Devil’s Advocate Exercises

annoying

How good are you at playing Devil’s Advocate? I believe that the hardest part of being a good Devil’s Advocate is overcoming your own moral beliefs and prejudices. As such, I’ve created a list of positions you are very unlikely to accept, but which have all been accepted at one time or another. In other words, while these opinions sound awful to you, they exist for non-stupid reasons. If you wish to defeat these ideas, you should at least understand how they work. How many can you successfully advocate for?

1. Societies that allow women to become educated have higher divorce rates. As such, it is best for children, families and society if women are not educated.

2. The military draft is a good thing because it only takes young men. Young men are the most disposable people in a society, so it’s okay if they die.

3. Imperialism is good for developing countries. Most poor nations that became rich did so after a period of imperialism. Saudi-Arabia, South Africa, Chile, South Korea are all examples of how helpful imperialism is.

4. Alcohol should be illegal. People who are drunk are more likely to commit rape, murder and abuse. They kill thousands of people in car crashes.

5. The rule of law is a mistake. It’s better if we just take our criminals to kings or queens who have excellent moral training.

6. Humility, pity and charity are expressions of resentment. Pride, strength and selfishness are natural and good.

7. Slavery is useful and good in countries that haven’t achieved industry. Without slavery, it is difficult for primitive societies to develop.

8. Having different cultures is dangerous. We should try to get rid of the variety of cultures in the world and just make one, global culture.

9. Happiness is nothing next to glory. The person who tries to live a happy life is weak and contemptible. The person who tries to live a great life will be remembered forever.

10. There are too many people in the world. We should make it illegal for women to have more than one child. We should force women in other countries to only have one child, as well.

11.We should destroy books and movies with improper morality. We should choose smart, moral people to control what we can see and can’t see.

12. True communism is beautiful, an ideal for all people to reach for.

13. Some religions and cultures are simply evil. We should force these people to become members of good religions and cultures.

14. Greatness requires sacrifice. It’s better that thousands of people died building the Great Wall of China than if nobody had ever built the Great Wall of China.

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6 comments

  1. Well said. I enjoyed this list and I think you made an an excellent point. I have played devil’s advocate to attempt to understand a few of those arguments.

    1. Thanks for the kind words,

      If you don’t mind my asking, which of these have you tried?

  2. On a quick read through, about half and half. But I am marking this as unread until I can devote the time for thought that it deserves.

  3. I took on number one trying to understand the origins of that thought, and although in the end I don’t agree with it, I did come to conclude that our exclusive focus on education is faulty. Society needs plumbers, trade schools, not 50% of the population going into debt, forgoing family, and getting a liberal arts degree. Mothers, wives, are also vitally important to a community, civilization as a whole, and when that role is demeaned, discarded, in favor of education and careers which are perceived as a superior life path, we all suffer.

    Number two I also disagree with, but trying to play devils advocate there did help me to understand that biology, culture, does treat men as if they are somewhat disposable, and to counter balance we need some awareness of that fact and some of the traditional compensations we’ve always had in place, where we honor men, speak of heroes, elevate them within the culture, because some do lay down their lives protecting and defending us.

  4. This was a great post Ben, it really makes you think. I have opinions on most of those points you list, but I’d rather not exhaust each one here. I tend to prefer the English style of “generally not speaking about politics and religion because it’s considered rude.” 😀

    But I did enjoy your quote:
    “I believe that the hardest part of being a good Devil’s Advocate is overcoming your own moral beliefs and prejudices.” Well said! Something that seems so obvious yet not something I would have been actively aware of before this exercise.

    1. Thanks! I hope this stuff is useful for more than just me.

      One of the things I like about Devil’s Advocate stuff is that the conclusion becomes irrelevant. Having the strong belief that, for example, the military draft is wrong, is actually a liability in this sort of exercise.

      Kind of forces you to think first and believe second. 🙂

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