The Devil's Advocate
Apparently it was Oscar Wilde who said, "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit." Now, I don't know the context of the quote, but I think it's true. Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. Similarly, I think playing the devil's advocate is the lowest form of argument.
In my experience, people play the devil's advocate for two reasons: 1) because they think their audience is ignorant of an opposing argument, or 2) because they have no conviction on the discussion at hand. Assuming these are indeed the reasons for playing the devil's advocate, here are my thoughts on each:
- Why do people so often assume the worst in others? What if we approached every discussion or debate with the assumption that most -- if not all -- people have done their homework or have put some thought into what they say? Just because someone is arguing one position doesn't mean he or she hasn't thought of every other one.
But let's say that in the course of a discussion, it becomes apparent that the person you're talking to has, in fact, not considered all sides of a topic. Instead of standing behind an idea that you're not necessarily 100% -- or even 50% -- in support of in order to teach a lesson or make a point, you could simply say, "Some people think [this] about this topic. What do you make of that?" Or, "I've heard a few friends say [this] on the matter. What are your thoughts?"
- People should say what they mean and mean what they say. If they don't know what they mean, then they should listen. Or ask questions.
*This post isn't directed toward anyone in particular; it's meant for a general audience.
Thing I'm thankful for: Tanya, my fellow student worker