Devil’s advocate

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A devil’s advocate is a person who takes the contrary view only for the purpose of debate, one who tests the strength of an argument through lively opposition. A person who plays the devil’s advocate does so in order to expose weak points in a philosophy and therefore examine a matter more thoroughly. A devil’s advocate is not trying to “win” an argument, he is attempting to examine a problem from all sides. The term devil’s advocate comes into English in the 1700s, from the Latin advocatus diaboli. Diaboli Advocatus was an office in Roman Catholicism,  it’s function was to uncover any facts concerning a candidate for canonization that would argue against sainthood.


A devil’s advocate might say it’s possible the former employers intentionally fed the managers bad advice to undermine their new teams. (The Wall Street Journal)

Kirstie will set about transforming their current home with the help of an expert team, while Phil will be playing devil’s advocate and using his expertise to explore what they could get for their money elsewhere. (The Rutland & Stamford Mercury)

So if we’re discussing a critical issue, we’ll appoint someone — and the role rotates — to be the devil’s advocate, no matter what their personal point of view is. (The New York Times)

“Our job with each other is to be completely impolite and play devil’s advocate,” Cuaron says. “We know that whatever we say is out of caring.” (Variety)

The 58-year-old artist spoke slowly through a German translator as Liao played devil’s advocate with his line of questioning. (The Guardian)

It is, the devil’s advocate could argue, a way of knowing them better, of seeing other sides of them, of understanding them more deeply, a natural extension of desire. (The Financial Times)