Dr Ema Sullivan-Bissett PhD (York)

Dr Ema Sullivan-Bissett

Department of Philosophy
Research Fellow

Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am currently a Research Fellow on Lisa Bortolotti’s ERC funded project PERFECT. My research interests are in the philosophy of mind and psychology, specifically belief and its connection to truth, self-deception, and delusion. I am also interested in biological approaches to what are characteristically thought to be normative questions in philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics.

You can learn more about me from my personal webpage.


  • B.A. in Philosophy (York, 2009)
  • M.A. in Philosophy (York, 2010)
  • PhD in Philosophy (York, 2014)


My PhD concerned the connection between belief and truth, which I take to be indicated by three features: transparency to truth considerations in doxastic deliberation, our inability to believe at will, and epistemic normativity. I claim 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 project PERFECT, I am currently thinking about how much work the functional account of belief I developed in my doctoral work can do when we look to pathological belief in the clinical population, specifically, delusional belief. I am also interested in developing and defending a one-factor account of delusional belief formation.


Journal articles

  • Sullivan-Bissett, Ema forthcoming: ‘Malfunction Defended’. Synthese
  • Sullivan-Bissett, Ema forthcoming: ‘The Role of Emotions and Values in Competence’. Journal of Medical Ethics.
  • Sullivan-Bissett, Ema 2015: ‘Implicit Bias, Confabulation, and Epistemic Innocence’. Consciousness and Cognition. Vol. 33, pp. 548–60. 
  • Sullivan-Bissett, Ema and Noordhof, Paul 2013: ‘A Defence of Owens’ Exclusivity Objection to Beliefs Having Aims’. Philosophical Studies, Vol. 163, No. 2, pp. 453–457.
  • McGregor, Rafe and Sullivan-Bissett, Ema 2012: ‘Better No Longer to Be: The Harm of Continued Existence’. South African Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 55–68.
  • Sullivan-Bissett, Ema 2012: ‘Changing Approaches to Blindsight: Relevant, but not Decisive: Reply to Foley’. Philosophical Writings; Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual British Postgraduate Philosophy Conference. pp. 56–60.


  • Bortolotti, Lisa, Gunn, Rachel, and Sullivan-Bissett, Ema forthcoming: ‘What Makes a Belief Delusional?’ In Mac Carthy, Ita, Sellevold, Kirsti, and Smith, Olivia (eds.) Cognitive Confusions. Legenda. 

  • Sullivan-Bissett, Ema, Bortolotti, Lisa, Broome, Matthew, and Mameli, Matteo forthcoming: ‘Moral and Legal Implications of the Continuity between Delusional and Non-Delusional Beliefs’. In Keil, Geert (ed.) Vagueness in Psychiatry. Oxford University Press.

Book reviews

  • Sullivan-Bissett, Ema 2015: ‘Review of The Aim of Belief by Timothy Chan (ed.)’. Mind. Vol. 124, no. 496, pp. 1258–64
  • Bortolotti, Lisa and Sullivan-Bissett, Ema 2014: ‘Review of New Essays on Belief: Constitution, Content and Structure by Nikolaj Nottelmann’. Dialectica. Vol. 68, no. 1, pp. 141–6.