that normally speaking a speaker who utters χ would thereby commit himself to the presupposition that χ is true.” Bart Geurts, “Presupposition and Givenness,” in The Oxford Handbook of Pragmatics ed. Yan Huang (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 182. doi 0.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697960.013.21

A3a. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosiphicus (1921 London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961), ¶ 6.51.

B. Nuel D. Belnap, Jr. and Thomas B. Steel, Jr. The Logic of Questions and Answers (New Haven: Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1976), 87.

Aal. Jaakko Hintikka, “The Fallacy of Fallacies,” Argumentation 1 no. 3 (September, 1987), 224. A U.S. Army field manual defines this type of question differently; “Leading questions are questions that are constructed so a to require a yes or no answer rather than a narrative response.” Yes-no type questions are usually to be avoided in interrogation since they make deceit more likely. [Army, Human Intelligence, 9.4

ArF. Arist. Soph. El. 30 181b4–8 trans. Poste. [Aristotle, Aristotle on Fallacies: Or The Sophistici Elenchi trans. Edward Poste (London: Macmillan and Co., 1866), 83.] The fallacy of many questions in Aristotle's De Sophisticis Elenchis is not viewed by him specifically as a mistaken inference — the fallacy lies in the confusion when “several questions are united as one.” Arist. 7 Soph.El. 6 169b14.

ArF1. More precisely, he writes, “If one does not make two questions into one then the fallacy which depends on equivocation and ambiguity would not exist …” Arist. Soph. El.17 175a, trans. Forster. Aristotle discusses the many questions fallacy in these passages: Soph. El. 5 (167b38–168a17), 6 (169a6–18), 7 (169b13–17), 17 (175b39–176a19), and 30.

ArF2. Arist. Soph. E. 8 173a–175, trans. Poste. Aristotle writes, “Fallacies connected with the union of several questions in one are due to our failure to differentiate or distinguish the definition of the term ‘proposition.’ for a proposition is a single predication about a single subject.” [Soph. El. 6 169a, trans. Forester].

ArF2a. Example adapted from Ran Canetti, ed., Theory of Cryptography: Fifth Theory of Cryptography Conference (Berlin: Springer, 2008), 504.

ArF3. Kelly W. Saunders, “Informal Fallacies in Legal ArgumentationSouth Carolina Law Review 4 4 Rev.343 (1992-1993), 372.

ArF3.1. Headquarters, Department of the Army, FM 2-22.3 Human Intelligence Collector Operations (6 September 2006), 9-4.

ARF3.2 Henry Tyrell, The History of the War with Russia (London: London Printing and Publishing Company, 1857) II: 94.

ArF4.1. Douglas Walton, “Judging How Heavily a Question Is Loaded: A Pragmatic Method,” 17 no. 2 Inquiry (Winter, 1997), 60. doi: 10.5840/inquiryctnews199717228

ArF4-2. Douglas Walton, “The Fallacy of Many Questions: On the Notions of Complexity, Loadedness and Unfair Entrapment in Interrogative Theory, ” 13 Argumentation (1999), 381. Cory S. Clements explains, “When an investigator uses loaded language to question an eyewitness immediately after an event, the cognitive bias of suggestibility makes the eyewitness's account prone to distortion. This is particularly true after a highly traumatic event because the eyewitness's emotional levels are already aroused. Investigators may feel they are attempting to help the eyewitness to recall the event; the truth is that the investigator is helping the eyewitness to reconstruct the event. The formal rules that guard against leading questions in the court room cannot prevent an interviewer on the scene from inadvertently changing the witness's memory. 355. Cory S. Clements, “Perception and Persuasion in Legal Argumentation: Using Informal Fallacies and Cognitive Biases to Win the War of Words,” 2013 no.2 article 9 (May, 2013) BYU Law Review 357.

ArF4a. Wendy A. Schweigert, Research Methods in Psychology 3rd. ed. (Waveland Press, 2011), 205.

