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Appeal to Force

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argumentum ad baculum

(also known as: argument to the cudgel, appeal to the stick)

Description:  When force, coercion, or even a threat of force is used in place of a reason in an attempt to justify a conclusion.

Logical Form:

If you don’t accept X as true, I will hurt you.

Example #1:

Melvin: Boss, why do I have to work weekends when nobody else in the company does?

Boss: Am I sensing insubordination?  I can find another employee very quickly, thanks to Craigslist, you know.

Explanation: Melvin has asked a legitimate question to which he did not get a legitimate answer, rather his question was deflected by a threat of force (as being forced out of his job).

Example #2:

Jordan: Dad, why do I have to spend my summer at Jesus camp?

Dad: Because if you don’t, you will spend your entire summer in your room with nothing but your Bible!

Explanation: Instead of a reason, dad gave Jordan a description of a punishment that would happen.

Exception:  If the force, coercion, or threat of force is not being used as a reason but as a fact or consequence, then it would not be fallacious, especially when a legitimate reason is given with the “threat”, direct or implied. 

Melvin: Boss, why do I have to wear this goofy-looking hardhat?

Boss: It is state law; therefore, company policy.  No hat, no job.

Tip: Unless you are an indentured servant (slave) or still living with your parents (slave), do not allow others to force you into accepting something as true.


Jason, G. (1987). The nature of the argumentum ad baculum. Philosophia, 17(4), 491–499. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02381067

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