Argumentum ad baculum
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The argumentum ad baculum (Latin for "argument to the stick") is a sort of logical fallacy, a variant on argument from adverse consequences, in which the adverse consequences are administered deliberately as a punishment rather than something which follows logically from the premise. This has proven very helpful to certain sectors of society in the past.
The argument takes this form:
- If person A acknowledges proposition X as true / false, then action Y will be taken.
- If Y occurs, A suffers negative consequences.
- Therefore, X is not true / false.
The simple fact that a threat exists is not ad baculum. For example, it is a perfectly reasonable argument to say that jumping into an active volcano is a bad idea because the person who does so will be horribly killed, because the speaker is not threatening to horribly kill the person they are speaking to.
A modified form of the argument was otherwise known as the Inquisitorial Question, and took this form:
- If person A denies being a heretic, then we will torture A.
- Therefore, A is a heretic.
It proved very useful for getting almost all the Inquisition's targets to admit they were heretics.