Argumentum ad baculum

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"Threat of force" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Threat of force (public international law) or Threat display.

Argumentum ad baculum (Latin for "argument to the cudgel" or "appeal to the stick"), also known as appeal to force, is an argument where force, coercion, or the threat of force, is given as a justification. It is a specific case of the negative form of an argument to the consequences.

The fallacious ad baculum[edit]

A fallacious logical argument based on argumentum ad baculum generally proceeds as follows:

If x accepts P as true, then Q.
x acts to prevent Q and succeeds, so Q is not true.
Therefore, P is not true.

This form of argument is an informal fallacy, because the attack on Q may not necessarily reveal anything about the truth value of the premise P. This fallacy has been identified since the Middle Ages by many philosophers. This is a special case of argumentum ad consequentiam, or "appeal to consequences".


  • Employee: “I do not think the company should invest its money in this project.”
    Employer: “Say that again and you will be fired.”

The non-fallacious ad baculum[edit]

This argument is of the form:

If x accepts P, then Q.
x does not want Q and will act to prevent it.
Therefore, x will reject P.

The fallacy in the argument lies in assuming that the truth value of "x accepts P" is related to the truth value of P itself. Whether x does actually accept P, and whether P is true can not be inferred from the available statements. However, the argument can be changed into a valid modus tollens by changing the conclusion.


If Peter does not deny knowing Jesus, he will be arrested by the Romans.
Peter does not want to be arrested by Romans.
Therefore, Peter denies knowing Jesus.

Note that this argument does not assert or come to any conclusion on whether Peter actually knows Jesus (cf. the fallacious conclusion "Therefore, Peter does not know Jesus").

See also[edit]


External links[edit]