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Proved by Exception Final 100

Proved by Exception Final 100

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Published by kristijankrkac

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Published by: kristijankrkac on May 09, 2011
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Exceptional minority reports
Borna Jalšenjak, Kristijan Krkač, Ivan SpajićZagreb School of Economics and ManagementPhilosophical Faculty of the Society of Jesus in Zagreb“In practice, however, it is the rule–and–exemptionapproach that is usually followed.” Barry 2002:39
Rules and exceptions
While writing on several philosophers who are experts in something else besides philosophy Richard Posner insection “What are philosophers good for?” in his book “Overcoming Law” mentioned few of them and said thatthey are exceptions that prove the rule. In the footnote with reference to the word “prove” he says,
“That is, probe. The notion that a rule is confirmed by showing that it has exceptions – the usual modernmeaning of “exception that proves the rule” – is plain nonsense.” (Posner 2002:447). Now, what we have here is the distinction between “to probe” and “to prove” with addition that “to prove”means “to confirm”. Posner obviously thinks that exception cannot prove the rule, and that it can probe the rulein terms of “to put to trial or to test”, “to check out”, “to look into”, “to explore”, and “to investigate”. Regardingthe first part of his claim, it is easy to see that it is correct, but only partially, and the second part raises its ownissue, as it will be argued in the present paper .
 From time to time, we can hear that something is “an exception to the rule” and that as such “it provesthe rule”, or the idiom that something is “the exception [that] proves the rule”. However, if “to prove the rule,”means, “to confirm the rule”, then it is plain nonsense as Posner claims. Namely, one can read the idiom(1) “the exception [that] proves the rule” as(2) “if there is a rule and one can find a counter–example to it, then the rule is proved to be true bycounter–example” which is obviously nonsense, (in fact a contradiction between propositions “All S areP” and “Some S are not P”).Regarding the reading (2), if examined rule is for instance, “all birds can fly”, then the existence of flightless bird, i.e. “some birds cannot fly”, hardly proves the rule. In fact, it proves just the opposite, namely, “It is nottrue that all birds can fly”. Now, the cause of confusion is established by two somewhat different meanings of the expression “to prove”. “To prove” can mean “to establish as true” and “to test”. This difference is obviousenough. If one says, “It is raining outside” and the other one asks “Really?”, then the first one can say, “Yes, Iam by my window while I am speaking to you” and this establishes the truth regarding rain (at least based on aneye-witness testimony).
Say that the rule is “All birds can fly”, and that we have another claim, namely, “Penguins are flightless birds”.
If the second claim is true, then surely it is an exception to the rule in strong sense meaning thatthese propositions are in relation of inconsistency. Namely, they cannot be both true.However, let us turn the issue other way around.
 Now if one has a proposition “Only a few kinds of birds are flightless, for instance penguins”, then one canreasonably assume that there is a general rule such as “Most kinds of birds can fly”. Now, there is noinconsistency here since the first proposition became an exception via explicating the rule from it (one couldsay that the first proposition points to the second, or that the rule is assumed), and as such it “demonstrates”that the rule exists, that there is a rule (perhaps that there “must” be a rule).
In addition, by “a rule” we will presuppose “any rule-like phenomenon” including formal, physical, biological,social, legal, cultural, and similar laws, regularity, and uniformity.
One must be aware that the proposition “that penguins are birds” is a matter of convention in the sense that onemust count features of birds and then recognize the same features in penguins. However, some features areconventionally regarded as more important, and other as less important. Namely, it is obviously more important, biologically speaking, to have wings then to be able to use them for flying (perhaps one can imagine a verse in a poem, “While we ridiculously walk around the bottom of the sea, penguins sublimely fly above us”, titled “Acrab song”). Now, if the rule is “All birds have wings”, then “Penguins have wings” does not contradict the rule.In other words, or if the convention would be different from the accepted one, then penguins would not beregarded as birds at all, running bird likewise, perhaps; but then we would have problems with bats for example,since bats can fly but they are not birds.
