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A rhetorical strategy by which a speaker or writer anticipates and responds to an opponent's objections. Also spelled prokatalepsis. Adjective: procataleptic. Similar to prolepsis (definition #1).

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Examples and Observations:

  • "'I know what you're going to say.' (It was one of Grace's most irritating habits that she finished other people's sentences for them in a way that they had not intended.) 'That if they look at it properly they'll see that it wasn't our fault. But will they look at it properly? Of course they won't. You know what cats they are. They're only waiting for a chance. What I mean is that this is just the chance they've been waiting for.'"
    (Hugh Walpole, The Captives, 1920)

  • "Procatalepsis . . . is an effective rhetorical device in that while appearing dialogic, in practice it allows the author to remain in complete control of the discourse."
    (Nicholas Brownlees, "Gerrard Winstanley and Radical Political Discourse in Cromwellian England." Diachronic Perspectives on Domain-Specific English, ed. by Marina Dossena and Irma Taavitsainen. Peter Lang, 2006)

  • "I may be asked, why I am so anxious to bring this subject before the British public--why I do not confine my efforts to the United States? My answer is, first, that slavery is the common enemy of mankind, and all mankind should be made acquainted with its abominable character. My next answer is, that the slave is a man, and, as such, is entitled to your sympathy as a brother. All the feelings, all the susceptibilities, all the capacities, which you have, he has. He is a part of the human family."
    (Frederick Douglass, "An Appeal to the British People." Reception speech at Finsbury Chapel, Moorfields, England, May 12, 1846)

  • "Someone will say: 'Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you?' Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that the greatest good of man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living--that you are still less likely to believe. And yet what I say is true, although a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you."
    (Plato, Apology, trans. by Benjamin Jowett)

  • "Procatalepsis can even be used if you don't have a full answer to the objection. By being honest about the fact that there are problems with your argument, you show your audience that you are grounded in reality. You should never, however, bring up an objection to which you cannot respond."
    (Brendan McGuigan, Rhetorical Devices: A Handbook and Activities for Student Writers. Prestwick, 2007)

  • "'He knows every harbor, every cove and inlet throughout the chain; he has to.'

    "'Those are fine credentials, Geoffrey, but hardly the sort--'

    "'Please,' interrupted Cooke. 'I haven't finished. To anticipate your objection, he's a retired officer of US Naval Intelligence. He's relatively young, early to mid-forties, I'd say, and I've no real knowledge of why he left the service, but I gather the circumstances weren't very pleasant. Still, he could be an asset on this assignment.'"
    (Robert Ludlum, The Scorpio Illusion, 1993)

  • "No group in America has had as poor a start as the first Africans. You'll argue that other groups had to suffer indignities and even slavery, but I immediately remind you that they migrated (i.e. came by choice). Africans were wrenched (even if purchased) from their homeland, brutalized and forced to work for free."
    (Nashieqa Washington, Why Do Black People Love Fried Chicken? And Other Questions You've Wondered But Didn't Dare Ask. Your Black Friend, 2006)
Also Known As: prebuttal, presumptuous, figure of presupposal, anticipated refutation
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