Argumentum ad baculum

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Argumentum ad baculum ("argument from force") is the fallacy committed when one appeals to force or the threat of force to bring about the acceptance of a claim.

Examples

  • "Give me all your money or I'll kill you."
  • "If you don't believe in God, you'll go to hell when you die."
  • "If you stop believing in Islam, Sharia law says you must be killed."
  • Chile's national motto "Por la razón o la fuerza" translates as "By right or might"

Counterarguments

This is an emotional argument, not a logical one. The person making the threat is making no argument for the truth of their claim. This fallacy is related to the argument from adverse consequences (the adverse consequence in question being punishment).

Since this technique is an attempt to intimidate or frighten the target of the argument, it is a variety of the appeal to emotion.

Today, many people feel uncomfortable making such direct threats as the ones listed in the examples. However, believers still often make veiled threats, such as "don't you ever worry about what'll happen to you when you die?" Others, such as Ray Comfort, have no such problems with it, and explicitly use the argument-in fact, it may be their foremost one. Comfort directly compares it with capital punishment, God having the power to commute the sentence if you will believe and beg forgiveness. This reminds people uncomfortably of Mafia dons or courts in totalitarian states, for instance the Soviet Union or People's Republic of China, which had the mechanism written into their system.

See also

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