Being a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ to Exercise Debating Skills—and Its Professional Applications

(Posting on exercising debating skills; by one NEB)

The term of the day: ‘devil’s advocate’. Simply, as an idiomatic expression, it refers to a person who disagrees with another on his opinion about an issue and argues for that—not really for the sake of fully attacking him, but for the purpose of testing his grounds. It’s a good mind exercise that we can train ourselves and our students. A literal meaning of the term is also possible: This, for example, is shown in the movie ‘Devil’s Advocate’ starring great actors Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino dating back to the late 90’s. It’s about a lawyer (read: legal counsel) who defends his clients in the court of law by—still as above—arguing the best he can using all the facts, details, and logic putting all these together so as to convince the jury that they are not guilty—though they may actually be.

The point here is for the legal counsel to best argue to convince the jury of his clients’ innocence despite their possible guilt. Before this, the session is even rehearsed between the counsel and his client to make sure that they avoid the flaw of any nature and that the flow of later actual questioning goes smoothly and gains the jury’s favor. Here, justice can’t be obstructed, but it can be ‘constructed’, and the actual truth is destructed. An advocate working this way is devil (and, thus, devil’s advocate). The movie is superb. I recommend watching it (Note: the verb ‘destruct’ is deliberately used in place of ‘destroy’ to maintain the rhyme; after all, we have ‘self-destruct’—from the movie ‘Mission Impossible’ :-))

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