Professor Lisa Bortolotti MA (London), BPhil (Oxon), PhD (ANU)


Professor of Philosophy

Department of Philosophy

Photograph of Professor Lisa Bortolotti

Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


I am a philosopher of the cognitive sciences, focusing on the philosophy of psychology and psychiatry. I am also interested in biomedical ethics.

Feedback and office hours

I am on research leave right now. Contact me by email if you are interested in PhD supervision.


I have a Laurea in Filosofia (summa cum laude) from the University of Bologna (1997), an MA in Philosophy (with Distinction) from the University of London (1998), a BPhil from Oxford (2000) and a PhD in Philosophy from the Australian National University in Canberra (2004).


Before joining the Philosophy Department at the University of Birmingham as a Lecturer in 2005, I was Honorary Lecturer in Bioethics in the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy at the University of Manchester and Research Associate on the EC-funded EU-RECA (on the concept of research and the ethical regulation of research activities) coordinated by Professor John Harris. Since at Birmingham, my research and teaching has focused on the philosophy of the cognitive sciences and on a variety of issues in biomedical ethics (reproduction, death, animal rights).

I am the author of a textbook, "Introduction to the philosophy of science" (Polity Press, 2008), a monograph, "Delusions and Other Irrational Beliefs" (OUP, 2009), and a key concepts book, Irrationality (Polity, 2014). In 2011 I was awarded the American Philosophical Association Book Prize for the monograph. I am currently working on a monograph provisionally entitled "The epistemic innocence of imperfect cognitions" and on an introduction to the philosophy and psychology of health and happiness with Michael Larkin.

I edited two volumes, "Philosophy and Happiness" (Palgrave, 2009) and, with Matthew Broome, "Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience: Philosophical Perspectives" (OUP, 2009). The latter was listed among the Guardian Books of the Year in 2009


From October 2014 to December 2019 I will be on research leave to lead an ERC-funded project called PERFECT From September 2013 to September 2014 I was funded by an AHRC Fellowship to pursue a project entitled "The Epistemic Benefits of Imperfect Cognitions".

Before going on leave, I taught Philosophical Texts (level 2), Philosophy of Science (level 2), Philosophy of Psychology (level 3), Philosophy of Cognitive Science (M-level), and I co-taught Philosophy of Health & Happiness (M-level). 

I continue to supervise postgraduate research students. Topics include: nonhuman ethics; nature of delusions; the conceptualisation of anxiety disorders; nature of pain; cognitive benefits of bipolar disorder; psychiatric diagnosis, identity and responsibility for action; empathy and the emotions.

Postgraduate supervision

  • Philosophy of Psychology (belief, delusion, confabulation, memory, rationality)
  • Philosophy of Psychiatry (classification and diagnosis, psychiatric ethics, notion of mental disorder) 


My research topics include: theories of belief ascription, rationality debate in philosophy and cognitive science, rationality and self knowledge in psychopathology, delusions and confabulation, psychological realism, autonomy and personhood, demarcation between science and pseudoscience, research ethics, reproductive ethics, animal rights, death and immortality. More recently, I got interested in theories of delusion formation and in the relationship between having a diagnosis of mental illness and being morally responsible for one's actions.

My new project, funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant (5 years, EUR 1.900.065), is called PERFECT, Pragmatic and Epistemic Role of Factually Erroneous Cognitions and Thoughts. It will allow me to build a team of three post-doctoral researchers and two PhD students, and will involve also Michael Larkin from the School of Psychology.

From September 2013 for twelve months I was funded by an AHRC Fellowship to pursue a project entitled "The Epistemic Benefits of Imperfect Cognitions". 

In 2012 I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Small Grant in the Ethics & Society stream on Moral Responsibility and Psychopathology which funded a workshop on the topic in March 2013. Co-applicants were Matthew Broome (University of Oxford) and Matteo Mameli (King's College London).

From January to June 2011 I was funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Expense Grant for a project on Rationality and Sanity. 

In 2009 I was awarded AHRC reseach leave for a project on the nature of clinical delusions, and an Endeavour Research Fellowship (offered by the Department of Education, Employment and the Workplace Relations of the Australian Government) to work with Professor Max Coltheart and other members of the Belief Formation group at Macquarie University.

In this short video I talk about my research into clinical delusions as irrational beliefs. 

Other activities

Professional service

  • Series Editor for International Perspectives on Philosophy and Psychiatry,  Oxford University Press. 
  • Associate Editor for Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Wellbeing.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the Ethics Science and Innovation book  series, Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Topoi.
  • On the Advisory Board of Philosophical Inquiries (philinq).
  • Review Editor for Frontiers in Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology.


I am a member of the Higher Education Academy, the British Philosophical Association, the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology and the European Society for Analytic Philosophy.

I am on the Executive Committee of the Mind Association. I am also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.



