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What is the Appeal To Force Fallacy?

Appeal to Force is a logical fallacy which occurs when:

Instead of reason, an individual uses the threat of force or intimidation to coerce another party to drop their argument.

The Logical Structure of This Fallacy is as follows:

Accept X, or I will hurt you.

Appeal to Force, also known as Argumentum Ad Baculum, literally means – argument to the “stick.”

Appeal To Force Fallacy Examples

Appeal To Force Fallacy Examples:

Example #1

Alex is waiting in line at an ice cream shop, when out of nowhere –a ‘bully’ cuts in line in front of him. 

“Excuse me,” says Alex “Do you mind? The queue starts from the back.”

The bully replies:

“Well… 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 scenario, instead of using reason to justify why he cut in line, the bully threatens Alex by a show of force. His stance could have been more defensible if his response was along the lines of:

“But I was in line first,” or – “I need to grab some tissues from the counter, it won’t take long.”

 Nonetheless, Alex is compelled not to challenge him further in fear of negative consequences, and thus, is forced to drop his argument.

The negative consequences that are associated with this fallacy are not limited to physical harm. It can also take the form of psychological trauma, financial distress or even social consequences.

Below is another example of the Appeal to Force Fallacy to demonstrate this.

Example #2

Richard: “Boss, why do we have to work on a Saturday whilst the other employees get the day off?”

Boss: “I see you are reluctant to abide as per my directives. You do realize that I can have you replaced with someone who’s willing to put in the effort, don’t you?”

Explanation:

Although Richard’s question was legitimate, his boss responded by threatening him with financial distress, that is -he would be unemployed if he didn’t comply.

 

More examples of the appeal to force fallacy:

If they are not on board with us on this matter, we will impose economic sanctions.”

“If the institution does not comply with our requests, we are going to stop funding their research altogether.”

“This particular legislation is fundamentally wrong. If you don’t vote against it,  then we will vote you out of office.”

 

Not every appeal to force is a fallacy…

Example:

Employee: “Why the need to wear the hard-hat at all times?”

Supervisor:  “It is state law, therefore company policy. No hard-hat, no job.”

Explanation:

In this case, the supervisor is merely pointing out the reality. He or she will not be sanctioning the use of that force because the employee will ultimately have to answer to the company if they violate their policies. Therefore, the reasoning is not fallacious.

 

A FINAL NOTE: Threats are not arguments. Don’t allow others to force you into accepting something which is not true.

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