What is Proecthesis?

Proecthesis (from the Gk. pro, “before” and ekthesis, “a conclusion from that set out” ) is a form of speech by which the speaker defends himself, or another person as unblamable, by giving an answer containing a reason or a justifiable circumstance of what he or the other person has said or done.

Notable Examples
  • “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” — (Mat. 9:13)
  • “How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.” — (Mat. 12:12)
Important Hint! 

This figure is usually put forth in the format of a conclusion by way of adding a justifying reason for what had transpired.

Proecthesis | Definition II —Lanham provides yet a second definition for this figure, “pointing out what ought to have been done, as against what actually has been done” (119). And based on this definition, we get an example by virtue of Brett Zimmerman’s Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric & Style (285), in Poe’s review of The Drama of Exile:

  • It would have been better for Miss Barrett if, throwing herself independently upon her own very extraordinary resources, and forgetting that a Greek had ever lived, she had involved her Eve in a series of adventures merely natural, or if not this, of adventures preternatural within the limits of at least a conceivable relation – arelation of matter to spiririt and spirit to matter, that should have left room for something lke palpable action and comprehensible emotion – that should not have utterly precluded the development of that womanly character which is admitted as the principal object of the poem. As the case actually stands, it is only in a few snatches of verbal intercommunication with Adam and lucifer, that we behold her as a woman at all. (12:4)

In furtherance — Brett Zimmerman, adds “essentially, proecthesis (second definition) is central to Poe’s modus operandi as a critic. He himself suggests as much in “About Critics and Criticism”: the critic must be concerned with “showing how the work might have been improved,” as well as “pointing out and analyzing defects” (13:194).

Further Readings:
Henry Peachum., The Garden of Eloquence | ProecthesisOpens in new window
Brett Zimmerman, Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style | ProecthesisOpens in new window Bullinger, E. W., Figures of Speech Used in the Bible | ProecthesisOpens in new window