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Wikipedia gave the following example for ad baculum?

Employee: I do not think the company should invest its money into this project.

Employer: That opinion is sufficiently poor that expressing it will get you fired.

Is this a valid example? I'm thinking not since force is not used to terminate your job.

asked Jun 19 '15 at 23:46

Humbug's gravatar image


edited Jun 19 '15 at 23:59

The question seems to interpret "argumentum ad baculum" too narrowly, limiting it to a threat to initiate physical force against others. The Wikipedia article linked in the question presents a less restrictive description of what that fallacy subsumes in common usage, and claiming that an employee's argument is logically invalid and grounds for firing simply because the employee disagrees with the boss certainly qualifies as a valid example of the fallacy as generally understood. (In practice, however, it may not be a claim of logical fallacy by the boss at all, but simply an edict which his staff must either obey without question or leave the company.)

answered Jun 21 '15 at 12:15

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

I would say that ad baculum is the fallacy of using a threat of harm in an attempt to get someone to accept your proposition as correct. I see no reason why the harm must be physical harm.

There are two errors in this form of "argument" (if you can call it that) that make it a fallacy: first, is the fact that the threat has nothing to do with whether the proposition is in fact true; second, is the fact that whether or not the threatened person accepts the asserted proposition does not establish the truth of the proposition. In other words, nothing about the truth or falsity of the asserted proposition follows from the fact that the proponent of the proposition issued a threat; similarly, nothing about the truth or falsity of the asserted proposition follows from the fact that the listener accepts (or rather, says they accept) the proposition. Thus, the "argument" does not prove anything at all about the truth or falsity of the asserted proposition.

This fallacy (as with most fallacies) can be seen as a specific example of the non sequitor fallacy--it does not follow from the threat that the proposition is true; it does not follow from the acceptance of the proposition that it is true.

The above discussion of the nature of ad baculum should make it more clear why the fallacy is not limited to physical force. There is nothing unique about physical force in this context that would justify limiting the fallacy to only it---threats to other harms (loss of job, revealing an embarrassing secret, etc.) are just as much unrelated to the truth or falsity of the asserted proposition as a threat of physical force.

answered Aug 13 '15 at 17:02

ericmaughan43's gravatar image

ericmaughan43 ♦

edited Aug 13 '15 at 17:04

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Asked: Jun 19 '15 at 23:46

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Last updated: Aug 13 '15 at 17:04

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