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So if I hypothesise that "all swans are white" under the condition that at least one swan exists , the discovery of the black swan Cygnus atratus "proves" meaning "tests" my rule. In this case, the rule is falsified. The election booth for the RationalWiki Moderator Election is now closed. Results will be announced soon! Jump to: navigation , search. Namespaces Page Talk. Views Read Edit Fossil record.

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Urban Dictionary: exception to the rule

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Exception to the Rule

Part of the series on Logic and rhetoric. Key articles.

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Logical fallacy Syllogism Argument. General logic. Bad logic.

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Appeal to fear Argument de l'ami Argument from omniscience Fallacy of opposition Imprecision fallacy SeekFind v - t - e. Informal fallacies:.

English-German Dictionary

Ad hoc:. Arguments from ignorance:. Causation fallacies:. Circular reasoning:.

Emotional appeals:. Fallacies of ambiguity:.

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Formal fallacies:. Fallacious argument styles:. Conditional fallacies:. Genetic fallacies:.


Appeals to authority:. Prove can mean several things, including 'to establish as true' and 'to put to trial or to test'. The second option is what is used in 'proving ground', 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating', etc. It could be argued then that the phrase means 'it is the exception that tests whether the rule is true or not'. In our example the existence of a bird that can't fly would put the 'all birds can fly' rule to the test and find it wanting. That's all very well and most people would be happy to stop there.

Unfortunately, when we go back to the legal origin of the phrase we see that it doesn't mean that at all. It's the word exception rather than prove that is causing the confusion here. By exception we usually mean 'something unusual, not following a rule'.

The exception that proves the rule

What it means here though is 'the act of leaving out or ignoring'. If we have a statement like 'entry is free of charge on Sundays', we can reasonably assume that, as a general rule, entry is charged for. So, from that statement, here's our rule:. The exception on Sunday is demonstrating that the rule exists. It isn't testing whether the incorrect rule 'you have to pay' is true or not, and it certainly isn't proving that incorrect rule to be true.

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It's a legal maxim, established in English law in the early 17th century.