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Overwhelming exception

A form of illicit generalization by which a general rule is stated, which requires exceptions that are so broad that there is no meaningful scope left for the original statement.


The answer is always Yes, except when it makes more sense to say No.

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What have the Romans ever done for us?

Perhaps the best illustration of this form of fallacious thinking is a line from the Monty Phython’sThe Life of Brian”, in which John Cleese, as Reg, asks the following (rhetorical) question:

“… apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

While the question “What have the Romans ever done for us?” implicitly suggests that they did nothing or not much, the limitations stated in the same sentence are so overwhelming that this claim misses its point entirely.

FIXME This article is still work in progress. More examples will follow…

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