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To Play “Devil‘s Advocate”

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That means, of course, to purposely argue against a particular opinion from the “other side.

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   But there’s a bit more to it than that. And it has an interesting historical root. For that, though, you need to use the DOOR.

 

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   The real “Oxfordy” definition is this:  “…expressing a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of opposing arguments.” Probably that’s not new to you–but where it came from may be.

   According to Albert Jack¹ “The source of this expression lies with the [Roman] Catholic Church and the process of proposing a name for canonization, which is to make an individual into a saint. When a name is proposed, a member of the clergy is appointed to present the opposing argument and that person is known as the advocatus diabolic, from the Latin words advocatus, meaning “summoned one,” and “diaboli,” of the devil. Thus the “devil’s advocate” has been summoned from the devil to present his argument. His opponent in the discussions is known as the advocatus dei (“God’s advocate”), who presents the case in favor of beatification or canonization.”

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   ’ Albert Jack, Black Sheep and Lame Ducks, (Perigee, 2007).