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Some of the earlier forms of ethical relativism were not well informed philosophically. More recent forms have remedied this defect. In part because of the limitations of the earlier forms, philosophers have often criticized ethical relativism. Here is one list of common criticisms from Robert Arrington.

The following six objections are frequently raised against relativism:

(1) It is difficult, as we have already noted, to know exactly what 'relativism' means. There are so many different theories calling themselves (or charged with being) relativistic that the term carries no clear connotation....

(2) The relativist invalidly derives an ethical thesis that all moral values are relative from the factual thesis that societies and individuals have different moral beliefs. Disagreement and diversity of moral beliefs never entail that one ought to obey only the rules of one's society, that no moral belief is true for all rational human beings, or that no moral belief pictures objective facts.

(3) Frequently a relativist concludes that people ought to obey the rules of their society or group without realizing that this is in fact an absolutist thesis. This position, therefore, is incoherent. Sometimes the relativist inconsistently derives the claim that one should be tolerant of those who disagree with one on moral issues --another absolutist thesis-- from the claim that no set of moral beliefs is more correct than any other.

(4) The relativist has difficulty identifying the group whose opinions, attitudes, mores, or moral standards determine what is right or wrong for an individual....

(5) The relativist position becomes incoherent by virtue of entailing that some acts are both right and wrong and that some moral judgments are both true and false....

(6) If the relativist escapes the kind of incoherence described in (5), it is often in such a way as to turn genuine moral disagreements and conflicts into disagreements that are not genuine. Incoherence is sometimes avoided by interpreting moral judgments as containing in their meaning some essential reference to a particular person, group, or set of standards. Moral judgments that apparently conflict but in fact make reference to different persons, groups, or sets of standards are judgments that do not really conflict. They could all be true, each with respect to a distinctive set of standards or principles. This is implausible, the critic of relativism contends, in that it would turn genuine conflicts between individuals and cultures into so many confused instances of "talking past one another." [Robert L. Arrington, Rationalism, Realism, and Relativism: Perspectives in contemporary Moral Epistemology, p. 200-202.]