Appeal to Fear

Also Known as:Scare Tactics, Appeal to Force, Ad Baculum

Description:

The Appeal to Fear is a fallacy with the following pattern:

1) Y is presented (a claim that is intended to produce fear).

2) Therefore claim X is true (a claim that is generally, but need not be, related to Y in some manner).

This line of “reasoning” is fallacious because creating fear in people does not constitute evidence for a claim.

It is important to distinguish between a rational reason to believe (RRB) (evidence) and a prudential reason to believe(PRB) (motivation). A RRB is evidence that objectively and logically supports the claim. A PRB is a reason to accept the belief because of some external factor (such as fear, a threat, or a benefit or harm that may stem from the belief) that is relevant to what a person values but is not relevant to the truth or falsity of the claim. For example, it might be prudent to not fail the son of your department chairperson because you fear he will make life tough for you. However, this does not provide evidence for the claim that the son deserves to pass the class.

Example #1

You know, Professor Smith, I really need to get an A in this class. I’d like to stop by during your office hours later to discuss my grade. I’ll be in your building anyways, visting my father. He’s your dean, by the way. I’ll see you later.

Example #2

I don’t think a Red Ryder BB rifle would make a good present for you. They are very dangerous and you’ll put your eye out. Now, don’t you agree that you should think of another gift idea?

Example #3

You must believe that God exists. After all, if you do not accept the existence of God, then you will face the horrors of hell.

Example #4

You shouldn’t say such things against multiculturalism! If the chair heard what you were saying, you would never receive tenure. So, you had just better learn to accept that it is simply wrong to speak out against it.

Advertisements
Published in: on March 12, 2008 at 6:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://reasonresources.wordpress.com/2008/03/12/appeal-to-fear/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: