Dr. Alik Pelman




PhD. University of London (UCL). 2002-2007. Philosophy

   Thesis: ‘Reference and Modality: A Theory of Intensions’

   Supervisors: Paul Snowdon (chair), Tim Crane

   Examiners: Genoveva Marti, Christopher Hughes

MA (Research). Hebrew University, 1998-2001. Philosophy and History of Science

   With Distinction

   Thesis: ‘Holism and other Relations: An Analysis of Part-Whole Relations’

   Supervisor: Yemima Ben-Menahem. Examiner: Michael Roubach

   Thesis awarded ‘Best Thesis in the Department for 2001’

BA. Hebrew University, 1993-1996. Joint degree: Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Program

   Dean's List of Distinguished BA Students



Temporary lectureship, Bar Ilan University, Department of Philosophy, 2010-Present

Author, Open University, Department of Philosophy, 2014–present

ISF researcher, Visual Resemblance, research project led by Dr. Alon Chasid, 2016-present

ISF researcher, Freedom of Choice, research project led by Prof. David Widerker, 2013-2015


Research Projects 

The Van Leer Research Group in Epistemology, 2010-2012

Formal Methods in Philosophy, invited by The Nordic Academy for Advanced Study, Lund University, Sweden, 2005


Honors and Awards

Overseas Research Scheme, UK (ORS), 2002-2006

A. J. Ayer Scholarship in Philosophy, UCL, 2002-2006

Goodenough College Carden Bursary 2004-2006

AVI Fellowships, 2002-2005

The Bar-Hillel Prize ‘for an outstanding graduate student in the history and philosophy of science’, The Hebrew University, 2002

The Faculty of Humanities Full Studentship ‘for a distinguished MA (research) student’, Hebrew University, 2000-2002.


Extra Curricular

Fellow, Environmental Fellows Program, The Heschel Sustainability Center, 2008-9

Organic Farmer, Carob-Tree Organic Farm, 2007-2010. Set up and ran a commercial ethical ecological farm.


Journal Articles

'Possible World Semantics and the Complex Mechanism of Reference Fixing', Acta Analytica (Forthcoming, 2016)

Abstract  Possible world semantics considers not only what an expression actually refers to, but also what it might have referred to in counterfactual circumstances. This has proven exceptionally useful both inside and outside philosophy. The way this is achieved is by using intensions. An intension of an expression is a function that assigns to each possible world the reference of the expression in that world. However, the specific intension of terms has been subject to frequent disputes. How is one to determine the intension of a term? Carnap has shown how the intension of a term depends on the type of that term. Two-dimensional semantics has shown how intensions also depend on the actual state of affairs. I will show how, in addition, intensions are no less dependent on metaphysical criteria of identity. Furthermore, I will reveal how these three factors interact to fix the exact intension of a term. In other words, I propose an outline of the overall mechanism by which intensions are being fixed.


‘Metaphysics of Pain, Semantics of ‘Pain.’ Ratio (2015), 28 (3): 302-317. 

Abstract: Two current leading positions about the relation between the mental and the physical are analytical functionalism, which identifies mental states with physical states, and Kripke's position, which seriously challenges such identification. The dispute between Kripke and Lewis’s views boils down to whether the term ‘pain’ is rigid or nonrigid. It is a strong intuition of ours that if it feels like pain it is pain, and vice versa, so that ‘pain’ should designate, with respect to every possible world, all and only states felt as pain. I show that, despite crucial differences in both their semantic and metaphysical assumptions, surprisingly, both views meet this intuition equally well. Thus it appears that, at least with respect to this particular dispute, the jury is still out on whether mental states are identical to physical states.


‘Theoretical Identities May Not Be Necessary,’ Analysis, 74, 3 (2014), 412-422.  

Abstract: It has become widely accepted that theoretical identities like 'water = H2O' or 'heat = mean kinetic molecular energy' are necessary. However, some have challenged this claim. I propose yet another challenge in the form of a sceptical argument, i.e., that for all we know, theoretical identities may not be necessary. The argument is based on the contention that the necessity of theoretical identities is dependent upon criteria of identity. Since we do not know which criteria of identity in fact obtain, it follows that, for all we know, theoretical identities may not be necessary. Chapters in Books

 ‘A Blueprint for a Calculator of Intensions,’ in B. Bennett and C. Fellbaum (eds.), Formal Ontology (Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2006), pp. 193-203.

