Argumentum Ad Baculum

Argumentum ad baculum (Latin: argument to the cudgel or appeal to the stick), also known as "appeal to force", is a FallaciousArgument. It is where force, or the threat of force, is given as an argument for a conclusion.

One participates in argumentum ad baculum when one points out the negative consequences of holding the contrary position. For example, many young people in the United States who opposed the Vietnam War were told that they should not hold such a view, because they would face discrimination from potential employers.

A related fallacy is the claim that one should believe in the validity of the Bible lest God strike you down!

Since the Middle Ages, this form of argument has been identified as a logical fallacy by many philosophers, but pragmatists and others claim not only that it is no fallacy, but rather that many of our beliefs are based on this kind of useful reasoning (example: praying when in danger by atheists, because 'it can't hurt' -- e.g. PascalsWager).

The Argumentum ad baculum is a special case of ArgumentumAdConsequentiam?, or "appeal to consequences".

pragmatists and others claim not only that it is no fallacy..

I agree. Every position has to be considered in context. We need to take a BigPicture view and often has to sacrifice lesser goals or principles. In the example of Vietnam War above, the perceived disadvantage of discrimination in employment has to be weighed against the satisfaction that an important personal principle is upheld. It is a matter of OnlySayThingsThatCanBeHeard

Doesn't matter what your personal position is, it's still logically invalid and therefore a logical fallacy, i.e. you cannot use it in any kind of deductive chain of reasoning. Almost any form of argument, logically valid or no, has a place in rhetoric; ad verecundiam may be used to bolster a proposition for example, but no matter how many PhD's you have behind you, it doesn't make your argument any more sound (in fact, using only one proposition and a fallacy would make the conclusion quite unsound)

Hmm. I think there might be cases where ArgumentumAdBaculum is valid - in the sense of better then the available alternatives. I think it is related to what could be coined ArgumentAdEmotionem?: When all arguments are exhausted and only gut feelings remain there is no rational base to decide. Whose feelings count stronger? How do you measure earnest feelings? Emotions running high may show this (see WhatStrongEmotionsShow). So an example where this kind of argument is valid is: Chaos. When you have no or little order and common ground to appeal to like emergency situations I think it could be on average good for the group if someone forcefully takes the lead. -- GunnarZarncke

Does anyone have a valid example of this argument? To my mind, the examples presented at the top are still fallacious, as is the notion of "If you don't support $some_issue_entirely_unrelated_to_terrorism then you're just like the terrorists!"

It is only "valid" if not used as an argument point - to the extent that a distraction is valid. You can't say "the Vietnam War was right because potential employers supported it"

But if the question is "should I protest against the War on {Drugs|Terrorism|Hugs|Communism|Poverty}?", then a valid answer is "you might have trouble getting a job in a place where you wouldn't generally want to work.

These days, the way the War on the Economy is going, that argument is quite valid!!

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