Ar5F.1 Joseph McCarthy, “‘Enemies from Within’ Speech Delivered in Wheeling, West Virginia (1950),” University of Texas at Austin Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts & Ideas

lq. L.B. Curzon and P.H. Richards, The Longman Dictionary of Law 7th ed. (1979 Harlow, England: Pearson Education Ltd., 2007), 342.

FP. John Leechman Logic: Designed as an Introduction to the Study of Reasoning 4th ed. (1842 London: William Allan & Co., 1864), 117

1. Thomas A. Mauet, Trial Techniques and Trials, 10th ed. (New York: Wolters Kluwer, 2017), 137. “[C]ourts will permit leading questions on direct examination in cases involving children as witnesses or where the inquiry is directed at delicate topics such as sexual matters, where a witness may have difficulty testifying the the absence of prompting leading questions.” [Jefferson L. Ingram, Criminal Evidence 12th ed.(New York: Elsevier, 2015), 310.] Complex or compound questions would not be allowed.

1aa. Jaakko Hintikka, “Semantics and Pragmatics for Why-Questions,” Journal of Philosophy 92 no. 12 (December, 1995), 636.

Lawrence H. Powers, “Equivocation” in Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings eds. Hans V. Hansen and Robert C. Pinto (University Park, PA: University of Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995),289.

1a. Charles Hamblin, Fallacies (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1970), 39. Hamlin notes that most questions, not just complex questions, involve presuppositions which have need of different kinds of answers.

1a1. Gilbert Ryle, “The Academy and Dialectic,” in Critical Essays: Collected Papers Vol. 1 (1971 London: Routledge, 2009), 121.

Jaakko Hintikka, “The Fallacy of Fallacies,” 225. doi: 10.1007/bf00136775

1b. Douglas Walton, Logical Dialogue-Games and Fallacies (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc.: 1984), 33.

1b1. For example: Max Black, Critical Thinking (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1946). Wesley Salmon, Logic (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1963). Trudy Grovier, A Practical Study of Argument (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010).

1b1a''. Hamblin, 217, and Gerald Gazdar, Pragmatics: Implicature, Presupposition, and Logical Form (New York: Academic Press, 1979), 26.

1b1a''. New Church General Conference, Intellectual Repository for the New Church(London: General Conference of the New Church, 1871) 473.

1b1a. Diogenes Laërtius, Lives, 98.

1b2. Bertrand Russell, “On Denoting,” Mind 14 no. 56 (October, 1905), 489-490. doi: 10.1093/mind/xiv.4.479

1b2a. P.F. Strawson, “On Referring,” Mind 59 no. 235 (July, 1950), 320-344. doi: 10.1093/mind/lxviii.272.539

1b3. P.F. Strawson, “Singular Terms and Predication,” The Journal of Philosophy 58 no. 15 (20 July 1961), 397.doi: 10.2307/2023052

1b4. P.F. Strawson, “A Reply to Mr. Sellars,” Philosophical Review 63 no. 2(April, 1954, 216-231. doi: 10.2307/2182347

Anne Bezuidenhout, “Presupposition Failure and the Assertive Enterprise,” Topoi 35 no. 1 (30 November 2014), 24. doi 10.1007/s11245-014-9265-4

1b5. Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers (Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1959), 297.

1b6. Hamblin, Fallacies, Copi, 7th ed. Introduction to Logic ************

1b7. This might be what Carl Prantl is indicating when he writes, “[H]hier handelt es sich darum, zu zeigen, dass die Verdindung eines verinzelten Begriffes (z.B. des Habens) mit den oft unzahlig verschiedened Bezierhungen, in welche er treten kann, ur Verwirrung bringe, und also nur das je einzelne Stattfinden einer einzelnen solchen Verbindung eine Sicherheit gew√§hre.“ Carl Prantl,Geschichte der Logik im Abendlande (Leipzig: Verlag Von S. Hirzel, 1855), 53.

