Over the course of my various exploits, I some times come across people who disagree with me and try to point out flaws in my reasoning. Some times their concerns are valid, but very often the alternative viewpoints are simply ignorant, irrelevant, or irrational. I do not often get a chance to refute them, though, for various reasons; often the person in question is too locked in a particular mindset and refuses to listen to any arguments that have even a remote chance of shattering their view of the world. Some times doing so would digress too far from the original discussion. So, the Internet being a free medium and all, I decided to do write up some of those criticisms and my answers to them, here where I have ample space to do so, both to offer relief in those cases where it was outside the scope of the original debate, and to try to persuade those who are unsure of what to believe.
You are yourself close-minded, because you refuse to accept viewpoints alternate to your own; you must always argue against them and never accept those who have other ideas.
This exhibit I have seen in many, many incarnations and in several different contexts. The argument (or rather, non-argument) is always the same: People accuse me of being close-minded, because I do not accept "alternate viewpoints" ? that is, viewpoints I don't agree with. The absurdity of this argument, which makes a nice appeal to emotion but lacks any coherency (as I will soon show), is baffling, and I cannot rightly comprehend the ideas behind it, although I have a theory why people might think that it is a valid argument.
First of all, one particular dichotomy should be established: The difference between purely subjective and non-subjective, or objective, situations. Subjective situations are what you might expect: situations where no particular option can simply be stated to be the one single truth, but where several different ideas might all serve as valid. All these ideas are governed by one single thing: personal preference. They are not necessarily based on any logical premise, and they do not need to be. Examples of this includes questions like "What kind of cheese do you prefer?" or "What is your favorite color?". These are normally not an issue, because these things are not normally challenged, and it is futile to even try to do so ? their inherent subjectivity makes any discussion pointless.
The other kind is more complex, though, but occupied the largest slice of situations out there; the objective cases, or perhaps more accurately, the non-subjective cases. These are the cases where a truth independent of personal taste can be established; where one's personal values are not enough to alone justify a decision ? in other words, personal taste might dictate the arguments you use, but they are not a substitute for rational arguments where such are necessary. Note the difference from subjective cases, where personal taste is all that you need, by definition.
Now, here comes the problem: The quote above is indicative of a subjective case. It is as if I had said to someone, "No, your favorite color cannot be black, because black is a dark and oppressive color." Such an argument is obviously absurd, because someone's favorite color is exactly what they make it out to be; it's a purely subjective statement that can't be argued about in any way or form. To the best of my knowledge, I have never been so stupid to make a non-argument like this, nor would I ever even dream of doing so.
What I do, however, is challenge opinions of the latter kind ? the objective cases ? where I believe there is a logical problem or a decision based on loose grounds. I do this a lot, in fact, and since people don't like it when they are disagreed with (see Dissonance and Straw Men), people can get a bit angry at me. Not surprising, but irrational nonetheless. But I digress. Looking back on the quote, we notice that it's two-fold: First they challenge me for not accepting viewpoints of others, and later again for always challenging people of different viewpoints. I'll only tackle the first here, as the second is of a most irrelevant nature; the fact that I am vehement about my opinions and debate on a regular basis has no bearing on any arguments I present, nor does it indicate any kind of contradiction. It's just preference (subjective!).
The first is the most important. In an objective case (which, as we established, is the only one worth arguing in the first place), there will be one result which is correct, and a multitude of incorrect ones. There is no getting around this: In any logical reasoning, you can only, invariably, arrive to one conclusion. Now, many would object here: What about the cases where several solutions work, but all can be reached through logic deduction? The answer to this is simple: The logical answer you arrive it is not the end solution, but rather the incomplete solution stated just before the last decisions branch off, at which point the argumentation becomes opinion. Think about this for a second; it helps to think of the deduction process as a branch of sorts, staying mostly coherent up until a point where it spreads into a multitude of equally working conclusions; what you want to reach here is the point where they split, and leave the rest to personal taste.
Since there is only one valid complete or incomplete solution to every objective problem, it is obvious that this is the only acceptable solution; any other would be false. It's also understandable that anyone who believes they know which solution is correct would want to argue it and bring forth their point. At this point another appeal to emotion tends to be brought up: "How do you know your opinion is the right one? You could be wrong!"
Perhaps I am wrong. Then again, perhaps it is you who is wrong. One can't really tell before all arguments have been presented. Indeed, there could be some mistake in my reasoning and maybe I am wrong. If I am, then bring up rational arguments to show why I am wrong (of course allowing me to rebut such reasoning if I consider them faulty as well!), and let your arguments speak for themselves; they have inherent worth, if they are correct. But in the meantime, I have every reason to believe that I am right, and that those who disagree are wrong. Because each objective logical case can only have one solution, one of us must be wrong if our conclusions differ, and of course I will assume that I am right (and therefore, that you are wrong). The alternative would be going around with the assumption that what I believe is false, and that I try to convince others of things I know are falsehoods; a truly bizarre standpoint indeed.
People would like this to mean that I am close-minded. Indeed, were it the case that I dismissed opposing arguments without giving them proper consideration, I would be. But, that is not the case; do not mistake swiftness in refuting arguments to be ignorance towards the idea they present. As any debater, I do consider arguments people throw at me. Often, I find mistakes in them quite quickly, and respond to them with haste, pointing out these flaws. It seems though that people believe their own opinions to be sacrosanct and impervious to attack; as if they were subjective, when they really are based on objective (and flawed) notions. This is what I call the false subjective.
Counter-arguing and shattering irrational arguments is a normal part of any debate, and is just how these things work; argument, then counter-argument. Some people seem insistent on believing, though, that a quick refusion of an argument must indicate ignorance on the opposing part, but that is seldom the case. If you believe something is in error, then prove it as part of the debate and move on. Let your arguments speak for you; if you believe the other part is in error, then the rationality of your argument will make that clear for anyone involved. Appealing to emotion by accusing the opposing side of being close-minded is nothing short of a cheap trick without any real bearing. Risking repeating myself, I'll state the obvious: If you are right, then your arguments will speak for you.