Hector Avalos has chimed in again:
By now, many of our perceptive DC commentators have rightly seen through the tortured excuses provided for Manata’s ethical behavior.
What is this really about? This is a massive diversionary tactic. Manata wrote a critique of Hector’s argument for moral relativism. Hector discounted Manta’s critique because Manata is not an “expert” in the field.
So Manata then answered Hector on his own terms by running Hector’s argument by some philosophers who are experts in the field.
When, to a man, they panned Hector’s argument, he felt the urgent need to do something to salvage his reputation. So he’s trying to change the subject. Deflect attention away from his intellectual performance by talking about Manata’s ethical performance.
So this is just a decoy to throw folks off the scent. It’s a backdoor admission that he lost the argument. Manata called his bluff, and Avalos left the table penniless.
He claims he did nothing wrong. The fact that the philosophers he contacted asked him to remove their comments itself is evidence that they did not think what he did was right.
This is a classic bait-and-switch tactic. It isn’t true to the way in which Avalos originally set up the issue. This is what he originally said, in the very same post:
The first one is easy to refute because Triablogue just doesn’t seem to understand even the basics of relativist ethics. Moral relativism does not deny that logic operates once you have accepted the basic premises of your ethics. Moral relativism affirms that while the initial premises of any ethical system cannot be established by absolute rationales, one can still evaluate whether an ethical system is logically following the initial premises one affirms.
My complaint is not so much whether Triablogue is morally wrong or not but whether they are FACTUALLY AND LOGICALLY CONSISTENT WITH THEIR CLAIMS…In that sense, it is wrong for Triablogue to claim that they represent honesty if their definition of honesty entails telling people how they will use e-mails on their blogs. If honesty means that you represent yourself factually to someone from whom you are trying to extract an opinion, then we can certainly say that Triablogue did not act in accordance WITH THEIR DEFINITION OF HONESTY.
Assuming, for the same of argument, that the philosophers whom Manata contacted didn’t think what he did was right, that’s completely irrelevant to the way in which Avalos himself framed the issue.
For the issue is not whether Manata’s actions were consistent with their ethical premises, but if his actions were consistent with his own ethical premises. Yet Avalos isn’t even pretending to evaluate Manata’s conduct “in accordance with” his code of conduct.
Ironically, Hector’s attack is self-criminating, for Hector’s attack contradicts the terms very own his definition of moral relativism. Therefore, by his own yardstick, Hector has acted unethically towards Manata.
What he did wrong was to ask for their comments under false pretenses. He intended to post their comments all along, but he did not tell them that he was going to do that.
That accusation raises several issues:
i) If I don’t tell someone what I’m going to do with his comments, how does that amount to soliciting his comments under false pretenses?
If I identified myself as someone I’m not, or if I said I was going to do one thing with his comments when I intended to do something else, that would be a false representation. But Manata didn’t do that.
Suppose I go to a jewelry store and ask the jeweler about different bracelets. Suppose I plan to buy a bracelet for my girlfriend, but I don’t tell the jeweler what my plans are. In what sense have I acted under false pretenses?
ii) Likewise, in what sense is it wrong for me to buy a bracelet without telling the jeweler what I’m going to do with it? Is it morally incumbent on me to make a full disclosure of my ulterior intentions before I ask the jeweler for advice?
iii) Notice that Avalos is accusing Manata of wrongdoing (“What he did wrong was to…”). Yet Avalos originally said: “My complaint is not so much whether Triablogue is morally wrong or not but whether they are FACTUALLY AND LOGICALLY CONSISTENT WITH THEIR CLAIMS.”
iv) “Wrong” by whose standards? By Hector’s standards? But he’s a moral relativist. So he can’t impose his standards on a second parties. His standards are relative to his ethical premises, not to Manata’s ethical premises.
Note that even in the e-mail he says he sent them, he mentions nothing about Triablogue or his intentions to post their comments.
That’s a revealing glimpse into Hector’s mindset. The police-state mentality of a totalitarian academic. According to him, a student is not allowed to ask a question unless he submits a list of all his known associates, so that Avalos can perform a background check. What Manta did wrong was to solicit their opinion of an argument without first giving them the names and addresses of his beer buddies, relatives, intramural teammates, coworkers, ex-girlfriends, kindergarten classmates, &c.
You see, Avalos believes in profiling students, to check against his No Fly List. Never take a question from a student with the “wrong” associates. One wonders what he does with Christian students, or Republican students, or Libertarian students, or other unsavory types of that ilk.
Manata gave them the false impression that their comments were meant to help him with a student project not with a blog “debate” into which they were going to be dragged.
i) There is nothing in his email to convey that impression. He identifies himself as a college student and philosophy major who takes an interest in ethics and metaethics. He’s read some of their books and articles.
If you’re contacting a professional ethicist, that’s a perfectly natural way to introduce yourself.
ii) Moreover, he didn’t ask them any personal questions. Rather, he asked them to comment on whether or not they thought Hector’s “tautological” argument for moral relativism was logically sound.
Manata and his comrades are simply amateurish and juvenile nuisances in the blogosphere. They can blog all they want, but it is different when they start taking the time of professional colleagues to settle arguments that they cannot handle by themselves, especially when they do so under false pretenses or without full disclosure.
From what I can tell, Avalos diverts a lot of his time to extracurricular activities. Like trying to deny tenure to a distinguished astronomer. Or acting as a campaign consultant to Barack Obama. Or writing op-eds.