It is commonly assumed that if for instance a sign says “On Saturdays the shop is open from 10:00 until 12:00”,then one assumes that there is a rule that during a week the shop is opened regularly, say from 09:00 until 17:00,and that working hours on Saturday is an exception to the rule. However, it is possible that there is no regularity
 Nevertheless, the issue seems to be precisely in the difference between universal and non-universal rules, and of course in the level of universality. Namely, the difference is between:(a) a rule being universally applied (“All S are P”), and(b) a rule being usually applied, or applied to a vast majority of cases, but not to all (“Most S are P”).
If one considers the proposition “Birds can fly” in the sense of (b), then there is possibility of an exception. Onthe other hand, if one also considers the proposition “Penguins are flightless birds” in sense of exception to therule that birds can fly, then one can assume the proposition “Birds can fly” is a rule to which the proposition“Penguins are flightless birds” is an exception which maybe confirms its existence, but not its validity.
Original and scientific meaning
Additional confusion can be caused by incompleteness of the proposition (1). Originally, Cicero proposed (1) inhis defence of Lucius Cornelius Balbus (in “Pro Balbo”). Now, if (1) “the exception [that] proves the rule” is cited completely, namely as(3) “the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted” (Latin:
exceptio probat regulam in casibusnon exceptis
, Fowler 1998),
 then it is clear that it says(4) the fact that an exception stated serves to establish the existence of a rule that applies to cases notcovered by the very exception. Now, (1) and (2) are still inconsistent. However, (2) should be slightly changed in the following manner,(2a) if there is a rule and one can find a counter–example to it, then the rule must exist.Consequently, (3) rendered as (4) and (2a) are consistent. What we have here is considered original meaning,that is to say, confirming only the existence of a rule, nothing more or less. However, the relation of a rule andits exception is odd one in this case, since what one counts as exception is claimed to be an exception that is notcovered by the rule, and how then one can count such “exception not covered by the rule” as “an exceptionwhich confirms the rule” not just its existence, but its validity as well?Leaving this question aside, let us turn to the next one, which is also interesting concerning a scientificmeaning of the idiom in question. Say that there is a case of a critic Jones (this is F. W. Fowler’s case from hisdictionary “Modern English Usage”, in Quinion 2009). The case goes as follows.
Jones never writes a favourable review. Therefore, we are surprised when he writes a favourable review of anovel by an unknown author. Then we discover that the novel is his own, written under a pseudonym.Obviously, the rule (rule “Jones never writes a favourable review”) does not apply to this case (case “thereis a favourable review written by Jones”). In other words, the rule is still valid, but the exception does notapply to the rule, or in other words, the rule does not cover particular exception. It is somewhat questionabledoes it show that “the rule is shown to be valid” since what is shown is only that the rule does not apply tothe particular case, not that the rule is valid via any case to which the rule apply.In this sense, the word “proves” means “tests”, and “the exception proves the rule” means “an unusual case can be used to test whether or not a rule is valid”. If the rule stands up to the unusual case then it reinforces its truth;if not then it is disproved. Adherents of the original (Cicero’s) literal meaning maintain that an “exception” hereis not “extreme, unusual case”, rather merely any case that is not covered by the rule, and that “proves” means“demonstrates the existence of”, not “tests the validity of” (Quinion 2009).
Is it possible that there is only one rule which is its own sole exception?
or rule at all, that there are only exceptions, for instance on Monday from 08:00 – 10:00, Tuesday 14:00 – 16:00… or even that the sign is the only regular working time in a week, while from Monday to Friday the shopis open depending on mood of the owner.
The point with (a) is that it is the only available position at least regarding the rule of simple induction whichsays: if your data consists of evidence that a series of objects of some kind has some property or characteristic,and you know of no object of that kind that does not have that property, then conclude that all objects of thatkind have that property. However, conclusions of inductive reasoning can always be false, and more to that,many of our beliefs could be false, given that many of our beliefs are based on inductive reasoning.On the other hand perhaps the point is rhetorical, namely, as A. Schopenhauer claims “
(b) The instance,
or the example to thecontrary. – This consists in refuting the general proposition by direct reference to particular cases which areincluded in it in the way in which it is stated, but to which it does not apply, and by which it is therefore shownto be necessarily false.” (Schopenhauer, 2005:14) Similar procedure is explicated in stratagem XXV (ibid. 28).
The dictionary says the following: “exception.
