False Causes>Relative Privation

Relative privation is an argument that tries to make a situation, position, or phenomenon look better or worse by comparing it to an extreme.

Other Names for Relative Privation

  • It Could Be Worse/It Could Be Better
  • Better Than/Worse Than

Form of Argument Relative Privation Fallacy

Scenario A is presented.
Scenario B is presented as best/worse case.
Therefore, scenario A is not so good/bad.

Relative Privation Fallacy Examples

“I used to lament having no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

“Your house washed away and you lost everything, but at least you still have you life.”

In the process of having our six children, I had five miscarriages. While I realize that having a miscarriage is a long shot better than having a child kidnapped or run over by a truck, pondering those more severe mothering experiences didn't give me a big boost toward recovery.

Today I came across an example of the relative privation fallacy that bears a post of it's own. Please click through to read and comment. 

The dangers from this fallacy are two-fold:

  1. Most any concern or difficulty can be minimized by comparing it to the most extreme situations. In fact, there can only be one event — in the history of mankind — that can be said to be the single worst event. Thus, all other events pale in comparison. It is unreasonable to concede all discussion or concern is invalid due to it not being the single most serious issue.
  2. If we really believe that a difficult situation is ameliorated by comparisons, one might easily conclude that a situations can be ameliorated by making someone else worse off. It is unreasonable to better our positions by making others worse off.