Appeal to consequences

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An appeal to consequences is a logical fallacy where the truth of a given statement is argued on the basis of what will happen if the target does (or does not) agree. This is obviously fallacious, because there is no deterministic relationship between beliefs and external reality. One's beliefs may affect one's actions, which may in turn affect external reality, but individuals may choose how to act on the basis of their beliefs

Note: possibly this page should be renamed "appeal to consequences of belief", since "of belief" is what makes it a fallacy. (Or maybe just consequences of belief, since it could be either "appeal to" or "argument from"...)


The appeal to consequences is, on the surface, very similar to a legitimate argument from consequences:

  • Legitimate: "If you do X, it will cause Y to happen." (argument from consequences of an action)
  • Illegitimate: "If you believe X, then Y will happen." (appeal to consequences)

These two forms are often confused, and arguers who use an appeal to consequences often deliberately blur the similarity so as to exploit this confusion.


The appeal to consequences is the key component of carrot-and-stick negotiation.



  • Wikipedia
  • RationalWiki presumes that the supposed consequences are always adverse (essentially the appeal to fear). While this does tend to be the case, positive ones can be used as well: "If you accept Jesus Christ as your savior, you can go to heaven when you die." These do tend, however, to be counterbalanced by negative consequences: "...but if you don't, you will surely burn in hell."