Devil’s Advocate

What it is: Making a rhetorical argument against an argument you have made or otherwise believe in, in order to further discuss the weaknesses of your argument so that you may strengthen it.


What it is not: Going into a space where your personal viewpoint is specifically the opposite of the viewpoint of regular members and proceeding to argue, without regard to etiquette or basic rules of rhetoric, that they are wrong.


If you are going to do the latter, then do not say you are playing devil’s advocate. You are, at best, going to annoy the shit out of someone. (Of course, in my experience, those playing “devil’s advocate” in such a way are overwhelmingly trying to use the phrase as a smokescreen for the fact that they are trolling with intent to cause maximum harm to any given community.)


One thought on “Devil’s Advocate

  1. pecunium says:

    The origin of the term is interesting. The Adovcatus Diabolo is a priest, who has trained in canon law, as well as issues of (in these days) pyschology, history, etc., who is present to argue against the creation of a saint.

    They argue that the person being discussed isn’t perfect enough, in their life on earth, to warrant such a declaration. They win, more often than not; since those whom they refute at the beginning of the process are never named to the list of the beatified (the first step in the process of deciding someone was a saint).

    I think the way this changed is that, by and large, the person in that role isn’t inclined to think the person is all that bad, but that they aren’t all that good either. And since the arguments must be gone over again as the process goes on, well it’s true that people are required to argue against something they don’t quite believe.

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