Selected papers and books chapters

  • L Bortolotti (forthcoming). The epistemic innocence of motivated delusions. Consciousness & Cognition.
  • L Bortolotti (forthcoming). Epistemic benefits of elaborated and systematised delusions in schizophrenia. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
  • N Sabbarton-Leary, L Bortolotti and M Broome (2014). Natural and Para-natural Kinds in Psychiatry. In P Zachar, DS Stoyanov, M Aragona, A Jablensky (eds.) Alternative Perspectives in Psychiatric Validation. Oxford University Press, 76-93.
  • K Miyazono, L Bortolotti and M Broome (2014). Prediction-error and two-factor theories of delusion formation: competitors or allies? In N Galbraith (ed.) Aberrant Beliefs and Reasoning. Psychology Press, 34-54.
  • B Fulford, L Bortolotti, M Broome (2014). Taking the Long View: an Emerging Framework for Translational Psychiatric Science. World Psychiatry 13 (2), 110–117.
  • L Bortolotti, M Broome, M Mameli (2013). Delusions and Responsibility for Action: Insights from the Breivik Case. Neuroethics, doi 10.1007/s12152-013-9198-4.
  • L Bortolotti (2013). The relative importance of undesirable truthsMedicine Health Care and Philosophy 16 (4), 683–690.
  • L Bortolotti and M Broome (2012). Affective dimensions of the phenomenon of double bookkeeping in delusions. Emotion Review 4 (2), 187–191.
  • L Bortolotti, R Cox and A Barnier (2012). Can we recreate delusions in the laboratory? Philosophical Psychology 25 (1), 109–131.
  • L Bortolotti and M Mameli (2012). Self-deception, delusion and the boundaries of folk psychologyHumana.Mente 20, 203–221.
  • L Bortolotti (2012). In defence of modest doxasticism about delusions. Neuroethics 5 (1), 39-53.
  • L Bortolotti, R Cox, M Broome and M Mameli (2012). Rationality and self-knowledge in delusions and confabulations: implications for autonomy as self-governance. In Radoilska (ed.) Autonomy and Mental Disorder. Oxford University Press, chapter 5, 100-122.
  • L Bortolotti and H Widdows (2011). The right not to know: the case of psychiatric disordersJournal of Medical Ethics  37, 673-676.
  • L Bortolotti (2011). Does reflection lead to wise choices?Philosophical Explorations  14 (3), 297-313.
  • M Broome, M Mameli and L Bortolotti (2010). Moral responsibility and mental illness: a case study. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19 (2), 179-187.
  • L Bortolotti (2010). Agency, life extension, and the meaning of life. The Monist 93 (1), 38-56.
  • L Bortolotti and R Cox (2009). 'Faultless' ignorance: strengths and limitations of epistemic definitions of confabulation. Consciousness & Cognition 18 (4): 952-965.
  • L Bortolotti (2009). 'Delusion'. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Revised and updated in 2013.
  • L Bortolotti (2009). The epistemic benefits of reason giving. Theory & Psychology 19 (5), 1-22.
  • L Bortolotti and Y Nagasawa (2009). Immortality without Boredom. Ratio XXII (3), 261-277.
  • L Bortolotti and M Broome (2009). A role for ownership and authorship in the analysis of thought insertion. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 8 (2), 205-224.
  • L Bortolotti and D Cutas (2009). Reproductive and parental autonomy: an argument for compulsory parental education. Reproductive Biomedicine Online 19, 5-14.
  • L Bortolotti and M Broome (2008). Delusional beliefs and reason giving. Philosophical Psychology 21 (6), 801-821.
  • L Bortolotti and B Heinrichs (2008). Delimiting the concept of research: an ethical perspective. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 28 (3), 157-179.
  • L Bortolotti and M Mameli (2006). Deception in psychology: moral costs and benefits of unsought self-knowledge. Accountability in Research 13 (3), 259-275.
  • L Bortolotti (2006). Moral rights and human culture. Ethical Perspectives 13 (4), 603-622.
  • M Mameli and L Bortolotti (2006). Animal rights, animal minds and human mindreading. Journal of Medical Ethics 32, 84-89.
  • L Bortolotti (2005). Intentionality without rationality. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society CV (3), 385-392.
  • L Bortolotti (2005). Delusions and the background of rationality. Mind & Language 20 (2), 189-208.
  • L Bortolotti and J Harris (2005). Stem cell research, personhood and sentience. Reproductive Biomedicine Online 10 (1), 68-75.

Selection of recent talks


Philosophy of psychiatry and psychology; animal ethics; reproductive ethics; health and happiness; research ethics.

Media experience

Traditional media:
  • Quoted on the front page of the Telegraph on a piece about forced treatment for an incapacitated patient, May 2010.
  • Interviewed by John Elder (Sunday Age, Melbourne) about the strive for perfection, September 2009.
  • Author of a piece on the question “Should human reproductive cloning be allowed?” by BBC Focus Magazine, June 2009.
  • Participated in a debate on animal rights on animal rights in the New Statesman (February 2008).
  • Invited to join the expert panel for animal ethics and animal cognition in ‘The Big Questions’ in October 2007 -  BBC1 weekly show by Nicky Campbell debating topical religious and ethical questions.

 Social media:

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office


Philosophy of psychiatry and psychology; animal ethics; reproductive ethics; health and happiness; research ethics.

Policy experience

Policy briefs:

On 20 November 2013, Lessons from the Breivik case (The Birmingham Perspective)

On 8 February 2013, Making sense of psychiatry (The Birmingham Brief).

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office

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