That's not to say I don't get frustrated dealing with the same, flawed arguments over and over again, such as those made by theists or creationists. But I can remind myself that while I may have seen the same argument before, each person presenting the argument may never have heard criticism of their ideas. (Greta Christina turned my attention to this point with a post she wrote a while ago) And although in most cases my arguments seem to have no effect, I'm at least putting a new idea in someone's head, and in time it may resonate, perhaps with the help of a lot of arguments from encounters with others.
I can deal with bad arguments and flawed logic. In fact, I find it helpful to find logical fallacies in others' arguments, because it helps me find them in my own lines of reasoning. It's often difficult to critically examine your own arguments, because of your own emotional attachment to them. Critical thinking requires divesting yourself as much as possible, and practicing always helps.
I try my best, whenever I'm in an argument, to deal with the arguments and ideas presented, as rationally as possible. Part of that means that I have to assume that the person I am arguing with is trying to present a rational argument, and is open to criticism of his use of logic and reason, as I try my best to be. I know that in practice many people have no intention of even considering my arguments. And even if they are willing, I am still a disadvantage when trying to change someone's mind, just by normal psychological responses to having your beliefs challenged (e.g., confirmation bias). But the assumption is necessary in order to hold a reasonable conversation.
To that end, I am VERY careful about questioning my opponent's willingness to accept new ideas. I would rather continually explain the problems with an argument, than accuse my opponent of being too stubborn to even consider my arguments. In fact, if my concern is to arrive at the truth, then I don't even have to concern myself with whether the other person is willing to listen to my arguments.
I saw an example of making that accusation that really made me shutter the other day. I was randomly reading a blog post about how to prove that .999... = 1. That's right, I enjoy both logic and math proofs, that's exactly how cool I am! Anyway, in the comment section, a commenter with the alias "removed by request" disagreed with the proofs presented, and was having an argument about the consistency of the proofs. The arugment for the first few rounds were fairly civil, and while I disagreed with removed by request's logic, I had no problem with his argument style on the whole. Until, that is, he decided he didn't want to play anymore:
And just to show you the exchange that prompted that response:
Other than the problem I have with criteria (b) above (argument from authority, although "removed" did sort of start that line of argument in an earlier post), I have no issues with this argument. I see no personal attacks. You can look at the post and comment thread for yourself here.
Not only is it a cowardly way to end an argument, but "removed" really needs to think about what he's claiming. Don't say things like "You may choose to use personal attacks, call me a fraud, a liar, and an idiot", when I can look back and see that none of those words, or anything like those words, have been used.
The bit about atheists is equally asinine. I don't think I need to tell anyone reading my blog regularly that most atheists are willing to have a conversation about the evidence for and against god, and try their best to stick to the arguments. Even if "removed" had a legitimate point about his opponent, he shows complete ignorance on his part to make that comparison.
Finally, even if "removed" had a legitimate point, he could still have continued his logical arguments. By saying he won't continue to argue because his opponent is closed-minded, he is showing that he's more concerned with converting someone than finding the truth.
The more I think about this example, and the issue in general, I think its almost universally a bad idea to accuse your opponent of unwillingness to change one's mind, at least as your only retort to their arguments. Anyone else have any input on this?