1b8. Diogenes Laërtius, Lives 41. For a contemporary account, Samuel Wheeler analyzes how the horns-example “is the problem of accounting for intuitions about presupposition in two-valued logic.” Samuel C. Wheeler III, “Megarian Paradoxes as Eleatic Arguments,” American Philosophical Quarterly 20 no. 3 (July, 1983), 290-291.doi: 10.2307/20014009

1b9. Douglas D. Walton and Erik C. W. Krabbe, Commitment in Dialogue: Basic Concepts of Interpersonal Reasoning (New York: State University of New York, 1995), 180.

1b10. Frans H. van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst, Argumentation, Communication, and Fallacies: A Pragma-Dialectical Perspective (1992 London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2016), 214.doi: 10.4324/9781315538662

1b11. Jaakko Hintikka, “The Fallacy of Fallacies,” Argumentation 1 no. 3 (September, 1987), 225.

1c. Jeff Nance, Conquering Deception (Kansas City: Irvin-Benham, 2004), 131.

1ca. Adapted from Zachariah Atwell Mudge, Witch Hill: A History of Salem Witchcraft (New York: Carlton & Lanahan, 1870), 85-86.

2. Irvin D. Yalom, The Gift of Therapy (New York: Harper Perennial, 2009), 140.

3. Hereward Carrington, Modern Psychical Phenomena (New York: Dodd, Mean and Company, 1919), 35.

3. Francis Lewis Wellman, The Art of Cross-Examination (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1904), 166.

4. Wellman, 150. But this technique can backfire in some cases: ”To ask a complex question … will give the witness an opportunity to play games. If they can say no to a part of the question, the other parts fall, as well. The correct way to form the cross-examination question, therefore, is to break it up into one fact at a time.” Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin and Stephen Kolodny, The Divorce Trial Manual: From Initial Interview to Closing Argument (Section of Family Law, American Bar Association. 2003), 73.

6. Dana Milbank, “Susan Rice's Tarnished Résumé,” Index-Journal 94 no. 202 (November 20, 2012), 6A.

7. Froma Harrop, “Donald Trump is mentally ill,” Index Journal 98 no. 202 (October 14, 2016), 7A.)

7'. W.D. Wilson, An Elementary Treatise on Logic (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1856), fn 184.

7'a. Arist. Soph. El. 29 181a37–30 181b2, trans. Forster.

7a. Although there is no direct answer to the question, the short reply, “Neither“ would be appropriate if one had no bad habits.

8. Cal Thomas, “Distractions and Diversions,” Index-Journal 94 no. 146 (September 24, 2012), 8A. (The fallacy turns on the contextual assumption that the examples of “presidential tone” listed are not characteristic of the Obama administration.)

8a. Richard Robinson states, “Every question implies a proposition. … A question is fallacious, therefore, when the proposition which it implies is false.” [Richard Robinson, “Plato's Consciousness of Philosophy,” Mind 51 no. 202 (April, 1942), 97-98.] Normally the use of the terms “fallacious question” and “false question” are eschewed in today's logic jargon but is occasionally present in debating texts.

9. Eugene Robinson, “A Disgraceful Exercise In Cruelty,” Index Journal 94 no. 362 (February 1, 2017), 97-98. 9A.

9.1. Thomas A. Mauet, Trial Techniques and Trials, 10th ed. (New York: Wolters Kluwer, 2017), 545.

9.1a. Saunders, Legal Argumentation, 372-373.

9.2. James McCosh, The Laws of Discursive Thought: Being a Text-Book of Formal Logic, (London: Macmillan and Co., 1870), 184.

9.2aaa. “Wagner v. Gilsonite Const. Co.(No. 21163 )” Supreme Court of Missouri, Division No. 1 (April 10, 1920), Southwestern Reporter (May 12 — June 9, 1920) 20 (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1920), 883.

9.2aa. Randolph Quirk, et al. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Longman: London, 1985), 581n (8.97n; 808-810 (11.6-8. The presumptions of conducives usually initially influence the persuasive effect of the question and later can influence the recall of their answers. E.g., see Samuel Fillenbaum, “Recall for answers to “Conducive’ Questions,” Language and Speech 11 no. 1 (January, 1968), 46-53. DOI: 10.1177/002383096801100107.

