15

There's this term for the rhetorical device of anticipating counterarguments and rebutting them, but I simply can't remember it.

Now I know what you're thinking - did you try googling it? Well I did, and was not able to find it. I'm pretty sure its a greek word that starts with either 'a' or 'p'. I also tried looking through Glossary of rhetorical terms but was unable to see it.

  • 1
    Googling "anticipated argument" gets you Procatalepsis - Wikipedia -- what more do you want! – Kris Oct 18 at 11:14
  • Slightly off the topic, but when I am the customer, I just take the attitude I don't give a **** about your counterarguments; if I don't want to I don't want to and no I don't have a reason. See freshnewideas.eu/whos-right-archie-or-mike for more details. – Jennifer Oct 19 at 4:44
  • 3
    @Kris: Well done for finding it, but go easy on OP — Google results depend heavily both on the exact search phrasing, and on the user’s location, search history, etc. So OP may well have searched for anticipated counterargument, term for anticipating opposing arguments, and half a dozen other variations without success; or, less likely but still quite possible, they might even have searched for exactly the same thing you did and gotten different results. – PLL Oct 19 at 8:30
23

It sounds like

Procatalepsis (Wikipedia):

Procatalepsis, also called prolepsis or prebuttal, is a figure of speech in which the speaker raises an objection to their own argument and then immediately answers it. By doing so, they hope to strengthen their argument by dealing with possible counter-arguments before their audience can raise them.

  • Yes - that's exactly it. Thank you! – pellucidcoder Oct 18 at 6:19
  • Do you have an english word for it, perhaps, seniore moribus tempus? – vectory Oct 18 at 10:29
  • @vectory Procatalepsis is the English word for it (derived from Ancient Greek), if you're after the more common English term for it then Jason's answer (preemptive arguments) covers it. – KillingTime Oct 18 at 11:40
  • 1
    @killingtime, that's just not euphonic in English. BTW, pelucidcoder, next time you might just ask on greek.SE, which for some reason is called latin.SE. – vectory Oct 18 at 17:51
  • 1
    +1, but it should be noted that prolepsis is much more common than procatalepsis. I'm not sure why Wikipedia would choose the latter for its article title. – ruakh Oct 19 at 0:11
17

It sounds like preemptive arguments.

From Merriam-Webster's definition of preemptive:

4 : marked by the seizing of the initiative : initiated by oneself
// a preemptive attack

From "Framing an argument" by Biljana Scott:

Pre-emptive arguments

A salient use of pre-emptive arguments involves the recognition and acknowledgment of the opposing position, maybe sympathising and even identifying with it, but then showing why the particular circumstances demand the alternative approach being proposed. This framing strategy is illustrated by sequences such as the following, in which all the propositions preceding the ‘but’ act as acknowledgements which the following statement overrules:

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said… I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak ... in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King. But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their example alone. I face the world as it is and cannot stand idle in the face of threats.

 … There is a two-fold advantage to this counterbalancing dynamic. The first is that the speaker appears both well-informed and well-reasoned in so far as he presents his views not as assertions, but as the more considered choice. Secondly, a pre-emptive move is in evidence, since the argument being rejected anticipates likely responses to the one being proposed, and deals with them there and then.

  • I appreciate you taking the time to answer. "Pre-emptive argument" does seem to define exactly what I'm talking about. But I'm 99% sure there is a word of greek origin that means the same thing, that describes the rhetorical technique. It's that word that I'm looking for. – pellucidcoder Oct 18 at 6:02
  • 5
    @pellucidcoder The 'official' Greek term may sound more authoritative, but people are more likely to understand 'preemptive'. – Mitch Oct 18 at 13:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.