1) thanks for explaining the "steal your thunder" line, b/c i genuinely didn't understand it, and now i do. not as offensive as i'd vaguely assumed.
2) yeah, it seems people use devil's advocate to mean irl contrarian troll to perpetuate spirited (read: people get offended) conversation, or to argue for things you don't mean. the latter one more often, but that's the one i don't understand (trolling i understand). say i have a theory, like that thoughts can't consist in mental states that are themselves representations of the world analogous to human language. in fact, i do have that theory (human language involves social conventions and, more to the point, purpose; a sentence gets its meaning from how it's *used*, but that's categorically different than what language of thought theorists--and i assume most cognitive scientists--task the representations that mental states are supposed to be to do).
however, in order to argue for my point, it is essential that i make the strongest arguments i can for language of thought or "mentalese". of course i don't believe in it, but in a sense i don't believe its opposite either as long as i can still form arguments (though i do "think its opposite is true" at least). belief (and even certainty) never presuppose that you can't take seriously a counterargument, or at least they shouldn't (and 'belief' is a word used for all sorts of different things).
i guess i find it odd when people say i'm playing devil's advocate b/c i raise issues. people try to attribute these issues to me like they're my eye color or something, but i'm not pretending to hold these views. i'm also attentive to ideas and conversation enough to know when the questions themselves rest on possibly fallacious presuppositions. in fact, *my whole training* as a student centered around locating such presuppositions and questioning them. so it's not like i "tip my hand" by raising an issue, ie illustrate presuppositions that someone doesn't believe i really have (which would be playing devil's advocate). we find every branch and possibility and hammer it out. most presuppositions themselves are only used to employ hypothetical reasoning.
i believe in very little, and am pretty open and demonstrative about it. it's strange to me when people start to lump me in with brainwashed fundamentalists or some other group when i raise an argument to their point or worldview.
in short, i get what devil's advocate is supposed to mean, but i don't think there's a clear distinction b/w arguing a position you "don't believe" and raising possible counterarguments. it's especially sticky when so much human argument really is coming from a place similar to eye color; so-and-so argues that this-or-that war is just *because of how they identify themselves and make the world make sense*. if i pretended to do that, would i be devil's advocate? or is that too strong a definition; is it simply devil's advocate to offer a counterargument in the interest of rigor? if so, weird phrase. judging from the reactions i get when people think i'm playing the devil's advocate (frustrated, "come on, you don't REALLY believe that do you??" ["no i don't, stupid, have you ever tried rationality?"]), i don't think the latter definition is usually the operative one.
3) doctorugh, i'm not sure what the jay leno comment meant, but i ALWAYS am interested in someone's beer recommendations. there's tons of beer in the world, and really i think knowing that someone loves something (or at least likes it) makes a beer more interesting than just seeing it on a shelf or knowing its style/brewing history/whatever. i always appreciate beer recommendations, even if it turns out that i've tried whatever the person is suggesting many times.
Edited, Feb 10th 2010 1:48am by milich
nk i wish to be the red comet.