9.2aa1. Quirk, 814 (11.12).

9.2aa2. Wolfram Bublitz, “Conducive Yes-No Questions,” Lingistics 19 no. 9 (1981), 886. Abstract: DOI: 10.1515/ling.1981.19.9-10.851. Dawn Archer notes in her historical study that “the controlling capacity of question (in the historical courtroom, at least) had more to do with the institutionally/legally inscribed roles of the participants than any inherent characteristic of the question-types themselves.” Dawn Archer, Questions and Answers in the English Courtroom (1640-1760): A Sociopragmatic Analysis>/a> Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2005), 143. Abstract: DOI: 10.1075/pbns.135. See also Richard Kortum's study of the effects of intonation and verbal mood in conducive questions: Varieties of Tone: Frege, Dummett and the Shades of Meaning (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), § 2.18. Gillian Brown et al. points out that using a low terminal tone can produce a conducive question, but ”the resources of intonation are very limited.” Questions of Intonation (1980, London: Routledge, 2015), 36-37. Abstract: DOI: 10.4324/9781315688664.

9.2a. George F. Bishop, et al, “Opinions of Fictitious Issues: The Pressure to Answer Survey Questions” The Public Opinion Quarterly 50 no. 2 (Summer, 1986), 240-250. DOI: 10.2307/2748887(preview).

Brian C. Jayne and Joseph P. Buckley, eds, “The Reid Technique,” The Investigator Anthology: A Compilation of Articles and Essays about the Reid Technique of Interviewing and Interrogation, 2nd.ed. (John Reid and Associates, 2004), ch. 1. The Supreme Court held in Bram v. United States (1897), that a confession “must not be … obtained by any direct or implied promises, however slight,” and Bram was cited in the landmark Miranda v. Arizona(1966) with the rejection of the Reid Technique which, according to the court, uses tactics that:

… are designed to put the subject in a psychological state where his story is but an elaboration of what the police purport to know already — that he is guilty.”
But this ruling was short-lived, and the Bram decision was held to “not state the standard for determinimg the voluntariness of a confession. ” [Saul M. Kassin, et al, “Police-Induced Confessions; Risk Factors and Recommendations,” Law and Human Behavior 34 no. 1 (February, 2010), 12. Abstract: DOI: 0.1007/s10979-009-9188-6..

A justification for using the “alternative question” is offered by Fred E. Inbau, et al:
“A defense attorney may criticize the use of an alternative question, arguing that the investigator offered his client only two choices and this his client was forced to incriminate himself. The investigator should explain that the defendant had three possible choices. He could have accepted either one of the alternatives presented or as happens frequently, reject them both.
Fred E. Inbau, et al, “The Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation,” Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 5th. ed. ( Chicago,: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013), 294.

9.2b. Arthur Sterngold, et. al., “Do Surveys Overstate Public Concerns?,” The Public Opinion Quarterly 58 no. 2 (Summer, 1994), 256. Abstract: DOI: 10.1086/269421

9.2c Donald S. Tull and Del I. Hawkins, Marketing Research: Measurement and Method (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1984), 379.

9.2cl. Stanley Le Baron Payne, The Art of Asking Questions (Princeton, New Jersey, 1951), 100-102.

9.2d. Howard Schuman and Stanley Presser, Questions and Answers in Attitude Surveys (London: Sage Publications Inc., 1996), 298-299.

9.2d1. Rohde Hannah, “Rhetorical Questions as Redundant Interrogatives,” San Diego Linguistic Papers, 2 (accessed October 16, 2008)

9.2d2. E.g., see the summary provided by Daniel J. Howard, “Rhetorical Questions Effects of Message Processing and Persuasion: The Role of Information Availability and the Elicitation of Judgment,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 26 no. 3 (May, 1990), 217-239. Abstract: DOI: 10.1016/0022-1031(90)90036-L

9.2e. Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum, et al, A University Grammar of English (London: Longan, 1973), 200, and Quirk, Comprehensive 826 (11.23

9.2f. Anita Shirm, “The Role of Questions in Talk Shows,” in Advances in Discourse Approaches, ed. Marta Dynel (Newcastle on Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 166.

