Argument Ad Baculum

Definition of Argument Ad Baculum

Argument ad baculum is when someone tries to win an argument by scaring you into agreeing with them. This tactic involves threats or warnings of negative consequences if you don’t accept their point of view. It’s like if your friend says you must like the same movie as they do, or they will no longer hang out with you. Even though you might not actually like the movie, you say you do because you don’t want to lose your friend’s company. You’re not giving your real opinion; you’re just trying to avoid the bad outcome of losing a friend.

Think of argument ad baculum as someone offering you a choice that isn’t really fair. It’s as if they’re saying, “Believe me, or you’ll face trouble.” However, that trouble they’re talking about doesn’t really prove their argument right or wrong. It’s just something scary they use to pressure you into agreeing with them, which doesn’t truly address the topic being discussed.

Examples of Argument Ad Baculum

Example in School

This type of argument isn’t uncommon in schools. For example, imagine a student who wants others to think they are the coolest person around. They might tell a classmate, “You’d better tell everyone I’m cool, or I’ll beat you up.” The classmate doesn’t want to get into a fight, so they start spreading the word, even if they don’t really believe it. This is an example of argument ad baculum because the classmate’s statement was made under the pressure of avoiding physical harm, not from a genuine belief in the student’s coolness. The threat of violence is used to control the classmate’s actions rather than any logical reason or evidence of the student’s coolness.

Example in the Workplace

Now let’s move to a workplace setting. Consider a secretary who believes they deserve a higher salary. They tell their boss, “Without me, this office wouldn’t function. Give me a raise, or I might start looking for a new job.” The boss, worried about the inconvenience of finding and training a new secretary, might give in and offer the raise. The boss didn’t agree because they truly thought the secretary deserved more money for their current work. Instead, they were swayed by the threat of losing an employee and the extra work it would entail. This coercive strategy of argument ad baculum means making someone fear the consequences rather than considering the real merits of the situation.

How to Avoid an Argument Ad Baculum

Knowing how to identify an argument ad baculum is your first defense. Typically, it will feel like someone is trying to bully or threaten you into agreement. It’s important to remain firm, trust in what you know is right, and support what you say with real reasons, not just give in to fear. When discussing any issue, no one should need to resort to threats to prove their point. If you find yourself facing a situation where a threat is being used as an ‘argument,’ remember that the best responses are those based on facts and logic, not intimidation.

Related Topics with Explanations

Logical Fallacies

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that weaken arguments. Argument ad baculum is an example of one type of logical fallacy, but there are many different kinds, such as using irrelevant information or claiming something without proof.

Red Herring

A red herring is a distraction tactic used in arguments. This occurs when someone introduces an off-topic idea to steer the conversation away from the original point. It’s like avoiding a question about the necessity of homework by commenting on the day’s weather, which has no relevance to the homework discussion.

Straw Man Argument

In a straw man argument, someone misrepresents your position to make it easier to attack. For example, if you suggest that more funding should go to education, and someone retorts, “Oh, so you just want to throw money away?” they are deliberately distorting what you said to make it seem foolish.

Circular Reasoning

Circular reasoning is a logical fault where the argument just goes around in a circle without getting anywhere. If someone says a book is good because it’s well-liked, there’s no actual explanation or proof being offered—just the same statement reframed in a different way.


To sum it up, argument ad baculum is about trying to win an argument through fear, not valid points or evidence. It’s crucial to realize that using threats has nothing to do with whether an argument is true. What’s important is to have solid reasons and evidence for what you stand for. Once you understand what makes an argument ad baculum and know how to confidently oppose it, you will ensure that your beliefs and agreements are based on facts and truth, not just because someone intimidated you into saying ‘yes.’