Sometimes I get into this argument with people, it goes like this:

  • X offers Y
  • Y has a very low quality
  • P1 critizes X for offering Y
  • P2 defends X saying that it's better having Y than nothing.

However I find this fallacious.

I've google a bit to find the exact logical construct but I couldn't find it, anyone knows in which category it belongs or if it's well known?.

  • Nothing to do with logic. Feb 5 '17 at 17:07
  • Care to elaborate?
    – Artemix
    Feb 5 '17 at 19:19
  • 2
    Why do you think that is a "logical fallacy" ? Someone will agree to receive a "less than expected" result/gift while other do not. Fullstop. Feb 5 '17 at 19:44
  • It's not about agreeing or not, it's about using it as a defense argument against criticism. Let's say you are paying for a software on a monthly basis, and all of a sudden updates start to slow down to a crawl, you criticize the company for not delivering, and then the fallacy comes.
    – Artemix
    Feb 5 '17 at 20:28
  • Perhaps you can edit the question where you emphasize this is not about purchases. Many people think you have the ability to simply reject the offer. This is not always the case. For example if a Marine is given orders to mop the floor with a toothbrush he can't refuse. The toothbrush is better than his tongue though. If he keeps complaining he will make it worse. Readers need the context the other person is intentionally being a jerk not by accident or mistake. The person Knows the quality is low & refused to give you a higher quality when they actually CAN. It is not about the impossible.
    – Logikal
    May 30 '18 at 14:41

It depends on the situation. For an example having a small car, can be better than having no car (if you have a need for it), but eating once in a week will lead to the death of the person similarly to having nothing to eat. So some times something is better than nothing, but other times something is equal to nothing. There are also situations where nothing is better than something.


It’s called relative privation. https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/155/Relative-Privation

  • 1
    Welcome to Philosophy.SE. Could you edit your post to give some explanation, in case the link goes down? Thanks!
    – user2953
    May 30 '18 at 7:27

The answer belongs to rational choice theory, not logic. And it is unavoidably contextual.

  1. If X offers Y but Y has very low quality, and there is no urgency of purchase, it's rational to turn down the offer if better alternatives to Y are available.

  2. If X offers Y and Y has very low quality, there is urgency of purchase and the search for alternatives is not practicable, something (the very low quality Y) may be better than nothing.

  3. If X offers Y and Y has very low quality, you can bargain with X to bring down the price at which, given your preferences, a very low quality Y is worth buying. The price will then = the utility you will get from Y. I may buy a very low quality laptop from X if it's $2, will last a year, and serve my basic purposes. It's not what I would ideally have preferred but it is better than nothing.

  4. That doesn't automatically mean that I should buy it. Being 'better than nothing' is a consideration, but so is having a very much better laptop than anything X offers. It would be a bizarre shopping policy quite in general to buy a particular item which is the kind of thing I want (here a laptop) merely because it is 'better than nothing'. A better policy would be to buy better than better than nothing.


Although the example is not suitable for formal logic, it can "make sense" in ordinary logic, if some implied conditions/requirements are met.
There are two possible scenarios: 1) two beneficial offers, 2) two detrimental offers.
For option 1), the larger of the two would be preferable.
For option 2), the smaller of the two would be preferable.

Therefore, if we restrict our inquiry to only option 1), the the premise, "better than nothing," would be logically correct.

  • I don't get what you are talking about.
    – Artemix
    Feb 7 '17 at 10:15

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