9.2fa. E.g., see the “General Discussion” in Kevin L. Blankenship and Traci Y. Craig, “Rhetorical Question Use and Resistence to Persuasion: an Attitude Strength Analysis,” Journal of Language and Social Psychology 25 no. 2 (June, 2006) 111-128. Abstract: DOI: 10.1177/0261927X06286380.

9.2fb. Dana Milbank, “ Trump Rams Greatness Down Our Throats,” Index Journal 99 no. 286 (29 December, 2017), 8A.

9.2fc. Kathleen Parker, “Dissecting Hillary,” Index-Journal 94 no. 227 (March 24, 2013), 11A.

9.2'.Plato, Gorg. 466b–c, trans. W.D. Woodhead.

9.2f1. Payne, “Art of Asking Questions,” 8-9.

9.2f1'. Elizabeth F. Loftus and Guido Zanni, “Eyewitness Testimony: The Influence of he Wording of a Question,” Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 5 no. 1 (1975), 86-88.

9.2f1a.Danny Weathers, Subhash Sharma, and Ronald W. Niedrich, “The Impact of the Number of Scale points, Dispositional Factors, and the Status Quo Decision heuristic on Scale Reliability and Response Accuracy” Journal of Business Research 58 no. 11 (November, 2005), 1516-1524. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2004.08.002 and Madhubalan Viswanathan, Seymour Sudman, and Michael Johnson, “Maximum versus Meaningful Discrimination in Scale Response: Implications for Validity of Measurement of Consumer Perceptions About Products,” Journal of Business Research 57 no. 2 (February, 2004), 108-124. doi: 10.1016/s0148-2963(01)00296-x

9.2f2. Michael A. Genovese and Matthew J. Streb, Polls and Politics: The Dilemmas of Democracy (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York, 2004), 102-103.

9.2f2a. H. Sacks, “On the Preferences for Agreement and Contiguity in Sequences in Conversation” in Talk and Social Organisation eds. Graham Button and John R.E. Lee (Clevedon,England: Multilingual Matters), 54-69.

9.2f2b. Ray Wilkinson, “Changing Interactional Behaviour: Using Conversation Analysis in Intervention Programmes for Aphasic Conversation,” in Applied Conversation Analysis: Intervention and Change in Institutional Talk ed. Charles Antaki (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 19-31. doi: 10.1057/9780230316874_3

9.2f3. “This House Believes Science is a Threat to Humanity,” International Debate Education Association

5. W.H.F. Henry, The Practical Debater: An Outline of Instruction in the Law … (Indianapolis, Ind.: J.E. Sherrill, 1883), 57.

5a. Question taken out of context from “Evolutionary Orgins and Dynamics,” FQEB 2009-2014: Foundational Questions in Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University."

9.2g. Payne, 16.

9.2r. Nikolai Chernyshevsky, “What is to Be Done?,” trans. M. R. Katz and W.G. Wagner (Cornell University Press, 2014), np.

10. Kent Bach, Exit-Existentialism: A Philosophy of Self-Awareness (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1973), 4. The presuppositions to Kent Bach's complex question either suffer from the problem of existential import (his &ldqup;working assumption”) or suffer from the problem of a false dichotomy.

11. Randall W. Forsyth, “This Time, Gold Bugs May Have a Point,” Barron's 43 no. 20 (May 20, 2013), 7. The meta-claim in this passage is intended to provide a reason for the adequacy of the explanation of the high price of the sale of a work of art. Converse accident does not occur since the Pollock painting would be an appropriate example of “all manner of stuff. The false presupposition in this passage is that the explanation provided is the only credible account for the facts provided concerning the sale of Pollock's painting.”

