Mike’s entry on the Advocacy of the Devil is excellent. He brings up a great point:
Nothing is more infuriating that to be on the verge of an intellectual victory with a worthy opponent and then hear them say, “I was just playing Devil’s Advocate.” The correct usage of the Devil’s Advocate does not involve just the countering an argument. The advocate of the devil is there to sharpen an idea, and therefore is actually on the same side as her “opponent”. Additionally, the use of the Devil’s Advocate needs to be invoked before it is used. To invoke the Devil’s Advocate after it has been applied is to use it to cloak mean-spirited or useless argument.
I had never thought of this before. I have used the “oh, I was just playing devil’s advocate” excuse to back my way out of a losing argument tons of times and never realized how much of an asshole I was for doing so, until I read this.
I apologize to anyone I may have ever pulled this crap on.