for the sake of argument


What does "for the sake of argument" mean?

I found some examples at thefreedictionary:

As to this case, if you will have scratches, we say that, for anything we know, you may have accounted for them, assuming for the sake of argument that you have not invented them
I don't exactly know (he has been dead so long) how many pictures he turned out, from first to last; but we will say, for the sake of argument, five hundred.
Grimwig backed and confirmed nearly every assertion he made; and it was the more singular in his case, because, even admitting for the sake of argument, the possibility of scientific improvements being brought to that pass which will enable a gentleman to eat his own head in the event of his being so disposed, Mr.
But I still don't understand the meaning.

Thank you.

  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It means:

    To take an instance to help us examine the point.
    This may not be true but if it was what would follow?

    Effectively it means, then, supposing that, or let's suppose...

    The idea being that by examing what would happen if X were true, we may get an insight into whether it is true, or whether we might want it to be true. This will help us further the discussion (the argument).
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    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Do you think the phrase can be used to avoid being offensive? The recently divorced mayor and his aide was arguing over the report that he had been seen dating with a young lady. The aide is worried that the fling won't do his political career any good

    His aide: It's just that when the public sees a recently divorced man running around with a woman who is... Let's just say, for the sake of argument, younger than him, it might seem inappropriate. They might even jump to the conclusion that he was seeing her while he was still married.

    Source: Spin City 204
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Certainly it need not be offensive. In serious discussion it's a way of floating a premise and examining its consequences, its impact on the discussion, while trying to prohibit questions about the validity of the premise itself. Let's suppose does much the same, as I see I suggested three years ago.

    I'm not saying it can't be used offensively either, of course; most things can.
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