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Appeal to Force is a logical fallacy that occurs when one uses the threat of force or intimidation to coerce another party to drop their argument.
Example: Alex is waiting in line at an ice cream shop, when out of nowhere someone cuts in line in front of him.
“Excuse me, do you mind?” says Alex, “the queue starts from the back.”
To which the person replies: “You’ll just have to wait a bit longer for your ice cream. Besides, we both know what’s going to happen if you make a fuss over this!”
Explanation: In this instance, rather than using reason to justify why he cut in line, the queue-jumper threatens Alex by a show of force. Alex is compelled not to challenge him further in fear of negative consequences and therefore, drops his argument.
An argument that commits the appeal to force fallacy has the following structure:
Accept X, or I will hurt you
The fallacy is also known as Argumentum Ad Baculum, which literally means – argument to the ‘stick.’
Note that an appeal to force is not limited to physical harm. The negative consequences can also be in the form of psychological trauma, financial distress or even social consequences. Here are more real life examples…
Appeal to Force Fallacy Examples in Real Life
- “If they are not on board with us on this matter, we will impose economic sanctions.”
- “If I were you, I’d think twice before publishing that article. We’ve had writers who have lost their jobs because they didn’t follow the editorial guidelines.”
- “If you want to be a part of this team, I suggest that you put in some effort and start contributing more.”
- “Make sure you’re back by 6pm. Do you recall what happened the last time you were out late?
- “If the institution does not comply with our requests, we are going to stop funding them altogether.”
Threats are not arguments. Don’t allow others to force you into accepting something which is not true.