The proverb the exception proves the rule is an abbreviated,commonly misconstrued version of the medL maxim exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis 'theexception confirms the rule in cases not excepted'. In the context of the proverb, proves means 'tests thegenuineness or qualities of, no more no less.“ (Fowler, 1998:273)
Let us take another example. One of the rules that one should consider is the hygiene rule, which is common andeasy to follow. This rule states
that one should wash hands properly before meal (the rule).This rule is known and followed in our Western culture. We teach are children to wash their hands properly before meal, etc.
 One could add that this rule is almost universally followed, that is to say, if circumstances areordinary, then the all humans will wash their hands before meal. However, there are cases in which
humans do not wash their hands before meal (exception to the rule)
if one is starving to death, or if one is very hungry, or if there is just enough time to eat something quickly,then one does not wash hands before meal (possible reasons for exception to the rule).This is in fact standard procedure of so to speak “default practical reasoning” in a sense that even exceptions arerule–like or standardised, and of “default practice” which says that humans will follow the rule almost blindly if they recognise that the circumstances of an action or a practice are ordinary or usual. However, if one recognisesthat there is something of equal value or more valuable then the regular practice itself namely that circumstancesare not ordinary but “exceptional”, then one should break the rule. Cases of breaking a rule for various (standard)reasons are considered (also standard) exceptions. This seems to be obvious, namely,
if a person P is engaged in an activity A, which is a clear-cut example of following the rule R, and if Pintentionally does not follow R (as well as following any other rule whatsoever), and circumstances are notexceptional, then P's A could be considered as breaking the rule. In such circumstances A goes against therule.Therefore, an exception cannot be considered to confirm, or to prove the rule. However, if something is anexception to the rule, then surely it presupposes the rule. Namely,(5) if there is an exception, there must be a rule also, however,(6) if a rule is universally applied (a), then any exception presupposes its existence, and proves itsinvalidity, but(7) if a rule is usually applied (b), then any exception presupposes its existence, and some exceptionscan prove its validity.This can mean that exception confirms or proves an existence of a rule, since there cannot be exceptions withoutrules. On the other hand, if a rule is regarded as being universal (i.e. that it should be followed always, i.e.“without exception” and this particular synonymity being an issue in its own right), and if this is its essentialfeature, then any exception, no matter how minor or insignificant, should be considered as a violation of a rule,and therefore the rule is invalid, or even that a rule does not exist at all. Consequently, an exception can beconsidered to violate the rule, and to confirm or prove that the rule does not exist at all if the rule is universallyapplied, (a), but it can be considered to confirm the existence of the rule and more to that its validity as well if itis only usually applied (b).Via this distinction applied one can escape the paradox, namely if an exception confirms that there is norule, then there is no exception as well, since (5) i.e. no rule, no exception applies. Now, consider the followingrule(8) “Any rule has at least one exception”, if this rule is true, then the following is true as well,(9) “Any rule can be usually applied only.” and(10) “There is no rule that can be universally applied.”However, if the last proposition (10) is considered a rule, then it must be only usually applied (9), namely,(11) (10)
(9).Furthermore, if it is usually applied (9), then it must have at least one exception (8), namely,(12) (9)
(8), and consequently(13) (10)
(8). Now, is it impossible that (10) is its own sole exception? Namely, the rule (10) that there is no rule that can beuniversally applied can be only usually applied (9) which means that (10) it has at least one exception, andexception says,(14) that there is a rule that says that there is rule that can be universally applied. Now, if this is not the case, then it is possible that there is at least one rule that is universally applied, namely thenegation of 10, or (¬10). Say, that the rule “All birds can fly” is the only rule, and therefore it must beuniversally applied. If it is so, then the proposition “Penguins are flightless birds” cannot be its exception. If it is
More to that, one can consider the proposition “Humans wash their hand before meal” as a “grammatical proposition” regarding particular cultural institution or custom in Wittgenstein’s terms, namely that it describesrule–like activity or practice, or particular and quite common pattern of action, no matter how culturally relativeit may be, (see Baker, Hacker 1985, Forster 2004, Krkač, Lukin 2008). However, one must be aware that at leastfor Wittgenstein experiential and grammatical propositions can switch places, and merge occasionally (see hisriver–image “On Certainty” §: 94–9).

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