On Playing Devil's Advocate

After the invasion of Cuba, now known as the CIA's 'Perfect Failure', President Kennedy asked his brother Robert to "argue majority opinions and consider every idea" because he wanted to make sure the advice he was receiving from the CIA and others was, without a doubt, the best and most accurate. 

Kennedy wanted his brother to play the "Devil's advocate" a practice which dates back to 1587 and Pope Sixtus V, and which is, at times, misunderstood for arguing. But as with President Kennedy and Pope Sixtus V, the purpose of playing devil's advocate isn't simply to dispute, but to find and promote truth.

When Pope Sixtus V instituted a new process for vetting candidates for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church, he assigned a promotor fidei, or promoter of the faith, to appose canonization by critically evaluating the character of candidates and challenging claims of miracles they had performed. The promoter of the faith argued against the advocatus Dei, God's advocate, and became known as the devil's advocate (via).

The devil's advocate wasn't seen as an enemy or competition that needed to be overcome, they were an ally, and one who would promote the faith. They probably argued and fought and and got pretty emotion, but at the end of the day, they embraced, shared a beer, or laughed about old times because, at the end of it all, they, the devil's advocate and God's advocate, were on the same side, heading in the same direction and wanting the same thing: the promotion of the faith, and of Truth.

So they argued like they were right, and listened like they were wrong. 



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