Procatalepsis is the term for a writer's proactive approach to addressing the argument that an opponent might make to his argument. It is also sometimes called "prebuttal," which means that instead of providing a rebuttal after the opponent has objected, the writer anticipates the objections and addresses them head on in his original argument.
A teenager arguing that her parents should give her a phone might include the following procatalepsis:
I know that you are going to say that you cannot afford to pay for a phone for me. However, I have been saving money from my babysitting job, and I believe that I have enough funds to cover the next 12 months of phone service.
A politician arguing for a new social program to provide more maternity leave benefits to young mothers might include the following procatalepsis:
My opponents may argue that such a program would but an undue financial burden on employers and on the state. Yet, imagine the future financial benefits when we have children who received proper nurturing from birth? Imagine the number of young mothers-talented members of our workforce-who would elect to remain in their professions instead of quitting altogether if we offered a better balance between motherhood and career?
Examples of Procatalepsis in Literature:
The following example of procatalepsis appears in Plato's Apology:
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 . . . 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.
In his satirical essay "A Modest Proposal," Jonathan Swift suggests that the English can deal with the Irish famine and overpopulation by eating the babies. He offers the following satirical procatalepsis in his essay:
I can think of no one objection that will possibly be raised against this proposal, unless it should be urged that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the kingdom. This I freely own, and it was indeed the principal design in offering it to the world.
Literary Terms Examples