Every Individual Is an Exception to the Rule

Carl Jung? James L. McAllister Jr.? Malcolm Gladwell? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following postulate embodies a flexible outlook on life:

There is an exception to every rule.

The famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung promulgated an even stronger adage about people:

Every individual is an exception to the rule.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1925 a collection of papers under the title “Problems of Personality” was published to honor the prominent psychologist Morton Prince. The collection included Carl G. Jung’s article “Psychological Types”. His typology was based on a distinction between extraverted and introverted attitudes. He also distinguished between four fundamental functions: sensation, thinking, feeling, and intuition. The psychological types corresponded to combinations, e.g., “introverted sensation”, “extraverted intuition”, and “introverted feeling”. Yet, Jung realized it was difficult to impose a rigidly defined typology onto complex human beings. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

As a rule only careful observation and a weighing of the evidence permits a sure classification. Clear and simple though the fundamental principle of the two opposing attitudes may be, nevertheless their concrete reality is complicated and obscure, for every individual is an exception to the rule. Therefore, one can never give a description of a type, no matter how complete, which applies to more than one individual despite the fact that thousands might, in a certain sense, be strikingly described thereby. Conformity is one side of a man, uniqueness is the other.

The article excerpted above was based on a presentation Jung made at the International Congress of Education held in Territet, Switzerland in 1923. Jung was discussing and outlining his 1921 German book titled “Psychologische Typen”. The English title of the book and the article title were both “Psychological Types”.

It would be natural to assume that the quotation appeared in the famous 1921 book, but it did not. The quotation appeared in neither the German nor the English translation of the 1921 book. Instead, the quotation appeared in the 1925 article based on the 1923 lecture. The situation is somewhat confusing because the book and article used the same title “Psychologische Typen” (in English “Psychological Types”).

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1906 an unnamed book reviewer writing in “The Edinburgh Review” made a statement that strongly matched the quotation: 2

In human life every individual is an exception to rules, the more exceptional as his or her individuality is more strongly marked; and the two persons with whom this story is almost exclusively concerned are at once very strongly individualised and very unusual.

In 1928 the article by Jung containing the quotation was reprinted in his book titled “Contributions to Analytical Psychology” translated by H. G. Baynes and Cary F. Baynes. 3

In 1974 a newspaper in Virginia described a lecture titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Life and Death” delivered by James L. McAllister Jr. who was a Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Mary Baldwin College. McAllister echoed the words of Jung while responding to a self-posed query: 4

Explaining to his audience that his lecture did not conclude with final answers, Dr. McAllister asked the question, “What does it mean to be me?” He answered the question by observing that “every individual is an exception to the rule”.

In 2004 best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell wrote in “The New Yorker” magazine about personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (M.B.T.I.). Gladwell presented Jung’s skepticism: 5

Jung didn’t believe that types were easily identifiable, and he didn’t believe that people could be permanently slotted into one category or another. “Every individual is an exception to the rule,” he wrote; to “stick labels on people at first sight,” in his view, was “nothing but a childish parlor game.”

In conclusion, Carl G. Jung should be credited with popularizing the statement he made in the 1925 citation although strictly speaking the original version was in German. The 1906 citation shows that at least one person crafted the saying before Jung. QI conjectures that the remark has been constructed multiple times independently over the years.

(Great thanks to Jaferaly Hooda whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Addendum: The Google Books database has a match for a passage containing the quotation in German. The database only displays snippets. The metadata is incomplete and may be inaccurate.

Year: 1925
Periodical: Zeitschrift für Menschenkunde
Volume: 1
Issues: 1-6
Quote Page 54

[Begin excerpt]
So klar und so einfach das Grundprinzip der beiden gegensätzlichen Einstellungen ist, so kompliziert und unübersichtlich ist ihre konkrete Wirklichkeit, denn jedes Individuum ist eine Ausnahme von der Regel. Darum kann es keine auch noch so vollkommene Beschreibung eines Typus geben, die auf mehr als gerade ein Individuum paßte, trotzdem Tausende in einem gewissen Sinne dadurch treffend charakterisiert wären.
[End excerpt]

Searching for “Jung” within the volume yields a snippet that shows an article titled “Psychologische Typen” by C. G. Jung starting on page 45 of an issue of the journal. QI may be able to learn more via access to hardcopy at some future date.

Notes:

  1. 1925, Problems of Personality: Studies Presented to Dr. Morton Prince Pioneer in American Psychopathology, Series: International Library of Psychology Philosophy and Scientific Method, Psychological Types by C. G. Jung (Paper read at the International Congress of Education), Start Page 289, Quote Page 295, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Company, London. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1906 April, The Edinburgh Review; or, Critical Journal, Volume 203, Criticisms of Life in Ireland (Review of “The Lake” by George Moore and three other books), Start Page 362, Quote Page 364, Longmans, Green, and Company, London.(Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1928, Contributions to Analytical Psychology by C. G. Jung, Translated by H. G. Baynes and Cary F. Baynes, Series: International Library of Psychology Philosophy and Scientific Method, Chapter: Psychological Types (Lecture given at the International Congress of Education at Territet, 1923. Contribution to a symposium entitled Problems of Personality on the occasion of Professor Morton Prince’s 60th birthday, London Kegan Paul & Company), Quote Page 302 and 303, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Company, London. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1974 March 28, The News Leader, Dr. McAllister presents final lecture in MBC series by Brenda Williams, Quote Page 8, Column 5, Staunton, Virginia. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 2004 September 20, The New Yorker, Annals of Psychology: Personality Plus by Malcolm Gladwell, Start Page 42, Quote Page 45, Column 2, Published by Condé Nast, New York. (New Yorker digital scans; accessed archives.newyorker.com on April 18, 2018)