devil's advocate

(redirected from a devil's advocate)

devil's advocate

One who argues against or attacks an idea, argument, or proposition—even if one is in favor of it—for the sake of debate or to further examine its strength, validity, or details. Refers to the "Advocatus Diaboli," a person employed by the Catholic Church to argue against the canonization of a saint (and therefore help determine if that person is truly worthy of sainthood). I'm all for universal health care, but let me be the devil's advocate for a moment. How do you propose the government fund such a massive undertaking? Tom always plays devil's advocate in any given conversation because he loves picking apart other people's arguments.
See also: advocate

devil's advocate

One who argues against a cause or position either for the sake of argument or to help determine its validity. For example, My role in the campaign is to play devil's advocate to each new policy before it's introduced to the public . This term comes from the Roman Catholic Church, where advocatus diaboli (Latin for "devil's advocate") signifies an official who is appointed to present arguments against a proposed canonization or beatification. It was transferred to wider use in the mid-1700s.
See also: advocate

a/the devil’s ˈadvocate

a person who argues against something, even though they really agree with it, just to test the arguments for it: Helen doesn’t really think that women shouldn’t go out to work. She just likes to play devil’s advocate.
See also: advocate
References in periodicals archive ?
Did it matter whether the advocate's true position coincided with what she was arguing as a devil's advocate? We were especially interested in seeing whether the technique could have the same impact as authentic dissent when there was the closest possible match, namely when the devil's advocate was known to believe the position she was asked to argue.
She actually believed what she was now arguing as a devil's advocate.
The comparison of most interest was between this third condition--a devil's advocate arguing a position she actually believed--and the authentic dissent condition, in which she argued the same position--the same way--but had not been asked to be a devil's advocate. In both of those conditions, she was arguing something she had believed from the beginning--and everyone knew it.
During the first 1,100 years of the church, the process of being named a saint--whether pope, peasant, or pauper--did not involve the now usual extensive investigation, detailed testimony, presence of a devil's advocate, and, ultimately, decision--yea or nay--by the pope himself.