12. Vernon Howard, The Mystic Path of Cosmic Power (Nottingham, U.K.: New Life Foundation, 1999), 64.

13. “Up Against the Wall,” Wall Street Journal 165 (June 18, 1979), 22.

14. Cynthia Gibas and Per Jambeck, Developing Bioinformatics Computer Skills (Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly & Associates, 2001), 38.

15. John E. Kelly III and Steve Hamm, Smart Machines: IBM's Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 1.

16. Frank Caplan, The Second Twelve Months of Life (New York: Random House, 1982), 188.

17. Wall Street Journal vol. 166 (February 25, 1980), 1.

18. Mona Charen, “Capitalism Did It,” Index-Journal 94 no. 98 (August 7, 2012), 6A.

19. Paul Lindeberg, "Mailbag," Barron's 92 no. 31 (July 30, 2012), 34.

20. I. D'Israeli, The Quarrels of Authors (London: John Murray, 1814), 341.

21. Dana Milbank, “More Substance, Less Mitt,” Index-Journal 94 no. 146 (September 24, 2012), 8A.

22. Attributed to Plutarch quoted in Francis Bacon, Apophthegms in The Works of Francis Bacon ed. Basil Montagu (Philadelphia: Parry & McMillan, 1859), Vol. I, 109.

23. Yalom, 140.

24. Chad Karnes, “Mailbag: Over the Cliff,” Barron's 92 no. 48 (November 26, 2012), 46.

25. Paul Lindberg, “The End is Near,” Barron's 92 No. 31 (July 30, 2012), 34.

26. Cokie and Steve Roberts, “Women Have Seen This Trump Before,” Index-Journal 98 no. 192 (October 4, 2016), 6A.

27. Eugene Robinson, “The Age of Trump: Governing by Tantrum,” Index-Journal 98 no. 310 (February 8, 2017), 8A.

Readings: Complex Question; Many Questions

Dawn Archer, Questions and Answers in the English Courtroom (1640-1760): A Sociopragmatic Analysis (John Benjamins Publishing, 2005). doi: 0.1075/pbns.135

Angeliki Athanasiadou, “The Discourse Function of Questions,” revised ed. of paper 9th World Congress of Applied Linguistics, April 15-21 1990, Halkidtk, Greece.

D.I. Beaver and B. Geurts, “Presupposition,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Nuel D. Belnap, Jr., “Questions, Answers, and Presuppositions,” The Journal of Philosophy 63 no. 20 (27 October 1966), 609-611. doi: 0.2307/2024255

Susanne Bobzien, “How to Give Someone Horns. Paradoxes of Presupposition in Antiquity,” Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy 15 (2012), 159-184. Also available in the Special Issue: “Fallacious Arguments in Ancient Philosophy,” Christof Rapp and Pieter Sjoerd Hasper, eds. Analysis and History of Philosophy / Philosophiegeschichte und logische Analyse 15 (Münster, Germany: Springer-Verlag Gmbh, 2013), 159-184.

Marie Duži and Martina Čihalová, “Questions, Answers and Presuppositions,” Computaciō y Sistemas 19 no. 4 (2015), 647-659. doi: 10.13053/CyS-19-4-2327

Angela D. Evans, et al., “Complex Questions Asked by Defense Lawyers But Not Prosecutors Predicts Convictions in Child Abuse Trials,” Law and Human Behavior 33 no. 3(June, 2009), 258-264. 10.1007/s10979-008-9148-6

Frank Fair, “The Fallacy of Many Questions: Or, How to Stop Beating Your Wife,” The Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 4 no. 1 (Spring 1973), 89-92. doi:10.5840/swjphil19734111

C.L. Hamblin, “Questions,” in Encyclopedia of Philosophy ed. P. Edwards (New York: Macmillan:, 1967) 7:49-53.

Hamblin, Charles, Fallacies (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1970), 38-40, 73-77.