Abstract: I argue that intensions (in the sense of reference across possible worlds) are sensitive to all of the following: semantic issues, metaphysical issues, and the state of the actual world. I outline a ‘calculator of intensions’, that when provided with the appropriate data with respect to a given term, generates the term’s intension. I conclude with implications concerning rigidity.



The Philosophy of Science, Open University Press, Textbook (Heb) (commissioned, in preparation)

Reference and Modality: A Theory of Intensions, University of London (2007) (Doctoral dissertation).

Abstract: I put forward a theory of reference across possible worlds. I locate the factors that determine reference, and provide a model of how they interact to fix reference. The applicability of the thesis is demonstrated by utilising it to analyse and explain away two important debates in contemporary analytical philosophy: the debate over the identity theory of mind, and the debate over the semantic significance of Donnellan’s referential / attributive distinction.


Papers Under Review

‘Three-Dimensional Semantics’

Abstract: I argue that meaning is dependent on metaphysical criteria of identity. In its negative part, the paper shows that present versions of possible-world semantics (including two-dimensional semantics) fail to account for some intuitive differences in meanings; and that this is so precisely because they fail to take into account the role played by criteria of identity in determining meaning. In its positive part, the paper offers an alternative version of possible-world semantics that solves this problem. In particular, the proposed view takes the semantic value of an expression to be a function from criteria of identity to two-dimensional intensions. I thus call this view, ‘three-dimensional semantics.’ This fine-grained version of possible-world semantics provides a richer account of meaning, and has an accordingly greater explanatory power, than its more coarse-grained alternatives.


Papers in Preparation

‘Ontology Generator' 



Referee for: American Philosophical Quarterly (APQ); Journal of Philosophical Research (JPR); Iyyun.


Conference Papers

'An Account of Visual Resemblance'; presented in 

    - Israeli Philosophy Association Conference, 2017.

‘Ontology Generator’; presented in: 

    - Bar-Ilan University, Philosophy Colloquim, 2016. 

    - Tel-Hai College, Philosophy Colloquium, 2016.

'What can the Logic of Scientific Inquiry Offer to Attorneys?'; presented in:

   - Litigation in Parliament and Ministerial Committees, Ministry of Justice,

     Institute of Legal Training of Attorneys and Legal Advisers, 2016.

‘Theoretical Identities May Not Be Necessary’; presented in:

       - Ben Gurion University Departmental Colloquium, 2014

       - Bar Ilan University Departmental Colloquium, 2014

‘Population Growth and Ecological Footprint’; presented in:

       - The Annual Conference for Science and Environment, Bar Ilan University, 2014

‘Semantics of ‘Pain’; Metaphysics of Pain’; presented in:

       - Another World is Possible: An International Conference on David Lewis, Urbino, Italy, 2011

‘Three-Dimensional Semantics’; presented in:

       - The Van Leer Research Group on Epistemology, Jerusalem, 2011 (invited speaker) 

       - The Logic and Metaphysics Research Group, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 2011 (invited speaker)

       - The Bar Ilan Philosophy Colloquium, 2011

 ‘A Blueprint for a Calculator of Intensions’; presented in:

       - International Conference on Formal Ontology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore USA, 2006

       - European Society for Analytical Philosophy, Lisbon, 2006

       - Philosophy Colloquium, Hebrew University, 2007

 ‘The Varieties of Identity’; presented in:

       - Identity: Ontological Perspectives, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, May 2005

       - University of Utah, USA, February 2005




Courses taught:

Introduction to Philosophy

Critical Thinking


Philosophy of Language

Kripke’s Naming and Necessity

Philosophy of Science

History of Science

Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology


Identity and Essence

Reduction and Supervenience

Environmental Thought

State, Market, Morality


Teaching Assessments

Average teaching assessment scores:  4.7/5  (Bar Ian University)

Awarded twice ‘distinguished Teacher in the Faculty’ (Hebrew University)