Sunday, September 6, 2015

#249 / Prolepsis

Prolepsis is defined as follows: 

prolepsis |prōˈlepsəs|
noun (pl. prolepses |-ˌsēz| )

1 Rhetoric the anticipation and answering of possible objections in rhetorical speech.

2 the representation of a thing as existing before it actually does or did so, as in he was a dead man when he entered.


Whether it is working out a list of possible national "threats," as discussed in my posting yesterday, or worrying ahead of time about an argument you think you are going to have to have with somebody you care about, I am actually serious in suggesting that it doesn't make much sense to "think ahead," and to anticipate. Our anticipatory preparations for conjured, specific adversities is actually not very beneficial.

This advice does not mean that I am rejecting the Boy Scout motto that guided me so well in my youth: "Be Prepared." If we are personally and nationally prepared (in general), then let's not worry about the specifics. 

Let's not "borrow trouble," to use the phrase made famous (to me) by my mother. 

We will probably see some trouble, sooner or later, but worrying about it in advance, trying to discern all of its possible specific features ahead of time, and seeing all the negative possibilities as "threats," is not really the right way to live a good life. It's not even the best way to be ready for what may, in fact, come. As we worry about specific "threats," instead of preparing ourselves generally for all possibilities, we actually narrow our range of possible future action. 

Sometimes that's called "fighting the last war."

Finding out "Who" to be afraid of is not my idea of a good way to be prepared for a world in which "anything" can happen. 

And if we anticipate the worst, I'm sure we'll l find it.

My prescription: 
Generally fit and ready. 
Not oppressed by specific and hypothetical threats. 

That's the way to be. 

And besides, isn't this our actual experience?

Image Credit:
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  1. We've moved up the pace-of-change log curve to the point where anticipating what might lie ahead is increasingly difficult and, of course, attempts to repeal the law of unintended consequences have consistently failed.

    I suspect that in your advocacy efforts of one sort or another, you have, under the first definition, been prolepsis-ific.

  2. I don't think your argument is as broadly applicable as you appear to suggest, Gary. Nobody avoids prolepsis better than climate-change deniers.


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