The figment school rules state that:
Figments cannot make something seem to be something else.
However, many figment spells are clearly intended to do just that, and some of them even specify rules for such deceptions. An good example would be the classic illusion spell, Illusory Wall:
When the spell is used to hide pits, traps, or normal doors, any detection abilities that do not require sight work normally. Touch or a probing search reveals the true nature of the surface, though such measures do not cause the illusion to disappear. Although the caster can see through his illusory wall, other creatures cannot, even if they succeed at their Will save (but they do learn that it is not real).
This spell is clearly intended to be used to conceal pits, traps, and normal doors (and also hallways and the ends of rooms, if you use published modules as guides). It makes these things appear to be walls. That's sort of its schtick. Now, the figment subschool rule clearly says it can't do this. Specific trumps general, of course, but Illusory Wall doesn't grant itself any specific exemption to the figment subschool, above text possibly withstanding, and so it is, in general, quite unclear what sorts of deceptions are allowed by this spell.
Another example is Mislead. This spell essentially casts Major Image and Greater Invisibility in a single spell. The main point is this text, which saves you a turn, since you would otherwise need to cast Major Image first, and saves you some breath, since some GMs might otherwise distrust the idea that you can perfectly fit your illusions to your body without any effort, chance of failure, or skill required:
You can make the figment appear superimposed perfectly over your own body so that observers don’t notice an image appearing and you turning invisible.
In any case, this spell clearly makes you appear to be something, and probably somewhere, you aren't, and has the rules text to back up that this is definitely a figment and you can definitely do these things. However, since your illusory double functions just like you cast Major Image, the extent of the modification to the prohibition against deception is pretty important-- your double can explicitly pretend to cast spells, but can it deceive people with regards to their objects otherwise? For instance, it's clear that the double could pretend to cast fireball, and thus cause a stack of paper to be pretend on-fire or pretend burnt, since Major Image can pretend those things into existence (including pretend heat that pretend burns people who touch it, possibly causing them to go into pretend shock and pretend die), and Mislead seems to have an exemption to the figment rules for spellcasting. It's not clear, however, that the double could accomplish the same effect using an illusory flint and steel-- the exemption seems like it might apply only to spellcasting.
Another example is Village Veil, a 5th level spell that alters the appearance of a village such that it seems destroyed, abandoned, and worthless. The spell states:
You throw an illusion over an area to make creatures that view or interact with it believe it has suffered some great catastrophe or calamity that renders it utterly worthless for their needs. You must set a few general guidelines when casting the spell as to the nature of this disaster (fire, tornado, bandit raid, plague, etc.), after which the illusion fills in the remaining details to make it seem realistic.
Again, this spell seems to be granting broad exception to the figment rule. Everything in the region is altered so as to appear as if it had been subjected to the sort of disaster(s) you come up with. The illusion fills in all manner of details, altering existing structures, scenery, and objects to appear consistent with your chosen facade.
Another example is the spell Stolen Light. The spell creates a series of prerecorded illusions, but changes the apparent brightness of anything recorded at brighter than bright to bright, and also specifies that, in certain circumstances, the illusions will be 'less detailed' than the actual object shown.
Light sources brighter than bright light are reduced to bright light in the stolen image.
Another example is the spell Fearsome Duplicate. This spell alters your appearance to that of a horrifying monster up to two size categories larger than you (though it doesn't change your body. It takes your base appearance as a starting place and modifies it to make the illusion). This illusion then goes around and convinces people that you are something other than what you actually are.
You can make the duplicate up to two size categories larger than you are and determine a theme as to how it alters your original appearance. However, this duplicate always retains some vestiges of your actual appearance.
There are lots more examples, but this question isn't about specifics. What I'm trying to figure out is how these rules interact-- it seems pretty clear to me that the illusion spells weren't generally written with the fact they can't convince people the world is in some detail other than it is in reality in mind, and in fact near every illusion spell seems to generally be intended to do exactly that. Given that near every figment is going to be trying to ignore this rule, what is necessary for it to actually do so, and how can the extent of obliquely granted immunities be best gauged?
I'm asking for rules analysis based on existing text, not for suggested house rules with which to replace the actual text. Any such suggestions should be presented on top of, rather than instead of, answering the question.