Philosophy of Physics Graduate Lunch Seminar (Monday - Week 8, TT19)

philosophy of physics grad lunch seminar

In this talk, I give a counterexample to a claim made by Norton (2008) that empirically equivalent theories can often be regarded as theoretically equivalent by treating one as having surplus structure, thereby overcoming the problem of underdetermination of theory choice. The case I present is that of Lorentz's ether theory and Einstein's theory of special relativity. I argue that Norton's suggestion that surplus structure is present in Lorentz's theory in the form of the ether state of rest is based on a misunderstanding of the role that the ether plays in Lorentz's theory, and that in general, consideration of the conceptual framework in which a theory is embedded is vital to understanding the relationship between different theories.