What is Epitrope?

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Epitrope (etymologically from Greek, literally means “to yield”), generally consists in the use of ironic expression to grant agreement to the argument of an opponent that is then turned to the advantage of the speaker.

Classical Examples

Simo in Terrence seem by his words very willingly to grant, that his son might marry Glycerie, when in very deed, he endeavors with all diligence to withdraw him from her, he is quoted as saying:

  1. “let him take her, God speed him will, let him go well and keep house with her.”
  2. Note also the following examples:

  3. “Rejoice, o young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.”

    — (Ecclesiastes 11.9)

  4. “I would not hesitate to say that it is unfortunate that so-called demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham at this time, but I would say in more emphatic terms that it is even more unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community with no other alternative.”

In the last example, King opened the sentence by affirming a point made by the eight white ministers to which he was responding – demonstrations are unfortunate. But King’s agreement, it turned out, was ironic. We see this in the second clause of the sentence when King introduced a truncated residue argument (there is “no other alternative”) that “trumped” the agreement in the opening clause. King appeared to agree with his opponent, but this agreement was quickly turned against the opponent.

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