Talk:Devil's advocate

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I would rather not translate advocatus diaboli into "Devil's Lawyer". I think it's better left as "Devil's Advocate" because in this case advocate derives from the original latin meaning of to speak for someone (as the english word advocacy does)

Etymology isn't meaning. (talk) 05:08, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

What does "since then" mean?[edit]

This page is vague about the chronology. During what time period was the title of Defensor Fidei used? Until the Second Vatican Council? Or until some time in the late medieval period? Or what? The second paragraph begins with the words "since then", as if some period of time had been specified. But it has not. Can someone clear this up? Michael Hardy 17:39, 26 Jul 2004 (UTC)

We hardly need the phrase, so I've removed it. But we do still need to get the date of when this stopped! (Probably Vatican II, but that's just an educated guess on my part.) -- Toby Bartels 16:33, 6 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Well, the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia speaks of it in the present tense, so that's some clue. -- Toby Bartels 16:34, 6 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Also, the term Fidei Defensor was commonly used int he representation of Queen Elizabeth of England, Ireland, and France. It was represented along with her coat of arms, sot hat gives some sort of starting date, but I'm sure it goes way back before then. -- Zeerus 9:55, 2 Feb, 2005

See Fidei defensor. Awarded to Henry VIII by Pope Leo X and revoked by Pope Paul III and then awarded to Henry VIII by the English Parliament Kevin Wykes 28 June 2005 12:54 (UTC)

"Such a dramatic increase suggests that the office of the Devil's Advocate had served to reduce the number of canonizations by complicating the process." - It suggests no such thing, unless you take the POV that there should be lots more saints, and the DA was a hinderance. It's kinda like taking away the role of the defense attorney and saying that the increase in convictions showed that the defense attorney role was a mere 'complication.'

Angel's advocate - merge?[edit]

I've never heard the phrase "angel's advocate" before, but it did seem to turn up a respectable amount of Google hits. But at its current stub form, I think it's worth merging in here instead of leaving it as a separate article, since it would seem to have evolved directly from "devil's advocate" and seems to be less commonly used. BryanG(talk) 23:08, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

It's the polar opposite, I don't think a merge is appropriate, especially given the multiple contexts of this term. --badlydrawnjeff talk 00:38, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Actually, looking at it again, I disagree with myself! Never mind, then... BryanG(talk) 07:25, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Pope Sixtus V[edit]

Pope Sixtus V was pope during 1587 when this post was created so does that mean that that we can credit him with creating it? --Kick the cat 12:42, 18 January 2007 (UTC)


if you only use your opponents dumbest arguments, to "discredit" his position as redicolous or troll-like, is there a special name for this technic? -- 11:12, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

If I understand your question correctly, it seems like you're referring to Straw man argumentation, albeit a specific form thereof. shidobu 02:28, 2 May 2007 (UTC)
That's not really what the IP is asking (although they may have worded their question poorly). A straw man argument is an argument that your opponent does not truly hold; in contrast, "your opponent[']s dumbest arguments" are really held by them. I seem to recall reading a real term for the rhetorical trick (not necessarily strictly fallacy) of focussing only on your opponent's poorest arguments, but I cannot remember what it was; "picking low-hanging fruit" is the best I can come up with. If your opponent is a group, and you only use the dumbest arguments that any member of the group has ever forwarded, the technique can effectively be a straw-man-type argument, though, with an element of "nutpicking", as most (or even almost all) members of the opposing group will not actually use the poor arguments that you are refuting. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 20:57, 8 January 2015 (UTC)

Is this even English?[edit]

"This practice is generally an instructional technique in which one person argues a position that another is less familiar with, thereby teaching proper argument." Please fix, thanks. 08:23, 8 May 2007 (UTC)

Steven Colbert[edit]

What about its use in comedy such as Steven Colbert's Colbert Report. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Abaac (talkcontribs) 22:51, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

Cuban Missile Crisis brought this term into current usage[edit]

My understanding of this term is that it was brought into modern usage by the interaction of Kennedy and his staff.

The historical meaning related to religion is certainly not in the current mindset.

Can anyone expound on this? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Michael.Urban (talkcontribs) 17:28, 1 February 2008 (UTC)

Promotor Fidei = Advocatus Diaboli[edit]

Foofighter20x changed this page in February to say that Promotor Fidei and Advocatus Diaboli were opposites, i.e. that the Promotor Fidei was "God's advocate". This seems to be false, so I put back a clearer version of what was there before and added a reference to the Catholic Encyclopedia. Colin Watson (talk) 01:59, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

But if they're not opposites then they are the same? It seems to me that the Postulator has the role of the Prosecutor, trying to prove that the candidate is "guilty" of being saintly, so the Promotor Fidei plays the Defense, trying to show reasonable doubts about it. If this is so, then the role of "Devil's advocate" is still in place. Does it make sense? Prudencio Clemente (talk) 01:20, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

I agree with Colin Watson's reading of the Catholic Encyclopedia. The promoter and the devil's advocate were the same person. Since the promoter office is still in existance, and the promoter is also charged with the role of devil's advocate, the "function" or "office?" of the devil's advocate is still in existance. Nicholascarew (talk) 14:50, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

