Argumentum ad baculum

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Argumentum ad baculum or argument from force (a.k.a. appeal to force, scare tactics, or appeal to fear) is the fallacy committed when one appeals to force or the threat of force, causing fear which thus brings about the acceptance of a claim.


  • "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"


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[edit]

v · d Logical fallacies
v · d Formal fallacies
Propositional logic   Affirming a disjunct · Affirming the consequent · Argument from fallacy · False dilemma · Denying the antecedent
Quantificational logic   Existential fallacy · Illicit conversion · Proof by example · Quantifier shift
Syllogistic   Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise · Exclusive premises · Necessity · Four-term fallacy · Illicit major · Illicit minor · Undistributed middle

v · d Faulty generalisations
General   Begging the question · Gambler's fallacy · Slippery slope · Equivocation · argumentum verbosium
Distribution fallacies   Fallacy of composition · Fallacy of division
Data mining   Cherry picking · Accident fallacy · Spotlight fallacy · Hasty generalization · Special pleading
Causation fallacies   Post hoc ergo propter hoc · Retrospective determinism · Suppressed correlative · Wrong direction
Ontological fallacies   Fallacy of reification · Pathetic fallacy · Loki's Wager
v · d False relevance
Appeals   Appeal to authority · Appeal to consequences · Appeal to emotion · Appeal to motive · Appeal to novelty · Appeal to tradition · Appeal to pity · Appeal to popularity · Appeal to poverty · Appeal to spite · Appeal to wealth · Sentimental fallacy · Argumentum ad baculum
Ad hominem   Ad hominem abusive · Reductio ad Hitlerum · Judgmental language · Straw man · Tu quoque · Poisoning the well
Genetic Fallacies   Genetic fallacy · Association fallacy · Appeal to tradition · Texas sharpshooter fallacy