Appeal to Force

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      Appeal To Force

      Also called

      Perhaps the crudest form of appeal, this is, quite simply, saying that "I am right, because I will hit anyone who disagrees with me with this large stick." Ad Baculum can be quite effective, nevertheless. Most commonly known by the phrase "Might makes right"; also sometimes expressed as "Changing a man's mind by altering the shape of his face."

      It is important to note the distinction between a faulty argument and a threat in these cases. Appeal to Force may apply to both.

      • "A is true, because if you say it isn't I'll break your nose," is an invalid argument, and a logical fallacy.
      • "I'll break your nose if you say A is true," is a threat, not an argument; the speaker is not actually claiming that A is true or false.
      • "Do as I say, because I will hurt you if you don't" is an instruction and a threat, rather than an argument.

      Each of the above cases may be described as Appeal to Force.

      What is not a fallacy is "It's illegal so don't do it or you will go to jail." That is a statement of consequence that differs completely from whether something should be illegal. To say that one should be able to do something and not go to jail is a johnny-come-lately argument, usually invoked after they broke the law, whereas the proper time to make the arguments is when the law was being passed or else to get the law repealed. The only other option, in extreme cases, is to oppose the legitimacy of the entire social order.

      Examples of Appeal to Force include:

      Comic Books

      • At one point, Deadpool forces somebody to admit that Jar-Jar Binks is an affront to God at gun point.
        • After already killing the other guy, who had said he preferred the new trilogy to the original one. He wasn't kidding.


      • In the movie No Man's Land, the Bosnian and Serbian soldiers are arguing over whose country started the war, with the Bosnian eventually threatening the other with his gun to get him to agree. Later, the Serbian gains control of the gun and uses the opportunity to force the Bosnian to say that it was Bosnia who started it.


      • Aesop's Fables (and La Fontaine's retelling; and Krylov's retelling) feature this, usually with this scenario: Strongest wants to kill weakest, tries to preemptively rationalize it with Insane Troll Logic, fails, then kills weakest anyway.
      • In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Ishtar gets her father to create the Bull of Heaven (so she can terrorize Uruk because Gilgamesh turned her down) by threatening to start a Zombie Apocalypse.
        • Another legend involving Ishtar (Inanna) has her going down to the underworld to see her sister Ereshkigal, and the gatekeeper at first refuses to let her in (because the way she's ornately dressed tells him she's lying about being there for a funeral). She uses the Zombie Apocalypse threat there, too, and he lets her in (after consulting with Ereshkigal), on the condition that she remove her clothes and jewelry.

      Live-Action TV

      • Jayne from Firefly referred to this as the Chain of Command. ("It's the chain I go get and beat you with 'til you understand who's in ruttin' command here!")

      Newspaper Comics

      • This fallacy is often shown as one person saying to another "One good reason? I'll give you five good reasons" as they very obviously curl their fingers one by one into a fist, held under the other's nose. Charles Schultz used this image several times in various Peanuts strips, as well as A Charlie Brown Christmas, usually with Lucy using it against either Charlie Brown or Linus.


      Video Games

      Web Original

      Western Animation


      Real Life

      • Pretty much any totalitarian regime. Lysenkoist biology won out over Darwinism in the USSR because the former had the support of the state.

      Looks like this fallacy but isn't

      • If the use of force is a logical or reasonably expected result of the action being argued, rather than a threat against the arguer. "If you shop at my competitor's store, I'll egg your house" is a threat. "If you invade Sparta, they'll kill a bunch of your soldiers" is a reasonable and logical result. This even applies when the outcome is rather extreme, for instance: "If Poland invaded Germany during the Cold War, the Soviet Union and United States would destroy the whole planet" is a perfectly defensible deduction.
      • Eminent domain, the right claimed by a government to take private property from its owner (in exchange for payment or other compensation) for a public good. Because a payment is involved, even if the exchange is involuntary, and because it can be challenged in court and constrained by legislation, it is not a case of force justifying action.
      • Policy decisions. Sending an embassy to the winner of a Civil War in a foreign country, for example, is not saying Might Makes Right because it is not necessarily your government's business who was right. It is only recognizing that your government has an interest in negotiating with the winner whether or not they were right. It might or might not be dishonorable to make such Realpolitik calculations. That does not say anything about it's logic as you are not making a moral claim in the first place.
      • The use of force to back up a rightful claim. When Alice the Shopper screams, "thief, thief", and Bob the Cop chases the cutpurse, arrests him and return's Alice's satchel, he is using force in a way most people think is justified. It is not the force that is claimed to justify Alice's possession of her satchel. Rather Alice's possession and the Bob's office as cop are believed to justify the use of force in defending it.
      • Adverse Possession: This is kind of this but only not. It is the recognition that someone who has held a possession for long enough is confirmed in it by the law however it was obtained. This is more an acknowledgement of the practical difficulty of answering every possible claim and of finding a reliable alternative to present possession for deciding who owns what after a certain time frame. Furthermore it is not unlimited in law and can be appealed by various means.
      • Dueling is a zig-zag. Under some codes of honor it is considered appropriate for the loser to make a ritual apology assuming he survives. However the primary purpose of dueling is, in the least euphemistic of euphemisms, to "give satisfaction". That is provide people a way to work off their grudge where no one will intervene and spread trouble. Thought of in this way, dueling may still be immoral, but however anachronistically it is not without a rational purpose. Insofar as it is expected to be a real substitute for investigation, and judicial decision in deciding who is right it is definitely Appeal to Force fallacy.
        • Its main value is in resolving conflicts, in that usually for most people around the involved parties it's better to ensure the issue is closed quickly — one way or another. Letting the conflicts fester risks escalation to a vendetta, with both sides enticing everyone else to pick the favorite, etc — that's just not healthy for the entire community. Also, many conflicts that "demand satisfaction" are going to be unresolvable ("he said - she said") anyway. With a fast, widely accepted resolving mechanism, the issue is either ended quickly or implicitly marked as unimportant.
        • The other practical value of duels was keeping the warrior class from growing fat and inept in times of peace.