What is Procatalepsis?

Procatalepsis (etymologically from Greek, literally “anticipation”) is a rhetorical device which consists when the speaker proactively anticipates, and refutes objections the adversary might bring up, by providing counter-argumentsOpens in new window.

This figure is based on the common knowledge that a potential objection that is answered in advance is subsequently rendered impotent. In so doing, the speaker has established a strong position over that of the opponents' thereby weakening and objecting prospective argument of the opponent.

    An Example —
  • “Yet this is the prime service a man would think, wherein this order should give proof of itself. If it were executed, you'll say. But certain, if execution be remiss or blindfold now, and in this particular, what will it be hereafter and in other books?”
    — John Milton

Precautionary Note — While procatalepsis is a common feature of oratory, the speaker must take great care when using this device, for if not handled with care, “it may seem to throw the orator on the defensive and undermine his credibility, especially if he seems to acknowledge strong arguments against him and does not answer them with absolute conviction.”

Further Readings:
Silver Rhetoricae, Figures | ProcatalepsisOpens in new window