Christopher Hitchens[edit]

I think if the mention of Christopher Hitchens is kept, a neutral 3rd party source is required. --Rob (talk) 02:50, 2 August 2008 (UTC) buller man —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:52, 25 April 2009 (UTC)

I just finished Hitchens' "Hitch 22" where he reasserts his claim that Pope John Paul II "did away" with the office of devil's advocate as one of the changes he made to Catholic canon law/doctrine in 1983. The amendments to canon law/doctrine made in 1983 are available on the Vatican's website in English. I have scoured the site and see nothing dealing with the abolition of the devil's advocate "position." Footnote 2 in this article is the only source for this proposition, other than Hitchens' bald assertion. The link is dead. Shouldn't there be a link to the 1983 revision of canon law that did away with the position on this page?

It appears that the promoter and the devil's advocate were (based on the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia available on line) the same person. The promoter office is still in existance, so the devil's advocate position must be too, as they are the same person. Finally, I find the idea that the Vatican would call Hitchens into a meeting on Mother Theresa's qualifications for canonization ludicrous. I agree with Hitch that she was a grifter BTW. I just wish he wouldn't make things up as I am sure he is doing here. Fabricating stuff doesn't help his "case" for the absence of a deity or the absurdity of RC beliefs. I took his book "Hitch 22" out of the library and have returned it, so I can't cite the page, but in his latest version of this strange encounter, Hitchens claims that Pope John Paul II "surreptitiously" did away with the devil's advocate office in 1983. If the Pope acted "surreptitiously," it may explain why there is no mention of this supposed change in canon law in the actual text. On the other hand, while I am not an expert by any means on canon law, I have some familiarity with it and am not certain how any pope acts "surreptitiously." I would think that the Pope would at least have to issue some decree or something to change canon law. Nicholascarew (talk) 14:27, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

I checked the article written by Hitchens. It does support the claim in the article that he was called by the Vatican to testify. He writes: "I told my journalistic inquirers what I had told the panel of priests and monsignors before whom I testified: it's really none of my business who is beatified or canonized by the Roman Catholic Church." He is clearly claiming that he testified before a panel of Catholic officials. The full text of the magazine, Free Inquiry, is accessible via a proprietary ProQuest database. Clausen (talk) 23:01, 12 November 2013 (UTC)

Hitchens Removal[edit]

This edit has removed all mention of Hitchens being an devils advocate 2404:130:0:1000:8DCA:40F5:A3AF:2581 (talk) 23:19, 15 March 2016 (UTC)

Where did this article go?[edit]

Apparently the references were pending when the previous version was made, the third edit from the top showing the full article, but why was the rest of the article deleted in the next two? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:18, 3 July 2010 (UTC)


I didn't remove it, but I can see why it was removed. The old article made an unfounded assertion regarding the origin of the phrase. The work cited as indicating the origin of the phrase does not state the origin, but rather states that Promotor Fidei is commonly referred to as the Devil's Advocate; which does not exclude the possibility that the term Devil's Advocate was not invented for the Promotor Fidei but before it.

The Online Oxford English Dictionary draws the same connection, giving it some credence, but it still does not state that the Promotor Fidei is the original Devil's Advocate. Many other online sources refer to the Promotor Fidei as the original Devil's Advocate, or give Promotor Fidei as a secondary definition of Devil's Advocate; but none reputable state that it is the origin. There seems to be a general consensus that this is the origin among less reputable sources. I do not have a copy of an etymological dictionary such as the complete Oxford English Dictionary; but I'd like to see what the OED has to say on the matter.

I agree that an etymology is sorely needed on this page, but since I don't know what that etymology is for certain, I cannot add one myself.

Further, if the Promotor Fidei paragraph is eventually restored, the section on criticism of the removal of the office should be removed since it is irrelevant to the original article.—Spezied (talk) 14:57, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

Common Parlance vs. original meaning[edit]

Would it be of use to disclose at the very top (in the 'definition'), that the common parlance meaning has strayed significantly from the originial meaning? Clearly, according to "Origins," the Devil's Advocate was there to tear down an opposing viewpoint or position with damning evidence, NOT to mock/elevate that opposing viewpoint by taking their position for rhetorical purpose. From Fowler's Modern English Usage:

...far from being the whitewasher of the wicked, the devil's advocate is the blackener of the good.


For an example, arguing pro vs. contra in the very current debate about "Tiger Mother" Amy Chua's parenting style, if I wanted to weaken the position of reasonable, modern day "good" parents (who are up in arms about the Tiger Mother), I'd play Devil's Advocate by relating a story about how modern parents will drive their SUV down a 1/4 mile driveway to pick up their kids from the school bus stop - instead of letting them walk and enjoy the sunshine (not to mention they should have walked or cycled all the way from school). As D.A. I would be arguing in favor of Chua's draconian parenting style, but only insofar as I was tearing down the "good" parents, by exhibiting some of their faults. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Retro cycler (talkcontribs) 14:54, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

Inconsistent spelling[edit]

It seems both British and non-British English readers have edited this page. For example, there's both canonisation and canonization. (talk) 09:48, 5 July 2016 (UTC)