Principal investigator: Lisa Bortolotti 

I am Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. 

I write about the limitations of human cognition, such as faulty reasoning, delusions, confabulations, irrational beliefs, poor knowledge of the self, distorted memories, unreliable self narratives, and attitude/behaviour inconsistencies. I am also interested in the methodological issues concerning the interaction between philosophy and the empirical sciences, and in the ethical issues raised by scientific research.

My monograph Delusions and Other Irrational Beliefs (OUP, 2009) was awarded the American Philosophical Association Book Prize in December 2011.

The project Epistemic Innocence of Imperfect Cognitions was funded by an AHRC Fellowship (Sept. 2013-Sept. 2014). I have also been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant for PERFECT (Pragmatic and Epistemic Role of Factually Erroneous Cognitions and Thoughts) on related themes. The new project is due to start in October 2014 and to run for 5 years.

Some recent relevant articles:
  • Bortolotti, L. 2012: 'In Defence of Modest Doxasticism about Delusions'. Neuroethics. Vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 3953. 
  • Bortolotti, L., Cox, R., and Barnier, A. 2012: 'Can we Recreate Delusions in the Laboratory? Philosophical Psychology. Vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 109131. 
  • Bortolotti, L. 2009: 'The Epistemic Benefits of Reason Giving'. Theory & Psychology. Vol. 19, no. 5, pp. 122.
  • Bortolotti, L., and Cox, R. 2009: 'Faultless Ignorance: Strengths and Limitations of Epistemic Definitions of Confabulation'. Consciousness & Cognition. Vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 952965. 
Recent blog posts:

Research fellow: Ema Sullivan-Bissett 

My doctoral research concerned the connection between belief and truth, which I took to be indicated by three features: transparency to truth considerations in doxastic deliberation, our inability to believe at will, and epistemic normativity. 

I claimed that these three features of belief are explained by my biological function account of belief. On this account, these features come out as contingent (as opposed to constitutive) features of belief, grounded in the biological histories of our mechanisms for belief-production. More broadly, and arising out of my PhD research on belief, I have interests in self-deception and delusion, and the proper characterization of these phenomena. 

With regard to the project on the epistemic innocence of imperfect cognitions, I have been thinking about the epistemic innocence of delusional beliefs, and the formation thereof. I think that at least some delusions are epistemically innocent, and that the one-stage account of delusional belief formation ought to be the default position for understanding delusion. Further, I think that epistemic innocence is easier to get at if one adopts a one-stage account of delusional belief formation. I defend the claim that the mutual supportedness of the one-stage account and the epistemic innocence of delusions gives us substantial theoretical reason to accept both. I have also been thinking about the epistemic status of confabulatory explanations and distorted memories in the clinical and non-clinical populations.

Relevant articles:

  • Sullivan-Bissett, E., and Noordhof, P. 2013: ‘A Defence of Owens’ Exclusivity Objection to Beliefs Having Aims’. Philosophical Studies. Vol. 163, no. 2, pp. 453–457.

Recent blog posts:

Imperfect Cognitions network

As part of the activities of the project, we have created a worldwide network of researchers working on "imperfect cognitions" and interested in exploring the possibility that these may have either pragmatic or epistemic benefits. Researchers listed on this page joined the network between September 2014 and September 2015.