Hans Vilhelm Hansen, “The Straw Thing of Fallacy Theory: The Standard Definition of ‘Fallacy,’Argumentation 16 no. 2 (2002), 133-155.doi: 10.1023/a:1015509401631

David Harrah, “The Logic of Questions,” in D. Gabbay and F. Guenther eds. 2nd. ed. Handbook of Philosophical Logic (Dordrecht: Springer Science, 2002), 8: 1-60. doi: 10.1007/978-94-009-6259-0_12

Jaakko Hintikka, “The Fallacy of Fallacies,” 211-238. doi: 10.1007/bf00136775 and “The Fallacy of Fallacies,”in Analyses of Aristotle (Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2004), 193-218. doi: 10.1007/1-4020-2041-4_13"

Jaakko Hintikka and Ilpo Halonen, “Semantics and Pragmatics for Why-QuestionsJournal of Philosophy 92 no. 12 (December, 1995), 636-657. doi: 10.2307/2941100 and “ Semantics and Pragmatics for Why-Questions,” Inquiry as Inquiry: A Logic of Scientific Discovery (Dordrecht: Springer Science, 1999), 183-204. doi: 10.1007/978-94-015-9313-7_9

Peter Charles Hoffer, “Historians and the Loaded Question,” The Historians/ Paradox: The Study of History in Our Time (New York: New York University Press, 2008), 52-64.

Roosmaryn Pilgram and Leah E. Polcar, “Questioning the Fallacy of Many Questions,” in Proceedings of the Sixth Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation eds. F.H. van Eemeren et al. (Amsterdam: Sic Sat, 2007), 1059-1064. Persistent Identifier:urn:nbn:nl:ui:29-407602

Stanley L. Payne, The Art of Asking Questions (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1951).

Asbjøn Steglich-Petersen, “Knowing the Answer to a Loaded Question,” Theoia 81 no. 2 (February, 2014): 97-125. doi: 10.1111/theo.12045

Richard Robinson, “Plato's Consciousness of Fallacy,” Mind 51 no. 202 (April 1942), 97-114. DOI:10.2307/2250768

Jügen Schmidt-Radefeldt, “On So-Called ‘Rhetorical’ Questions,” Journal of Pragmatics 1 no. 4 ( December, 1977), 375-392. DOI: 10.1016/0378-2166(77)90029-7

Asbjøn Steglich-Petersen, “Knowing the Answer to a Loaded Question,” Theoia 81 no. 2 (February, 2014): 97-125. doi: 10.1111/theo.12045

Douglas Walton, “Critical Faults and Fallacies of Questioning,” Journal of Pragmatics 15 no. 4 (April 1991), Berlin: (Walter de Gruyter, 1988), 337-366. doi:10.1016/0378-2166(91)90035-V

Douglas Walton, “The Fallacy of Many Questions,” Logique et Analyse 24 no. 95/96 (Septembre-Décembre 1981), 291-313. See also:

Douglas Walton, “The Fallacy of Many Questions On the Notions of Complexity, Loadedness and Unfair Entrapment in Interrogative Theory,” Argumentation 13 no. 4 (November 1999), 379-383. doi:10.1023/a:1007727929716

Douglas Walton, “Judging How Heavily a Question is Loaded: A Pragmatic Method,” Inquiry 17 no. 2 (Winter, 1997), 53-71. 10.5840/inquiryctnews199717228>

Douglas Walton, Logical Dialogue-Games and Fallacies (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc.: 1984), 27-33.

Douglas N. Walton, “Question-Asking Fallacies,” in Questions and Questioning, ed. Michel Meyer (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1988), 195-221. doi: 10.1515/9783110864205.195

Andrzej Wísniewski, “The Logic of Questions as a Theory of Erotetic Arguments,” Synthese 109 no. 1 (October, 1996), 1-25. doi: 10.1007/bf00413820

Rachel Zajac and Harlene Hayne, “I Don't Think That's What Really Happened: The Effect of Cross-examination on the Accuracy of Children's Reports,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 9 no. 3 (2003), 187-195. doi: 10.1037/1076-898x.9.3.187

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