Theoretical equivalence as interpretative equivalence

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The problem of theoretical equivalence is traditionally understood as the problem of specifying when superficially dissimilar accounts of the world are reformulations of a single underlying theory. One important strategy for answering this question has been to appeal to formal relations between theoretical structures. This article presents two reasons to think that such an approach will be unsuccessful and suggests an alternative account of theoretical equivalence, based on the notion of interpretive equivalence, in which the problem is merely an instance of a broader problem in the philosophy of physics. I thus conclude that there is no distinctive problem of theoretical equivalence at all. Two difficulties my approach raises for realist replies to the threat of underdetermination are then discussed, with particular emphasis on a recent reply by Norton.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)821-844
Number of pages24
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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