Argumentum ad baculum
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Logic and rhetoric
As with the appeal to bribery, it is the offer of a pleasant consequence if you go along with the argument.
- appeal to force
- appeal to power
- appeal to bribery
The argument takes this form:
- Accepting X leads to action Y against me.
- I do not want action Y to occur to me.
- Therefore, X is not true / not false.
Y could be anything from torture to the loss of a potential bribe, as long as it's motivational and tied to acceptance of a proposition.
As the argumentum ad baculum is an appeal to consequences, it's not fallacious if the argument is based on avoiding consequences rather than any truth value (such as countering epistemological nihilism):
- P1: If you do X you will suffer punishment Y.
- P2: You don't want to suffer punishment Y.
- C: Therefore you shouldn't do X.
The danger in holding a premise is irrelevant to the truth of that premise. This argument doesn't make any statement as to whether X is right or wrong, or whether punishment Y should follow action X, only that it's probably not something you want to do.
- If I don't think the boss is nice, I will be fired.
- I don't want to be fired.
- Therefore, I will think the boss is nice.
Perhaps the most simple example would be:
- Believe what I say, or I will hit you.
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. It may also have been effective because nobody expected it.
Nothing to do with
- See the Wikipedia article on Argumentum ad baculum.
- Appeal to Bribery, Bruce Thompson
- TvTrope's article on this subject
- But you have to admit that would be funny