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Title: Proslepsis  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Prolepsis, Nous
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Not to be confused with Apophysis, Apoptosis, or Apophis (disambiguation).

Apophasis (Late Latin, from Greek ἀπόφασις from ἀπόφημι—apophemi,[1] "to say no"[2]) is defined as the rejection of several reasons why a thing should or should not be done and affirming a single one, considered most valid[3]. It refers, in general to when a contriver pretends to hide or leave out what he in fact is saying.[4] Apophasis covers a wide variety of figures of speech. According to

Apophasis appears in traditions, as a distinct mode of discourse not easily treated in terms of the development from Plotinus (270 c.e.). Apophasis was originally and more broadly a method of logical reasoning or argument by denial—a way of describing what something is by explaining what it is not, or a process-of-elimination way of talking about something by talking about what it is not. An example of this is the World Heritage Encyclopedia article "'World Heritage Encyclopedia: What World Heritage Encyclopedia is not." Plotinus called his apophasis a "symbolic" use of language.[6]


Paralipsis (παράλειψις) or occupatio,[7][8][9][10] also spelled paraleipsis or paralepsis, and known also as praeteritio, preterition, cataphasis (κατάφασις), antiphrasis (ἀντίφρασις), or parasiopesis (παρασιώπησις), is a rhetorical device wherein the speaker or writer brings up a subject by denying that it should be brought up. As such, it can be seen as a rhetorical relative of irony. Paralipsis is usually employed to make a subversive ad hominem attack which makes it a frequently used tactic in politcal speeches to make an attack on one's opponent. Using paralipsis in this way is often considered to be bad form.[11]

The device is typically used to distance the speaker from unfair claims, while still bringing them up. For instance, a politician might say, "I don't even want to talk about the allegations that my opponent is a drunk." A political advertisement may say, "Vote for Smith for sober leadership", implying that Jones, his opponent, is an irresponsible drunk.


When paralipsis is taken to its extreme, then proslepsis occurs, whereby the speaker provides full details stating and/or drawing attention to something in the very act of pretending to pass it over[12]; for example, "I will not stoop to mentioning the occasion last winter when our esteemed opponent was found asleep in an alleyway with an empty bottle of vodka still pressed to his lips."[13]

Paralipsis was often used by Cicero in his orations. For example:
"Obliviscor iam iniurias tuas, Clodia, depono memoriam doloris mei" ("I now forget your wrongs, Clodia, I set aside the memory of my pains [that you caused].")
Cicero, "Pro Caelio", Chapter 50
"It would be superfluous in me to point out to your lordship that this is war."
Charles Francis Adams, U.S. Ambassador to Britaindispatch to Earl Russell, 5 September 1863, concerning Britain's relations with the Confederacy.
"Ssh," said Grace Makutsi, putting a finger to her lips. "It's not polite to talk about it. SO I won't mention the Double Comfort Furniture Shop, which is one of the businesses my fiance owns, you know. I must not talk about that. But do you know the store, Mma? If you save up, you should come in some day and buy a chair."

A more positive usage of paralipsis/paralepsis embodies the narrative style of Adso of Melk in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, where the character fills in details of early fourteenth-century history for the reader by stating it is unnecessary to speak of them.[14][example needed]

With proper names

When it is taboo to speak of an entity by name, an epithet or sobriquet can be used in place of the name. For example, when it was forbidden in Myanmar to speak the name of political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, she was commonly referred to as "The Lady". Various names of God in Judaism are used to avoid writing or speaking sacred names. The name of the fictional Lord Voldemort in the popular Harry Potter universe was taboo, and he was commonly referred with epithets such as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" and "You-Know-Who".

See also



External links

  • Figures of rhetoric: Apophasis
  • A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices: Apophasis
  • Wordsmith: Paralipsis
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