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Say someone regularly plays devil's advocate, arguing against whatever belief is currently espoused, even if he believes in it. In particular the individual believes in doing this with his own beliefs as well, and regularly mentally argues against a belief he holds to ensure they are reasonable and not skewed by bias.

Is there a word to describe a person who does this, or the belief in the importance of doing this with one's own beliefs?

Is there a word to refer to the act of arguing against your personal beliefs, particularly in situations where the argument is done internally, purely to verify the validity of the belief, rather then externally as part of a debate or discussion with others?

Edit:

to clarify I'm trying to avoid negative connotations, looking for either value neutral or positive word. The focus should be on questioning ideas as a path towards checking biases, flawed logic, or simply finding missed arguments against that may change one's judgement; with the ultimate goal of ensuring a more informed final decision. Or in short, a way to avoid personal dogma clouding reason.

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    Wouldn't such people be called skeptical? – BiscuitBoy Dec 10 '15 at 16:51
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    A "contrarian" mostly meets the definition. – Laconic Droid Dec 10 '15 at 16:58
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    Argumentative might fit. – Hot Licks Dec 10 '15 at 17:09
  • Updated the question to state that I was looking for a word with a value neutral or positive tendency, sorry should have thought of that sooner :) – dsollen Dec 10 '15 at 18:11
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    My first thought was “analytical”, possibly followed by “logical”.  These may describe a devil's advocate, but they are not synonymous with devil's advocate, and don't carry the same connotations.  (P.S. “Impartial” isn't what you're looking for, is it?) – Scott Jul 19 '17 at 21:21
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There are two words that are synonyms of devil's advocate, however neither is commonly used and one actually has a negative connotation.

The first is polemicist. This one carries an implication of (viciously) attacking another's point of view, so this is not what you want.

The second is apologist. This term is slightly more neutral, referring to someone who defends a position that is being attacked by others. It might work, it might not.

In my opinion, the best term to use to describe this person is the original term: devil's advocate.

  • I agree, the original phrase of "devil's advocate" carries the exact meanings and associations desired by the OP. – Trevor Brown Dec 10 '15 at 18:54
  • Neither is quite what I like, but as others keep pointing out apparntly I'm not the only one who can't find the right phrase. I'm accepting this because it did it's best to address what I was looking for despite the difficulty, and because it taught me a new word I didn't know before that I likely will use at some point :) – dsollen Dec 15 '15 at 16:42
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That it is difficult to find neutral let alone positive terms speaks volumes about our language. Devoted self-questioner, positive skeptic, skillful doubter, rational Buddhist.

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Contrarian: opposing or rejecting popular opinion or current practice. "the comment came more from a contrarian disposition than moral conviction"

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How about "gadfly"? From Wikipedia:

A gadfly is a person who interferes with the status quo of a society or community by posing novel, potently upsetting questions, usually directed at authorities. The term is originally associated with the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, in his defense when on trial for his life.

  • not really the same thing, but I admit there are times it could work well, and it's just plan fun word to use, so I'll probably use it at some point :) I already knew it, but you make me realize I really should try to incorporate it into my spoken vocabulary more ;) – dsollen Jul 20 '17 at 11:43
  • thinking it ove rmore I'm close to selecting this as the correct answer, as it's the term I'm most likely to use in my actual daily life when trying to describe something close to the orriginal idea. While I feel it's less exact then some terms it's also better known, it's the one term I could see myself using and expecting other's to understand (plus, it fits into my personal slightly self-depricating humor about myself to call myself a gadfly). But I already selected an answer and should stick with the most accurate, the fact thta the word fits my personality seems unfair bias for choosing – dsollen Jul 20 '17 at 11:54
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obfuscator ob·fus·cate (ŏb′fə-skāt′, ŏb-fŭs′kāt′) tr.v. ob·fus·cat·ed, ob·fus·cat·ing, ob·fus·cates 1. To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand: "A great effort was made ... to obscure or obfuscate the truth" (Robert Conquest). 2. To render indistinct or dim; darken: The fog obfuscated the shore.

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    If there's an answer in there it's pretty well obfuscated. – Hot Licks Nov 8 '16 at 0:53

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