Accused of a fallacy? Suspect a fallacy? Ask Dr. Bo and the community!

Quickly register to comment, ask and respond to questions, and get FREE access to our passive online course on cognitive biases!

one moment please...

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.


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

Registered User Comments

Wednesday, June 05, 2019 - 07:10:08 PM
I often encounter an argument which goes like this:

Friend: "Men need to be held accountable for sexual misconduct."
Me: "Don't women also need to be held accountable for sexual misconduct?"
Friend: "Men sexually abusing women happens far more than women sexually abusing men, therefore women abusing men is a non issue."

It is true that there are more cases of men abusing women than women abusing men, but women do abuse men sometimes, and women on men abuse is not not wrong just because it is rare compared to men on women abuse. The fallacy of relative privation seems to focus on relative goodness or badness, but does relative rareness count as the same kind of fallacy?

login to reply
1 reply
1 votes
Reply To Comment

Bo Bennett, PhD
Wednesday, June 05, 2019 - 08:21:59 PM
The real answer is anyone guilty of sexual misconduct needs to be held accountable, but you already know that :) Yes, this would be an example of relative privation. There is a difference between a non-issue and less pressing issue. Of course, you can be accused of "whataboutery." Not a fallacy, but a diversion tactic. To avoid this, simply make one small change to your response:

Friend: "Men need to be held accountable for sexual misconduct."
Me: "Yes, they certainly do. However, don't women also need to be held accountable for sexual misconduct?"

login to reply
0 votes
Reply To Comment

Become a Logical Fallacy Master. Choose Your Poison.

Logically Fallacious is one of the most comprehensive collections of logical fallacies with all original examples and easy to understand descriptions; perfect for educators, debaters, or anyone who wants to improve his or her reasoning skills.

Get the book, Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett, PhD by selecting one of the following options:

Not Much of a Reader? No Problem!

Enroll in the Mastering Logical Fallacies Online Course. Over 10 hours of video and interactive learning. Go beyond the book!

Enroll in the Fallacy-A-Day Passive Course. Sit back and learn fallacies the easy way—in just a few minutes per day, via e-mail delivery.

Have a podcast or know someone who does? Putting on a conference? Dr. Bennett is available for interviews and public speaking events. Contact him directly here.

About Archieboy Holdings, LLC. Privacy Policy Other Books Written by Bo
 Website Software Copyright 2019, Archieboy Holdings, LLC.