Theoretical Structure and Theoretical Equivalence

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Our physical theories often admit multiple formulations or variants. Although these variants are generally empirically indistinguishable, they nonetheless appear to represent the world as having different structures. In this talk, I will discuss several criteria for comparing empirically equivalent theories that may be used to identify (1) when one variant has more structure than another (i.e., when a formulation of a theory has “excess structure”) and (2) when two variants are theoretically equivalent, even though they appear to represent the world differently. I will then discuss where this leaves the philosopher trying to use our empirically successful theories as a guide to the structure of the world.