Argumentum ad baculum

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Cogito ergo sum
Logic and rhetoric
Icon logic.svg
Key articles
General logic
Bad logic

An argumentum ad baculum (Latin: "argument to the stick") is a logical fallacy in which the arguer threatens their debate opponent with real or threatened violent or nonviolent coercion.

As with the appeal to bribery, it is the offer of a pleasant consequence if you go along with the argument.

The fallacy is an appeal to fear, an argument from consequences, and an informal fallacy.

Alternate names[edit]

  • 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.

Legitimate use[edit]

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.


  1. If I don't think the boss is nice, I will be fired.
  2. I don't want to be fired.
  3. Therefore, I will think the boss is nice.

Perhaps the most simple example would be:

  • Believe what I say, or I will hit you.

Spanish Inquisition[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Spanish Inquisition

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[edit]

The actual baculumWikipedia in animal anatomy. As such, this is not "Argument to the penis bone",[note 1] especially since humans lack said bone.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. But you have to admit that would be funny