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Relative Privation

(also known as: it could be worse, it could be better)

Description: Trying to make a scenario appear better or worse by comparing it to the best or worst case scenario.

Logical Forms:

Scenario S is presented.

Scenario B is presented as a best-case.

Therefore, Scenario S is not that good.

 

Scenario S is presented.

Scenario B is presented as a worst-case.

Therefore, Scenario S is very good.

Example #1:

Be happy with the 1972 Chevy Nova you drive.  There are many people in this country who don’t even have a car.

Explanation: This person does have a very crappy car by any reasonable standard.  Only comparing his situation with people who have no cars, does his Chevy Nova look like a Rolls Royce.  It is fallacious to make a reasonable judgment based on these extreme cases.

Example #2:

Son: I am so excited!  I got an “A” on my physics exam!

Dad:  Why not an “A+”?  This means that you answered something incorrectly.  That is not acceptable!

Explanation: The poor kid is viewing his success from a very reasonable perspective based on norms.  However, the father is using a best case scenario as a comparison, or a very unreasonable perspective.  The conclusion “it is not acceptable,” is unreasonable and, therefore, fallacious.

Exception: When used intentionally to manipulate emotions (especially with good intentions), not to make an argument on reason, then this might be acceptable.

I know that you just lost your job, but at least you still have a great education and plenty of experience, which will help you get another job.

Fun Fact: My first car was a crappy, 1972 Chevy Nova that I bought for $50 in my sophomore year in high school. This was when I first learned about correlation. Me driving that car was strongly correlated with my lack of female companions.

References:

This a logical fallacy frequently used on the Internet. No academic sources could be found.

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