Rhetorical Device: Procatalepsis

Procatalepsis is a rhetorical device used to draw attention to a point by introducing it and then immediately rejecting it. This creates the effect of a strong argument that is difficult to refute.
Procatalepsis is a powerful tool for public speakers and can be an effective way to lead the audience to a certain conclusion. It can also be a good means of 'stealing the thunder' from an opponent, or neutralising their argument before they get to use it.


The example was given not to Englishmen but to Irishmen, and the “like case” can never arise in England, but only in Ireland. To Englishmen I set no evil example, for I made no appeal to them. I asked no Englishman to help me. I asked Irishmen to fight for their rights. The “evil example” was only to other Irishmen who might come after me, and in “like case” seek to do as I did. How, then, since neither my example nor my appeal was addressed to Englishmen, can I be rightfully tried by them? If I did wrong in making that appeal to Irishmen to join with me in an effort to fight for Ireland, it is by Irishmen, and by them alone, I can be rightfully judged. Roger Casement, "Speech From The Dock" (29 June 1916)

Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all". Nelson Mandela, "Statement from the Dock - Rivonia Trial" (20 April 1964)

WWS rhetorical device explainer card on procatalepsis

I may be asked, why I am so anxious to bring this subject before the British public — why I do not confine my efforts to the United States?
My answer is, first, that slavery is the common enemy of mankind, and all mankind should be made acquainted with its abominable character.
My next answer is, that the slave is a man, and, as such, is entitled to your sympathy as a brother. All the feelings, all the susceptibilities, all the capacities, which you have, he has. He is a part of the human family.
Frederick Douglass, An Appeal to the British People (12 May 1846)

Further reading

  • Wikipedia: Procatalepsis Visit
  • Silva Rhetoricæ: The Forest of Rhetoric Visit
  • Nordquist, Richard: "Definition and Examples of Procatalepsis in Rhetoric" ThoughtCo Visit
  • LiteraryDevices.net: Procatalepsis Visit