What’s Wrong with Argumentum ad Baculum? Reasons, Threats, and Logical Norms

Argumentation 20 (1):89-100 (2006)


A dialogue-based analysis of informal fallacies does not provide a fully adequate explanation of our intuitions about what is wrong with ad baculum and of when it is admissible and when it is not. The dialogue-based analysis explains well why mild, benign threats can be legitimate in some situations, such as cooperative bargaining and negotiation, but does not satisfactorily account for what is objectionable about more malicious uses of threats to coerce and to intimidate. I propose an alternative deriving partly from virtue theory in ethics and epistemology and partly from Kantian principles of respect for persons as ends-in-themselves. I examine some specific kinds of social relations, e.g., parent-child and partner relationships, and ask what kinds of threats are permissible in these relationships and especially what is wrong with the objectionable threats. My explanation is framed in terms of the good character and contributing virtues of the ideal parent or partner on the one hand, and the bad character and contributing vices of the abusive parent or violent partner on the other. This analysis puts the discussion of theats in the context of virtue theory, of human flourishing, and of the kind of social relations it is best to have. In general, what's wrong with argumentum ad baculum should be explained in terms of the intentions, purposes, and character of threateners, and the differences in intentions and purposes for which threats are made. The characters of those who make the threats will provide the criteria for distinguishing benign and malicious threats

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References found in this work

The Place of Emotion in Argument.Douglas N. Walton - 1992 - Pennsylvania State University Press.
Fallacies in Pragma-Dialectical Perspective.R. Grootendorst, Frans Eemeren & Frans H. van Eemeren - 2015 - In Scott Jacobs, Sally Jackson, Frans Eemeren & Frans H. van Eemeren (eds.), Reasonableness and Effectiveness in Argumentative Discourse. Springer Verlag. pp. 283-301.

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